It’s now officially winter in Berlin and it’s freezing! I have never experienced temperatures like this before. A casual -3 turned into a -13 because of wind chill factor – I’m not sure humans are meant to survive this kind of weather.
All of you in the Northern Hemisphere will know the special kind of depression that starts to seep in at this time of the year. No matter how great your life is, or how wonderful your summer was, all this seems to fade into the distance as soon as it starts getting dark at 4pm.
These winter blues are made worse by being away from friends and family members (especially if they live in the Southern Hemisphere and are currently enjoying summer weather). It is also a really tough time of the year to be single. December brings a wave of Christmas frenzy that results in everyone remembering exactly who their family is. If for whatever reason this makes you feel sad not happy then the cold + Christmas can be a lethal combination. It is not a joke and unfortunately December is also known for its high suicide rate, especially in northern countries.
It’s easy to think of this time and only see the negatives. There are many. Like the layers of clothing that you have to wear and then remove each time you enter a heated building. Or the fact that this makes going out a miserable affair what with standing in long lines outside clubs in the freezing cold and then being brave enough to wear something pretty underneath many layers only to stand in long queues at the coat check as you arrive and leave. Or the fact that you sometimes don’t see your own skin apart from in the shower or bath. The cold makes everything seem like more of a mission. You find yourself declining friends’ offers to go out based purely on the fact that you cannot be bothered to leave your warm, cosy house.
All these factors contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation, which only exacerbate the problem. It becomes a negative cycle that results in a marked reduction in social activity and the next thing you know you’re watching Love Actually on Netflix and trying to shake off thoughts about dying alone.
But enough of all that! I am from South Africa, a warm and sunny place where the sky is almost always blue and the sun shines nearly every day of the year. I hate this awful winter weather more than anyone. But I know that the solution is not to dwell on the situation and become a recluse. So here are my suggestions for how to fight those winter blues.
1. Take a walk
I know this seems like the last thing you want to do in cold weather. I for one hate cold wind whipping past my ears and my eyes start watering. But believe me, once you get that body moving and you start producing heat that warms you from the inside, it is so worth it. You have to dress appropriately though. I used to go for runs but I worry about being overdressed and then sweating a lot (although I don’t think there is anything wrong with that apart from the fact that it gets cold if you don’t run straight home and into a shower). If you’re just taking the dogs for a stroll in the park then you need to wear all the right winter gear. The face will be the only exposed area but the rest of your body will be so warm it will make up for it.
What I love about a walk is that it has the potential to shift something energetically. I may wake up grumpy but if I go for a walk, preferably somewhere pretty and where there is a view of trees or some kind of vista, then my negative thoughts tend to be replaced with more positive ones and I start to feel refreshed, physically and mentally.
If that doesn’t work for you automatically, then make a conscious effort to look at your surroundings and work in some positive affirmations. Don’t be too shy to say something out loud to yourself (I do it all the time). Shout “The grey moody sky is beautiful day!” or “I am alive and I can feel my heart beating in my chest!” Or just think these things to yourself. Mentally make a checklist of all that you’re grateful for and all that you’re looking forward to.
2. Spend time naked
This may seem strange to you but I really feel like one of the reasons we’re all so happy during summer is because we are so much more exposed. Our skin gets to breath and we get to experience a range of sensual experiences that goes along with having more of our flesh on display. We are mammals after all and it feels good to have one’s arm flesh squeezed or to get a hug that you can actually feel.
In winter, the opposite occurs. We spend most of our waking hours covered in layers of clothing and thus miss out on so many sensual experiences. This has psychological consequences as well. Without the right amount of contact, we can begin to feel less energised or less cared for even.
My solution is to make a conscious effort to spend time naked. Heat your room up so that it’s nice and toasty, have a nice warm bath, and then spend half an hour lathering yourself up with lotion or doing a mani/pedi combo. If you have a loved one who is willing, get a massage, or pay for one if you can. If you’re alone, then really enjoy the experience of being touched. Even if you are the only one giving yourself affection, it is better than nothing. And the mind will respond. A little bit of body loving and you will definitely feel in better spirits.
3. Have sex
So now that you’re naked, you might as well do other things with your delicious oiled up body. Sex is a known antidepressant. It causes your brain to be flooded with endorphins that make you feel good. The more you have it, the happier you’ll be. What’s great about sex, is that you can do it indoors and it also makes your body generate heat. So you’ll be fighting the cold at the same time!
Obviously if you’re single this is more tricky. I am not suggesting you find just anyone to sleep with. Please, sex is risky so be safe out there! But even if you’re alone you can still enjoy yourself and your own body. Buy a new sex toy, get creative. The point is that you need to address your needs and have fun while doing it.
4. Throw a dinner party
It is all too easy to get bogged down by the fact that everyone seems to have gone into hibernation. Suddenly your friends aren’t calling you to “go check out that event” anymore. If you’re single this is even more distressing as you find yourself spending far too much time alone and this further perpetuates the winter blues. So take the bull by the horns. Don’t wait around for an invitation. If you want to see people, then invite them over! Winter is a perfect time for this as there won’t be many other events occurring on the same night so most people with RSVP yes and you can try out your best home cooked dishes. A dinner party is the best excuse to get to know people better without the distraction of the social scene. Pop open a bottle of red, play some board games, or crank Spotify and dance in your living room.
5. Find things to love about winter
No, seriously. I actually made a list.
1. The fact that water comes out of the tap nice and cold (it really makes it taste better!)
2. The fact that you don’t have to worry about having “a bikini body” or not (although you really shouldn’t anyway)
3. Hot drinks like milo, horlicks, chai, spiced pumpkin lattes (never had but I hear they’re a vibe), Glüwein, etc.
4. Getting to wear scarves and boots
5. Seeing snow
6. Attending Christmas markets
7. Getting to binge-watch your favourite series
9. Outdoor ice skating
10. Catching up on reading or writing