On New Years Day, I looked out my window at one point in the morning, and I noticed that I could not really tell where the sky ended and the ground began in the distance. Everything was the same drab, brownish whitish grey color. I thought to myself, “This is the stuff that Seasonal Affective Disorder is made of, I think.”

According to The Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” I know that some people feel that SAD is another of those modern phenomena that we are overthinking. Everything is grey and brown and there is less to do because you’re locked up inside. Of course you feel blue! However, SAD is a serious problem for many people.

Apart from moving to a place like San Diego, where SAD is probably less prevalent, how can you try to soften the impact that this condition has on your life? Well, of course, the best thing you can do if you’re really worried is talk to a doctor and get some professional advice. However, I can tell you that I have found the following things to be helpful in keeping my chin up during that wasteland between New Years Eve and Easter (no, Valentines Day does NOT deserve a mention in this article!). Perhaps some of these might help you cheer up a little as well.

The “Look, I’m at the beach!” trick.

The human imagination is a powerful thing, and if you give it just a couple of little cues, amazing things can happen. That is how I came up with this little pick-me-up. I lie on a heating pad and get really relaxed, and then I play the sound of the ocean in some form. There are white noise apps that can help with this, or you can even find the odd YouTube video that is just the sound of ocean waves. The warmth and the sounds can transport you away from the cold bog in which you live, at least for a little while. While there are not warm golden sands and very attractive people offering you drinks with umbrellas (I’m guessing), you do get to come back from your trip without having to clean your bathing suit, which is a huge advantage, if you ask me.

Plant Something.

One of my biggest issues with winter is the whole “snow and ice kill plants” thing. I love flowers, and most especially I like growing my own flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Needless to say, the Ohio climate is not the best for year-round gardening aspirations. However, there are ways to plant things inside, whether you have a really well lit window or whether you get a whole elaborate set-up with grow lights and tables and a complex watering system. Watching something grow while it’s cold and bleak outside always cheers me up.

Think About Cheering Someone Else Up.

Eastern religions in particular seem to stress the idea that one of the best ways to cheer yourself up is to work on cheering up somebody else. Much like gardening, this kind of activity requires an investment of time, and you can track progress slowly (hopefully) over time. One of my personal favorite things is to send someone flowers for no particular reason (please see my love of plants). However, checking up on someone, donating to someone’s fundraiser, or otherwise engaging in helping other people out naturally distracts you from your own feelings of sadness.

Get Up and Move.

When it’s nice outside, you can go out for a walk without having to put on 17 layers of clothing. When you’re living in a town that could randomly suddenly be found in Antarctica, taking a walk is not so appealing. It’s easy to sit in front of a TV or computer and disappear into a show or movies. That’s a fine way to spend the time, but at least in my case, I find that if I spend too long watching TV, I end up feeling kind of like I’ve been turned into molasses. The truth is, your brain sort of shuts down with all of that entertaining stimulation. Set a timer if you have to, but get up now and then and do something. I like to get up during commercial breaks and maybe clean a counter and see if I can get it done in 3 minutes. By the time my show is done I’ve cleaned most of the kitchen. Bonus! I know people who also like to jog in place or do other kinds of exercise during commercial breaks. Whatever moves you is fine. Just move!

These are just four things I’ve learned help me out during this trying time of year. They may not put a dent in things for you, but who knows, maybe just trying one of these will put new ideas in your head.

If you suffer from SAD, what do you do to help yourself through it?

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