The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

How do you beat winter blues? Does anyone else get sort of bluesy during the winter? After moving from year-round sunny Arizona to four-season Utah, it took me a few years to realize that the sluggish, gloomy, “can’t seem to get my motor going” struggle wasn’t me. Phew, it isn’t a character flaw— or maybe it is, but at least it’s a temporary character flaw. Snow and freezing wind in December is fine. I love a white Christmas. I’m even game for some snow-man building and downhill sledding in January, but as February d-r-a-g-s into March and the sky is still gray and gloomy, I become convinced that I will never see the sun or green grass again. I want to stay hidden under my bed covers and it seems to take a Herculean effort to get me out of bed and moving in the morning. 

Learning that my wintertide melancholy was a real thing (seasonal affective disorder) and was common (I’m joined by 10 million Americans), I felt empowered to take back my February & March and rediscover my winter wonderland.  Here are three ways I’ve given myself permission to play away the winter blues. 

Finding a PLAYFUL Way to MOVE My Body

Exercise in snowy winter was a challenge for me since my go-to routine was out-door walks. But I dislike slipping on icy sidewalks. I’m a wimp in cold weather. So after a series of immobile winters I knew I had to figure out a way to keep moving from January until the sun came out again. If not for my own mental health, then at least for my family’s.  I tried the treadmill at the local rec center, but running in place like a hamster—not super exciting. I needed a fun, playful way to move. Something I could look forward to. Something I would actually want to leave my warm, cozy bed covers to do. 

A minitrampoline!

Perfect.

I’d read about the multiple benefits of kinetic jumping, from clearing the lymph nodes and boosting your immune system to stimulating a sluggish thyroid and increasing Serotin levels. I needed all of those benefits to help beat winter blues.

And jumping on a trampoline felt a lot more like play than like exercise

Santa’s elves brought me a minitrampoline for Christmas and I spent the rest of January, February and March jumping my way right out of winter blues.

PLAYING Outside Again

While waking up and jumping to 80s cardio tunes got me out of bed in the morning, I still struggled with feeling cooped up indoors. It was time to make a decision.  I decided that winter was cold and that I could still go outside. Mind-blowing, I know. But it was for me. I just decided that I could still go for walks outside. I could put on gloves and earmuffs. My nose would turn pink and drip and I would live. I changed my mind that walks had to happen first thing in the morning and I started going for walks at lunchtime.

Miracles happen when I make a decision, when I set an intention: a friend starting inviting me for spontaneous afternoon walks. This winter I have spent more time outdoors and the cold hasn’t bothered me. I feel more energized. I don’t feel like I’m dragging through winter. In fact, I can hardly believe it’s already March.

Planning a PLAYFUL Winter Getaway

The third way I’ve made winter more playful is to give myself permission to take advantage of opportunities to getaway. If my husband has a business trip, I give myself permission to ask for help with the kids and tag along. A change of scenery (especially if the weather is warm!) is effective medicine for winter blues. I’ve also found that winter is a great time to go on a writer’s retreat. The kids have fewer sports activities, I’m not as occupied working in the yard & garden, and I can usually find great rates on an airbnb. Holing away with a mug of hot chocolate and a manuscript feels like medicinal hibernation. And I get a lot of work done, too.

For moms with young kids, an overnight getaway may not be in the cards, but you don’t have to travel far or spend money to have a change of scenery. One of the most healing things I discovered when my kids were young was to getaway one night a week to the local library where I could curl up in a couch with a stack of the most recent periodicals and read short articles (nothing too brainy) or even just flip through the pictures. If you’re an introvert like me, any time alone is extremely recharging. If you’re an extrovert, you probably want to plan a night out with friends. In either case, looking forward to some adventures on your calendar will help winter feel more exciting than tedious. 

Make Winter Fun

The bottom line is that while winter is cold and gray, it is also  magical. Giving yourself permission to play through winter helps you maximize the benefits of winter and diminish the gloom. Find fun ways to stay active. Find a local state park with inexpensive ski rental options. In Utah, the Wasatch State Park offers a $12 cross country package that includes all the equipment rental. This makes a great Saturday afternoon getaway adventure. 

Have some fun discovering your winter adventurous self. Making a decision to be more adventurous and giving yourself permission to be more playful can really help to beat those winter blues. 

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