Writing Through Winter Blues

Writing and wellness in winter

I don’t do well with winter. Once the days shorten and the mercury dips, my brain and my words turn monochrome, moody and sludgy. So despite all this time trapped indoors, my winter writing output neither matches nor outpaces my summer writing.

And yet …

And yet, we must get up every day and be grateful for this day and for … well … being able to get up and out of bed. Gratitude is its own mood booster, and it can also short circuit the writer’s pity party.

Here are five tips for writing and wellness during these blah February days:

1. Morning pages. Long before Julia Cameron coined the term “morning pages,” I kept a teenage personal journal. Now, in middle age, I see journaling as both a wellness and a creativity tool. Therapeutic, medical and wellness experts cite the personal, creative and professional benefits of writing down our lives and feelings.

2. Light therapy. Researchers estimate that over 25 percent of Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and SAD is more common among those of us who live in the northern states. Sunlight stimulates serotonin, which affects our moods. So if the winter leaves you listless, it’s worth asking your physician about light therapy. Most light boxes retail for under $200. Some mornings, I do a Pavlovian-styled multitask by switching on my portable light box the minute I open up that morning writing journal.

3. Eat good food. When the mercury dips, it’s tempting to indulge in those stick-to-our-ribs comfort foods. But those carbohydrate-laden meals often set our bodies on a day-long roller coaster that ultimately ends with an afternoon sugar crash.

In her book, “The Mood Cure,” nutritional psychologist Julia Ross recommends increasing our pro-serotonin foods such as protein and healthy fats, reducing caffeine intake and including at least four ounces of protein in every meal.

4. Take a walk or a run. Grab that woolen hat and those mittens and get outside. Even a 10-minute stroll or run will expose you to natural sunlight and endorphin-inducing exercise. An added bonus: According to Simmons College’s Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community, daily fresh air and exercise can help you avoid those workplace viruses and flus.

5. Meditation. The cognitive and psychological benefits of daily or frequent meditation have been well documented. Even if you work or write in a crowded cafe or open-space office, use your headphones to avail yourself of the many websites that offer short guided meditations. My two favorite guided, no-cost meditation sites are Fragrant Heart and the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Irish author, workshop leader in Boston area. Fifth book, “Green and Other Essays” just released. More at www.ainegreaney.com

Irish author, workshop leader in Boston area. Fifth book, “Green and Other Essays” just released. More at www.ainegreaney.com