May 26, 2018
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Beat the winter blahs

By Robin Clifford Wood, Special to the BDN

As of today, we have gained one hour and 46 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice. Still, that knowledge might not be enough to cheer everyone up. This is a time of year when many of us become afflicted by a vague sense of melancholy. It may not merit any clinical diagnosis, but still we feel apathetic, grumpy, bogged down. Barring a total retreat into hibernation, what can we do to beat the winter blahs?

I’d like to suggest that the answer is FUEL — not the kind that feeds your home furnace, but the kind that feeds you. As I emerge from the syrupy fog of a winter cold, I thought I’d explore a few ways that we can all feed ourselves to treat the blahs.

First, we have to feed our bodies for the battle. Tempting as it is to go for seconds and thirds on those comforting starchy standbys, the end result makes us feel worse. As always, keep fruits and veggies on hand for every meal. On the other hand, never underestimate the benefits of chocolate in moderation.

The other thing over which we may exert some control is what we feed our minds. I’ll never forget one winter in high school when we were assigned a three-month lineup of hopelessly depressing literature. I was a mess. This winter, I have tried to stay away from morose themes in TV, film and print. I put some uplifting reading on my bedside table so I fall asleep with optimism in my heart.

In a random act of kindness, an acquaintance of mine sent me Regina Brett’s “Be The Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible.” Although it occasionally errs on the sentimental side, every chapter leaves readers with a positive charge to feel good and to do good. Another option is Neil Pasricha’s “The Book of Awesome,” which reminds us of the humor and happiness in everyday occurrences. It’s never a bad time to be reminded of that.

Even though the newspaper gets blamed for bombarding us with negative news, our Bangor Daily News is filled with good ideas for good times. Get out of the house and go see “Boeing Boeing” at Penobscot Theatre. Sharing laughter with a roomful of people is terrific therapy, and as Emily Burnham wrote in her review, “It’s a perfect way to brighten up a cold winter night.”

I also love Sarah Smiley’s idea of inviting weekly dinner guests to help fill the difficult time when her husband is deployed overseas. We can all do the same to get through down times. Invite someone over for dinner, or coffee, or Saturday breakfast. Sharing time with friends feeds our minds with distractions from our own internal dialogue of winter gloom.

The third source of fuel that we mustn’t neglect is fuel for the soul. Whether you are religiously inclined or not, the state of your inner being is essential to your whole-self happiness. Go for a walk and leave the cellphone behind. Take pause and let the sun shine on your face.

Clean up part of your house, settle down in the organized space, and just sit quietly for a while. Turn on some beautiful music and listen.

Get up and watch the sunrise. Write someone a letter, on paper, with a pen. Light a candle at your dinner table.

Create — a painting, a poem, a sweater, a song, a construction, a recipe, a photo album.

Rearrange the furniture. Visit a friend. Change something.

Sometimes the blahs arrive, and there’s not much to do but wait them out. For a humorous take on coping, visit the “Hyperbole and a Half” blog post, “Adventures in Depression.”

In the meantime, remember that the sun is up longer every day, even when we can’t see it. I hope that knowledge, at least, is positive food for thought.

Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback at


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