The view outside my window reminds me of a snow globe. I can almost feel the wind that swirls those beautiful snowflakes in their jubilant chaos, coating the trees and bushes and making the bright red cardinals perching among them look like Christmas ornaments. The sky is a dull shade of metal and the temperature is somewhere in the middle 30's, but I’m perfectly content. As a native Michigander, I am no stranger to winter here, and can usually roll with whatever comes my way during these temperamental months.
I was recently reminded, however, that Michigan winters are not experienced the same way by everyone. Talking with a new friend from South America, she lamented the lack of sunshine, something that can go missing here for days at a time. Not only that, but the sun rises later and sets earlier, book-ended by nights that seem to go on far longer than the normal allotment of hours. Add to these gray days cold temperatures, concerns about finding the right clothing, and driving — maybe for the first time — on ice and snow, well, it’s no wonder she’s having trouble finding her smile.
There is hope. Even Michigan natives are affected by the shorter days. I have found that a full-spectrum daylight lamp is a great tool for fighting winter depression. Used first thing in the morning, it’s a dose of “sunshine” that can lighten and lift my mood, and its beneficial effects seem to last all day.
If there is snow on the ground, play in it! Because winter lasts so long, if you can embrace it, you might find you even enjoy it. Of course, a lot of the time there is no snow. If that’s the case, bundle up and go for a walk on cleared sidewalks. Take in the fresh air, notice the winter birds, check out the other brave souls passing you on the sidewalk. Just being outside for a while, being part of the landscape, can brighten your day.
And if the weather and cold is still too much of an obstacle to enjoying the months between December and April, then make yourself a regular at the tea and coffee houses in your town. The ambiance and chatter found there is the antidote for isolation. One of my favorite winter escapes is visiting greenhouses. There’s nothing like strolling among freshly potted plants and inhaling the fragrance of earth to lose the winter blues.
Finally, there are certainly others who struggle with winter. So reach out, extend a gloved hand and cheer someone else through what can be dark and depressing days. You might find that the sunshine you create falls on you as well.