Whether you're overwhelmed by the holiday season, sick of cold weather, or struggling with your annual bout of seasonal affective disorder, the winter blues can be hard to navigate. We may find ourselves inexplicably irritable, perhaps a bit sad, sluggish, and more inclined to overeat and drink alcohol. We can end up feeling less social, and spending more time than we’d like to admit scrolling endlessly or watching bad TV. Sound familiar?
Here are six, simple things you can do to boost your mood, and support yourself through the darker days of winter. And, if you're really struggling, talk to a health care provider to get more robust support if needed.
Essential oils for the winter blues
You don’t have to be an aromatherapist to treat your winter blues. Whole Foods has a selection of basic essential oils, or you can order top quality oils from websites like Eden Botanicals or Mountain Rose Herbs. Purchase just a few oils for an olfactory first-aid kit to chase away the doldrums and land yourself back in the light. Here are my top recommendations for safe, inexpensive essential oils (and some ways to use them), plus a few extra special oils at the end for those who want to take it to the next level.
Orange & Grapefruit
Citrus oils are uplifting in a simple and timeless way. The act of peeling an orange or grapefruit is something we have all been doing most of our lives—since the days when your grandpa bit the orange to get it started for you. Can you remember ever peeling and eating an orange and feeling sad at the same time? When you inhale the scent of a grapefruit, don’t you feel healthy and cheerfully alive? To use citrus oils, you can put a few drops on the floor of your shower, far from the stream of water so they can vaporize slowly. If it’s not shower time, place 2 drops on a tissue and inhale deeply ten times. Also, you can just eat an orange or a grapefruit! Take a moment to sniff the peel with intention. (Note – do not use citrus oils on the face or sun-exposed skin, as some of them can cause serious rashes.)
Lemon & Basil
These two work beautifully together to lift your mood and increase mental clarity. These may be used in a diffuser together, especially if you are trying to get a specific task done and need to focus and energize. If you don’t have a diffuser, use the tissue method above. And, again, you can get the same effect from crushing a fresh basil leaf with some lemon rind and inhaling deeply. Basil is also an excellent oil for stopping a headache in its tracks, so sniff some the next time you feel one coming!
I know. You’ve heard a lot about lavender. I remember when I moved to Colorado and I wouldn’t get a Subaru because everyone had a Subaru. Well, there’s a reason everyone drives Subarus out here: they're safe, they go off road like champs, and they kick ass in the snow. (I am on my third Subaru now.) Similarly, there’s a reason lavender is so popular: it works! Lots of research has now shown that lavender is instant anxiety reducer, and can help with both sleep onset and sleep quality. Lavender is a great oil to keep in your bag and use in moments where you feel like you’re going to blow your fuse at work. (Plus it will calm everyone around you – bonus!) I also keep this one in the kitchen, and apply it directly to burns and insect bites, as lavender is one of very few oils that can be used undiluted on the skin.
Rose, Frankincense, & Ylang-ylang
These next level essential oils, if you invest in high-quality ones, are really expensive. The good news is that a little dab’ll do ya. Used after a shower diluted in an unscented base oil, or in diffusers, these three are powerhouses for eliminating negativity, inspiring confidence, calming the nerves, and encouraging self-love. (And they are really lovely together, by the way.)
So pick a few essential oils and experiment! Or, if you’d rather let us do the chemistry, try these Osmia goodies, featuring the oils listed above: Posso, Lavender Grapefruit Hand Cream, and Night Body Oil.
Music for the winter blues
Music, like scent, is evocative. We often get stuck in musical ruts, either listening to the same thing all the time, or putting it on in the background without any real intention. Make new playlists, find artists that you used to listen to in other periods of your life, or type in things like "Mood Booster Playlist" and find songs that make your toe start tapping. We have lots of public playlists on Spotify if you need a good place to start.
Food for the winter blues
Because we really are what we eat. If you eat junk, you feel like junk. Focus on fresh vegetables, spicy salsas, healthy proteins, and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. We often make excuses about not having time or resources to eat healthy, but the fact remains that good nutrition is a non-negotiable, foundational necessity for physical and mental health. You simply have to put good fuel in the machine, and if it becomes a priority, you can usually find a way to make it happen. Here are a few more recipes for inspiration.
Baths for the Winter Blues
If you've got access to a bath tub, give yourself permission to slip into a bath once a week. In fact, try it before bed, and brush your teeth first, so you can get perfectly sleepy and slide under the covers without having to wake all the way up. You can soak in plain, warm water, throw in a handful of sea salt or epsom salt, or treat yourself to our Recovery Salt Bath if it's in your budget.
Light for the Winter Blues
Getting light in your eyes early in the day helps keep your circadian clock healthy, which ultimately improves the quality of your sleep, which is critical for managing your winter blues! A few minutes of bright, outdoor light (not through sunglasses or a window) every morning can make a huge difference in your internal regulation systems. setting you up for efficient rest and a better mood.
If you've followed us for a while, you’ve heard me say this word a lot. It comes from two words: endogenous (meaning “from the inside”) + morphine (a pain relief drug). Yep, you can be your own dealer. How? Exercise. Walking briskly for 20 minutes a day is enough to alter your internal chemistry. How cool is that? Try combining movement with great music and soon you’ll be strutting down the streets (or on a treadmill), singing and dancing your way out of the gloom!
Hang in there, and try a few of these tips and tricks for chasing away the winter blues!
With love and warmth from us to you,