By: Bella Saad
I live in New York City, so I basically romanticize every avenue of my life. I synthesize contemplations into “I couldn’t help but wonder…” anecdotes. I sip $18 martinis with my girlies on a Tuesday. I walk by Zoe Kravitz and Channing Tatum on a Wednesday. I listen to Young Folks while staring out the window in a cab, and have blasted Sinatra’s (Theme From) New York, New York on my airpods while walking through Time Square. But when the director yells “Cut!”, the rats repopulate, the debilitating stress of your credit card bill lives rent free in your head, and inevitable seasonal extremities begin to emerge.
Most hauntingly: Days get shorter. Nights get longer. Funk gets heavier… Yes, what we have here is, inconveniently, THE WINTER BLUES. The effects can vary from more subdued shifts in mood, to the clinical onset of seasonal affective disorder (a.k.a SAD – how painfully serendipitous). And while I’m no medical professional, I find comfort in understanding the science behind it:
“Seasonal affective disorder develops in the fall and winter because shorter daylight hours and less sunlight shift the body’s internal clock, and certain mood-regulating hormones, like serotonin, oscillate with the seasons.” (New York Times)
Glass half full perspective is you can anticipate it and prepare for it. In addition to the hard-hitting solutions (i.e. bright light therapy, supplements), I’ve found that it’s about weaving in consistent intentional practices and mindfulness that, with a compound effect, color those gray months. Make a list of things that make you happy, and then build habits around those pleasures and within your control.
After quite literally weathering my fair share of storms, I present to you my five acorns for a happy hibernation.
Animation feeds my soul 365 days a year, and does so most necessarily in the glum of winter. It reinvigorates childhood nostalgia and for an hour and 36 minutes, transports me to a place of complete innocence, imagination, and possibility. A tiny rat cooking his way through Paris? A widowed old man flying his balloon-fueled house to Paradise Falls? A smitten robot embarking on a galactic journey in the name of love? SOLD. I also enjoy watching anime with subtitles – it keeps me even more present and engaged with the intersection of both culture and fantasy (Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle is a must). When your surroundings feel bleak, it’s about splashing around in other fountains of inspiration.
Exploring the Unfamiliar
Why do we poeticize and glorify travel? Because quite simply, it makes us happy. According to The Happiness Project, when we travel to unfamiliar places, the novelty of our experiences builds new neural connections in our brains. Neuroscientists call it neuroplasticity. It increases our creativity, cognitive flexibility, and receptivity to new ideas.
So how can we catalyze these same neural connections with a full-time job and strained bank account? Take advantage of remote work and venture to a coffee shop on the complete opposite side of town. Visit an art exhibit or museum that’s a longer train ride away. Visit family you never have the time to see in buzzier months, even if they’re in a seemingly underwhelming place. It takes more energy, but feeding your brain new, unfamiliar experiences during monotonous winter months stimulates self-discovery, courage, and novelty when we need it most.
If you’re anything like me, you live for a meal out on the town. The eagerness and anticipation of biting into the mozzarella sticks at Bernies or slurping down an entire bowl of udon at Raku. It’s unparalleled. But it’s also expensive. One drink usually means two drinks, which more often than not means three drinks. Winter means Ubers. You’re also likely to endure some degree of chaos or stress in landing a table (we’re trying to alleviate this, not add to it!)
So one of my favorite winter pivots: hosting dinner parties. Bulletproof and superior for a number of reasons. You’re spending the equivalent for an entire bottle of wine as you would for one to two drinks. You own the ambiance – music, candles, break out the Estelle Colored Glassware you spent a comical amount of money on. You can finally cook some of the saved recipes from your TikTok FYP. And perhaps most importantly, it’s an opportunity to relish in the company rather than the place. You’ll be shocked at how much serotonin that ignites.
The tale as old as time that remains violently true. Your body and mind go hand in hand, so when one is cared to, the other reaps the benefits. In the more mundane sense, it’s exercise, drinking water, meditating, and so on. But there are a few specific rituals that keep me feeling especially renewed and energized from within.
After multiple friends sang praises to “dry brushing,” I decided to give it a go. Bought the Goop G.Tox Ultimate Dry Brush and after getting into the ritual before hopping in the shower, I really do feel the effects. It energizes my skin, promotes blood flow, and even lightly exfoliates. I’m singing praises now too.
Another is steaming. One of the biggest proponents in rationalizing my Equinox membership was access to a steam room. As the leaves start to drop, so do the benefits of the sun and humidity. Sweating is incredibly beneficial in detoxing, allowing the natural oils of the skin to flow, and softening the surface layer of dead skin. So the duality of warm steam and perspiration dilates your blood vessels and increases circulation. More oxygen intake = happy, healthy skin. There are tons of spas and bathhouses that offer day passes with access to such glorious amenities. Give it a try. (Double down on purging and apply the ZitSticka PORE VAC after. Glorious duo!)
Indulging Without Shame
Balance is the north star. Finding that sweet spot that doesn’t feel gluttonous nor restrictive. With that said, it’s worth acknowledging and reiterating that in these tougher months, it’s completely normal to accept that the pendulum will swing more unevenly. The north star may not be as bright and clear. A glass of wine every night. Dessert more often than not. An extra hour of TV. Whatever it may be for you, it’s important to come to an inner peace about straying from your routine for the sake of your well-being. We’re only human and sometimes the instant gratification of an entire carton of Ben & Jerry’s trumps the guilt. As the temperatures start to climb, just check in with yourself, see if your actions have transitioned into long-term habits, and address in a way that best suits you.
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