Are the Winter Blues Setting in? You’re Not Alone
SAD Touches Many in Lansing. If you or someone you love suffers in the winter, please talk to your doctor. There are professionals who can be working alongside you.
As a Winter Blues and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) sufferer myself, I’ve found myself saying these things repeatedly over the years:
It’s too cold; I’m not going out.
I don’t feel like cooking; let’s just get take-out tonight (again!)
Sorry, all I want to do is hermit in right now. Maybe I’ll see you in April.
If the unpredictable weather, shorter days, and gloomy skies are making it harder to feel quite yourself lately, you aren’t alone. It’s not all roses and glam living that #momlife Instagram so easily portrays…
It’s primarily people in the northern states (hello there Michigan!)
that experience seasonal mood changes, commonly known as “winter blues.”
Out of these people, 6% have the more severe version, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
For people with winter blues and SAD, winter can be tough. Throw in the stress of caring for little ones who are cooped up inside thanks to cold temps and seasonal sickness, and winter may feel downright unbearable.
For me, winter was so hard on my health that we finally decided to move to Florida. As expected, the year-round sunshine did wonders!
My symptoms were gone and I lived life as my healthy, summer-self year-round.
But, we wanted to be closer to family and roots here in Michigan. And now that we are back to living in Michigan, I’m back in the thick of the winter battle.
BUT this time, it’s different.
While I was away, I learned a lot about SAD.
Now, the Good: Winter Blues and SAD are Treatable
While we may live in one of the cloudiest states in the nation, we also live in a city bursting with plenty of natural remedies to have you not only surviving but actually enjoying winter (and your life) again.
Practicing the tips listed below has been a huge help to me.
This week we went to visit the horses at MSU and it was amazing how very calming it was.
Try the tips – they can be a day changer!
9 Gloom Busters for Anyone with the Winter Blues, SAD, or Just Lives in Michigan in the Winter
Here are some tips on how you and your family can perk up winter right here in Lansing.
1 — Breathe in the (Purified) Air
In the winter, buildings are more closed up due to cold temps and drafty weather. Add in the dry heat pumping through plus natural pollutants that can’t be aired out, and you can end up with some pretty bad air quality.
The solution? Plants!
Plants are natural air filters that can improve air quality, and we have some great spaces here in Lansing where you can breathe in some plant-filtered fresh air.
Sparrow Health Center, located right in our own downtown Lansing, has a living wall in its Gathering Place (cafeteria). Grab a bite to eat next to this beautiful, living work of art.
PLANT-INFUSED INDOOR SEATING
Located in the south end of the garden center building behind the gelato bar, this room is filled with greenery and light.
Even throughout winter, evergreen plants abound along the trails of nature centers year-round. Lansing has several Nature Centers with trails, winter sports, and lots of wildlife to view. Check out Harris, Woldumar, or Fenner.
Lansing is home to some amazing highly-wooded area parks, which are great for finding sunshine and naturally purified fresh air.
2 — Follow the Light
The main reason for both the winter blues and SAD is the lower level of natural sunlight we get in the fall and winter. A solution: add some light! Daily natural sunlight is one of the first recommended treatments for winter blues.
Even just 30 minutes in sunlight – especially in the morning – can be enough to cure those who suffer mildly. As soon as you see the sun starting to peek, it’s time to get out there!
While on campus, you can also grab dinner at Brody Square. Brody is a fun cafeteria for both students and families where everyone can choose from lots of different cuisines (picky eater heaven!) and eat next to large windows overlooking MSU campus.
Or, check out this article for 25 more ideas of what to do or where to go outside this winter!
I’ve had friends say that when feeling low, they head out to a store, and simply walking around helps. Target, anyone? Sure enough, lately I’ve noticed that after doing a Costco run, I feel better too!
A walk indoors under bright lights can instantly improve the mood. I recommend window shopping though, as this could become an expensive escape!
3 — Add Some Color
Best of all, this wall art is ideal to visit on a gray day, as the gray backdrop makes the colors really pop. Finally, a reason to look forward to gray skies!
VISIT AN ART MUSEUM
My kids absolutely love this program, and any chance I get to walk into this space, I’ll take! It’s something to look forward to every month.
Tap into your inner creativity, pair it with some bright colors, and you can’t help but start to feel better. Paint your own pottery at Playing Picasso in Lansing, Art Unlimited in Okemos, or Clayworks in Grand Ledge.
Or, try out ALT printing for their screen printing classes and events. There’s always something new to try, and you can keep going back again and again because there’s always new art to create.
4 — Spend Time with Animals
VISIT A HORSE FARM
Living next to campus has its perks, and the horse farms are one of them. MSU Farms are open to the public, and visiting horses is a favorite area family activity.
Horses are used as a type of therapy to help treat depression and anxiety, and we are fortunate enough to have access to these beautiful animals free of charge any day of the week. Bring your kids along with some apples and carrots for an unforgettable afternoon, any time of year.
VOLUNTEER AT AN ANIMAL SHELTER
Spending time with animals is scientifically proven to help with depression. Spend time volunteering at an animal shelter to help lift your spirits!
VISIT THE ZOO
Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo has animals to see year-round. Winter also provides the chance to see some active and awake animals that may typically be sleeping through the summer heat.
5 — Exercise
It really can’t be overstated: exercise is good for you! And yes, when it comes to winter blues, the fact remains.
Exercise boosts serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals which can help fight off winter blahs.
JOIN A GYM OR HEALTH CENTER
All offer childcare, classes, and a huge bonus for the winter months – indoor pools.
PLAY WINTER SPORTS
Lansing has an abundance of fun winter activities and sports. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding are all ways to get your energy up!
Check out these area favorites for exactly where to go.
Yoga has been scientifically proven to help with depression. At the very least, it can help you relax and release some stress – and it’s a fun activity to do with friends!
6 — Eat and Drink
In moderation, the stimulant nature of coffee can be helpful to get through a winter day. Check out our favorite places below for the perfect sweet treat or cup of coffee – even better when served together.
ENERGIZE WITH COFFEE
The Lansing coffee scene is growing like crazy, and as its residents, we are lucky to reap the perfectly-roasted-bean benefits. Local favorites like Blue Owl, Fosters, and Strange Matter pour a delicious cup, and also provide a cozy place to sit and sip in.
Can’t get out of the house but still want a delicious local cup? Craft and Mason ships their freshest roast to your house weekly.
TREAT YOURSELF…TO A TREAT
Serotonin, the “feel-good “neurotransmitter in the brain, is made after you eat carbohydrates. This may explain why we crave them more in the winter when we aren’t feeling as great.
It also may be why our northern-climate area is full of delicious options, with way too many to list! (Be sure to enjoy these with moderation though – too many carbs is also a reason for seasonal weight-gain.) If you need a place to get started, try Mitten Raised, Sweeti-licous, and Chapelure.
For the best bread, visit Great Harvest Bread Company, where you can get your carb boost with a free slice of bread every time you go in! (Update: samples not available currently due to covid, but we are hoping they return soon!)
7 — Live Hygge
Hygge, pronounced “hoo-ga” is a Danish and Norwegian word for the idea of coziness and comfort.
Think snuggling up by the fireplace, sipping a cup of cocoa on a cold winter day, or sitting around the table playing board games while snowed in.
Embracing winter can mean enjoying the simple things indoors.
Craft beer is a huge part of Lansing culture, and gathering together around a seasonal brew provides a sense of camaraderie common to many Michiganders.
Lansing Brewing Company, Arcadia, and Hopcat all provide local brews and fun spaces – often with live music – to gather in. Bad Brewing Company in Mason has 3 heated igloos in the winter that can be reserved for a full Hygge experience.
Local shops in Lansing Old Town District, REO Town, or East Lansing instantly give you a warm-and-cozy feel while browsing the local products and artistic items.
REO Town Marketplace is a gem that offers quirky and unique items in a fun-to-browse shopping maze.
8 — Pretend You’re Somewhere Else
Sometimes you just need a break, and the last thing you want to hear about is another way to “embrace the winter.” I get it. On days like this, I need to escape to a place that feels like it’s summer, even when it’s not.
I used to go to a tanning salon and suck on a jolly rancher, and for 15 minutes was transported to the tropics, lounging on the beach with a fruity drink in hand.
Now that I’m older and wiser (and realize the UV Lights on tanning beds highly increase my skin cancer risk – yikes!) I opt for these other options instead.
GO SWIMMING INSIDE
Indoor pools can transport you to summer, with warm water, thick humid air, and not a jacket or mitten in sight! Goldfish Swim School offers family swim where you can escape to 90 (yes, a heavenly 90) degree waters and fun for the whole family.
During the winter, my family rotates between family swim here and the pool at the MAC, which is outdoors in the summer but enclosed in a dome in the winter.
READ TO ESCAPE
When you really need to get away, a book makes it possible. Lansing area libraries are a fantastic option for getting out on a cold winter day.
They provide storytimes for kids, social and educational groups for teens and adults, and there’s always the option of bringing home a book to escape to another (possibly summery?) world.
9 — Get Social
During the winter, it’s tempting to stay at home, hunker down, and isolate. But for those of us who struggle with feeling down in the winter, it’s important to push ourselves to connect with others. Once we do, it really helps.
JOIN AREA GROUPS
There are SO many groups available in our area to connect with other parents and people. This article on how to connect in the area can steer you in the right direction!
If you’d like to feel more connected and informed about winter blues specifically, I would love for you to join me on Instagram, Tik Tok, or visit winteringwell.com. These spaces are dedicated to wintering well, with tips, helps, and encouragement. More resources, articles, and education will be coming soon!
Do you have other favorite ways to beat the blues? Please share it with us in the comments below!
Spring isn’t far off Lansing; hang in there!