Lighten the Winter Blues

by Karen Kuebler

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Do you find yourself struggling through the winter months, suffering from cabin fever, and lacking the motivation to get started on projects? If so, you aren't alone. Often we feel confined and even depressed during winter months. This can have an adverse effect on our financial goals since we often spend to 'feel better' when we are anxious or depressed. This will only create a vicious cycle of more depression. Following are some practical and budget-friendly suggestions to help inspire you during these months.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

When we are feeling down, the last thing that we want to do is start writing out things for which we are grateful. But often it is the thing we least want to do that is the best thing we can do for ourselves. I speak from experience with the gratitude journal. I decided to write three things a day that I enjoyed or was thankful for. One day I was at a total loss. I took a shower and while I was standing under the warm water, I noticed how wonderful it felt. Afterward, I wrote that in my gratitude journal and then about five other things that had occurred the previous day started flowing. The amazing thing about keeping this journal was the habit I developed of starting to look for the good in my life, even though some days it felt like a struggle.

Plan Social Activities after the Holidays

During the holidays, we are generally stressed with too much to do and too many people. This creates a double whammy. We stress during the holidays, and then afterward we feel a sort of emptiness. Plan some get-togethers with friends during the months following the holidays. Make it simple. This shouldn't be a repeat of things that stressed you, but should help to fill the void you might be experiencing.

Spring Clean in the Winter Months

Spring cleaning evolved over 100 years ago because that was the time of year people could finally take their rugs outdoors to beat them. Life has changed a lot since then, and we aren't tied to old traditions. Use the winter months where you are confined more to the indoors to clean and organize your surroundings. Take one room per week to deep clean. If it's in real need of deep cleaning take two or three weeks! There is something about cleaning and organizing that does something to lighten our psyche. When the spring arrives, you'll have everything in order and can spend more time enjoying the outdoors.

Plan a neighborhood garage sale for the Spring and/or sell on eBay. This is the ideal time to turn the 'stuff' you collected during spring cleaning into cash. Some items will sell best at a garage sale, and you might find some neighbors who would like to join you to plan a block sale. Get the items cleaned up and marked for sale so you won't be scrambling to do it at the last minute. If you haven't had the opportunity to sell on eBay, it is well worth finding out how to do it. Many of the items you collected can bring in a lot of money through online auctions. I had cookbooks that would have possibly sold at a garage sale for 50 cents each, and I sold about a dozen for $80 on eBay. I've also sold piles of yarn, thread, books, audio programs, and much more online. I happen to live in an area that won't allow garage sales, but it has worked out to my advantage to sell online. There is nothing like bringing in some extra cash to lighten the winter blues!

Create your Gift List for Next Christmas

At this point, you may be thinking that you never want to think about another Christmas as long as you live. By starting now, you can change this mindset for the future. It's especially valuable to examine what you do and don't like about Christmases past. Plan to change the things you don't like and do more of what you do enjoy. Make a list of people you normally give presents to, then set your 'ideal' budget for each person. Use your imagination to come up with ideas that would fit with each person on your list and still fit within your desired budget. You have plenty of time to look for sales, shop online auctions, make gifts, and discuss alternative ideas to gift exchange with some recipients on your list. I've decided my next Christmas is going to have a theme of 'Christmas from the Heart' and I'm starting to make things that I know people will enjoy, but won't break the bank.

Get Plenty of Exercise

It's easy to skip exercise if the weather isn't perky and this might be another one of those things you least feel like doing right now. But exercise is one of the fastest and most effective mood lifters around, and the long-term health benefits from exercise are too numerous to list. Many people work with the weather and find activities they enjoy doing outdoors. If it's snowing, you might enjoy building a snowman, making angels in the snow, sledding, or cross-country skiing. No? Well then, there are always exercise videos at the library and programs on television that you can follow along with! If you find some videos you particularly enjoy, check them on eBay or to keep in your video library. Yoga stretches increase our relaxation response and build strength and flexibility. Those can be done in the comfort of your living room. Get outdoors for a nice brisk walk and dress warmly. It's guaranteed that if you force yourself to do it, you'll feel much better afterward!

I heard a saying once that has always stayed with me: "The First Rule of Holes - When you are in one, stop digging." The winter months will come and go whether we are in a blue mood or feeling cheerful. We have the choice to decide how we fill our days and nurture our emotional being. By choosing uplifting activities, we can find ourselves enjoying each day and making inroads toward our goals.

Karen Kuebler lives with her husband in the Southwest and enjoys freelance writing and consulting part-time in a variety of areas, including Training and Development and Personal Financial Coaching. She is also a regular featured columnist on

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