It’s that time of year again when the weather gets colder and the days get shorter. While many introverts love staying inside on a cold night with a good book, fall and winter bring their own challenges. Many introverts and highly sensitive people (HSPs) are affected by changes in sunshine and temperatures more than others. This means introverts and HSPs can easily be at risk for the winter blues. Here are seven tips to help you survive the dark days of fall and winter without feeling bummed out.
1. Start the day with self-care. Self-care is one of the most important things an introvert or HSP can do to stay mentally healthy. We need time to ourselves to recharge our mental batteries before facing the world. Without even knowing it, you could be burning through your mental energy and stressing yourself out with your morning routine. If you find yourself running around your house each morning scrambling to get out the door on time, you may be setting yourself up for the winter blues. Too much stress can trigger feelings of depression.
Instead, try a more introvert-friendly morning routine. Add in a few minutes of meditation or yoga for a much-needed energy and happiness boost. Try trading your usual sugary coffee drink from the busy coffee shop for a home-brewed cup, so you can have a few more peaceful moments before starting your day. Whatever “slowing down” means to you, give yourself time to do just that.
2. Challenge negative thoughts. One of the best treatments for depression, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, works by making you question your thoughts — especially the negative ones. If you find yourself constantly thinking, “This is the worst day ever,” or “My life sucks,” you may be at risk for constantly bumming yourself out. To prevent this from happening, every time you have a negative thought, ask yourself, “Is this really true?” Most likely, your negative thoughts don’t reflect reality. Having a few bad things happen doesn’t mean your whole life is terrible. Challenging negative thoughts isn’t easy, but it can do wonders for your mental health.
3. Plan something to look forward to. The months leading up to winter may seem grim, as you know you are about to be plunged into darkness and crappy weather. However, you can keep the winter blues at bay by planning fun things to do ahead of time. See if any musicians or entertainers are coming to your city this winter, and buy tickets — that way you will have a fun event to look forward to. Or, tell your closest friends to save the date for a movie marathon.
4. Socialize (yes, really). We all know that introverts get worn out by excessive socializing, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid it all together. Studies show that interacting with other people can fight off depression. As tempting as it might be to binge on Netflix for the third weekend in a row, it’s important for your mental health to have some social interaction. That doesn’t mean you have to turn yourself into an extrovert; you can socialize on your own introverted terms. Text your best friend for a coffee date or ask your significant other to stroll with you through a museum — anything to get you moving and (briefly) out of the house.
5. Take time for yourself. While socializing can help you feel better, not having any time in your schedule for yourself is a real drain. The upcoming months will probably be full of holiday parties, and if these events are being attended out of obligation instead of enjoyment, you will find yourself feeling burned out. This can lead to sadness or depression. Just like self-care should be a part of your daily routine, time for yourself should be on your weekly schedule as well. Don’t feel bad about turning down a couple of invites in favor of spending the day at home with some hot cocoa.
6. Expose yourself to more light. Scientists and psychologists are not entirely sure why some people get depressed in the winter, but one of the major factors is light. The sun’s rays stimulate the feel-good chemicals in your brain, and when you don’t get enough sunlight, you can start to feel down. It may not seem like much fun to go outside when it’s cold, but getting a few minutes of sunlight really improves your mood. If you must stay inside all day, try to work near a window or invest in a sun lamp.
7. Ask for help. Some people can manage the winter blues on their own, while others may benefit from outside help. If your feelings of sadness are so bad that you’re struggling to get through the day, you may need to see a professional therapist. There is no shame in seeing a therapist, as taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Therapy can help you uncover the sources of your depression and give you the skills you need to improve your mood.
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