Midweek Mental Greening

Some people thrive during the winter months. They live for the thrill of swooshing down ski slopes, pirouetting around ice skating rinks, and bombarding loved ones with snowballs. While I would like to learn how to ice skate, and there are a few people I think could use a good pelting with large quantities of snow, the winter months don’t appeal to me with any kind of regularity.

Truthfully, I have a bizarre love/hate relationship with winter.

On the one hand, I love it because it means hot chocolate, cozy sweaters, and holidays. Too, I’m pretty fond of the occasional dark winter’s day (which is where the “bizarre” factor comes in).

On the other hand, I hate it because the sun rarely shines and even when it does it’s too cold to go out and really enjoy anything I like to do. I don’t have seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, the seasonal depression that hinders your ability to function during a particular season, which is most commonly winter), but my mood does tend to get funkier during the winter months. Plus, watching all the holiday celebrations come to an end is just depressing.

Naturally, when my dilemma met my passion for greening the earth and my mind, a list of green ways to beat the winter blahs was born. Consider these ideas for curbing seasonal blues while being kind to the earth and its inhabitants.

1. Plan a weekend trip.

Getting away from the same ol’ same ol’ – especially during the winter months – can seriously boost your mood. Unless you’re on foot or riding a bike (two means I don’t recommend when you’re traveling far enough for the trip to be considered a “weekend” one), though, traveling may not seem like the most environmentally friendly thing to do; however, you can green it up by taking public transportation or inviting a few friends and carpooling (bonus points for scoring or renting a hybrid), booking a room at an eco-friendly hotel, consuming locally, and conserving water and energy the same way you would at home.

2. Occupy yourself at home.

On those particularly miserable snow days, turn off the television and find something creative or constructive to get into. Maybe it’s time to finally learn about which vitamins would most benefit you, or perhaps you want to get a head start on planning your garden. Invite friends and family over for a game night (of the card and board variety – less electricity!), or perfect a vegan dish and wow them with your animal-friendly prowess.

3. Join a club, take a class, or organize an event.

Many areas have community recreation centers or parks and recreation departments that maintain various special interest programs, classes, organizations, and events that don’t require exposure to below-zero temperatures. Ask around and find out if you’re interested in any of them, or inquire about organizing one that doesn’t exist. Need ideas? How about an auction or indoor yard sale to raise money for your local animal shelter? Not only will it help the shelter with funds, but it will also help recycle other people’s unwanted items. Happy puppies and less trash is a win/win in my book.

4. Volunteer your time and services.

Getting active in a cause you believe in – and one that helps the environment – can take your mind off the lack of sunlight, warmth, and your boredom. Plus, it makes you feel pretty darn good. If your area doesn’t offer any such volunteer opportunities, get some ideas about starting one from VolunteerMatch.org. Be sure to also check out the site’s listings for disaster preparedness and relief volunteering.

5. Give yourself something to look forward to.

Depending on the weather and your ability to get around when it’s especially cold and snowy outside, any one of the above may be a thing to look forward to. However, you can still consider making plans for a far-off date of entertainment and environmental excellence. Check out US News and World Report’s “How Green Is Your Vacation?”, an interactive quiz that tests just what it suggests, to see how green your vacation is and find tips for making it even more eco-friendly.

6. Do a little dance.

Or make a little love. Yes, getting down – whether it’s dancing, exercising, or loving – does a brain good. Physical activity that really gets your blood pumping not only helps you feel better physically, but it also helps curb symptoms of anxiety and depression, relieve stress, boost self esteem, and sleep better. And let’s face it: Exercise and sex use up little – if any – nonrenewable resources.

For more ideas to beat depression this season, check out Therese J. Borchard’s 12 Winter Depression Busters.