Back in February on an orchard in Michigan, a man pruning apple trees noticed what looked like clear glass apples hanging from the trees. They were created, it turns out, after freezing rain and a polar vortex whipped through, forming a mold of the unharvested apples. When the soft apple insides seeped out, they left behind the hollow molds. He called them ghost apples.
Now, you might look at this phenomenon and feel a sense of wonder that something like this could exist. Or you might feel exasperation that we even experience something as wild as the polar vortex, which includes subzero temperatures pushed down from the North Pole. (And no, that’s not hyperbole; the cold actually does originate at the North Pole).
If you feel exasperation instead of a sense of wonder, perhaps you’re less social, have less energy. You might have less excitement about your projects. If so, there’s a good chance you have the winter blues.
You’re not alone. Twenty percent of Americans experience either the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The first is a mood disorder that comes with shrinking sunlight, colder and more erratic temperatures and a general sense of hibernation. SAD is more severe. It’s a seasonal form of clinical depression that can be debilitating. And you should talk to your doctor or therapist if you think you might be experiencing this.
“Most people experience SAD symptoms to a certain extent,” said Dr. Kelly Rohan. “There is not a one-size-fits-all treatment approach. Different things work for different people.”
At this point in the year, sure, we might be at the tail-end of winter. Sometimes, though, that last push is the hardest. So, here are some recommendations for pushing through the very end of winter with higher spirits. And before you know it, those glass apples made of ice will be long-melted and you’ll have the distance to marvel at their magic.
Name that feeling
If you notice that you’ve been feeling down more than usual, take a step back and recognize how you’re feeling. Saying the way you feel out loud, or writing writing it down can help dispel its power, and set you on a path to be proactive to combat it.
Green your space
Bringing a new potted plant into your office space can have a physical impact on you. They can help lower blood pressure, increase attentiveness, raise productivity and improve general well-being, according to studies. If you have limited space, you might even try a small cactus or an airplant to remind you that spring is coming.
Light therapy, AKA using artificial lights during winter months, is “the most widely used and extensively investigated treatment for SAD,” according to Dr. Rohan. Clinicians suggest daily use and you can get more information from the American Psychological Association.
Walk it off
Speaking of greenery, taking a walk outside during a break can go a long way. Walking can help juice up creative thinking and give you a change of scenery, especially if you tend to stay glued to your desk most of the day. And you know what, if it’s cold out, bundle up properly and brave the cold. You’ll feel good for doing something healthy for yourself. Plus, endorphins.
Lean into the wind
In Norway, where they have something called the Polar Night—when the sun doesn’t rise at all for months—rates of seasonal depression are actually pretty low. That’s because, in part, people think about the dark and cold differently. They lean into it, seeing it as something enjoyable. Your version of this might be to take walks in the cold, weekend ski trips, or it might be to look at beautiful images of winter wonderlands, like these from Atlas Obscura.
Bundle up with friends
When you tend to stay inside more during winter, you’re also probably socializing less as well. Hibernating—and the resting that comes with it—can be a good thing, but don’t forget to make plans and see friends. Togetherness is part of the concept of Hygge, a Danish word that can be translated to “the art of coziness.”
Unplug from negativity
Depending on who you follow on social media and how you feel when you use it, you might want to limit your time on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Pay attention whether you generally feel better or worse after using social media and limit your time to what lifts your spirits instead of drags them down.
Mark the calendar
Yes, planning a trip to somewhere sunny during winter can give you a break from the cold. The reason it helps with happiness could have more to do with the planning itself. In one study, people experienced a happiness boost from just anticipating an upcoming trip. The look-forward will also remind you that the winter—and the winter blues—aren’t forever.