It’s January, and another holiday season is behind us. The time has come to un-deck the halls and embrace what comes next: a cold, gray, gloomy Mid-Atlantic winter!

Indeed, January is a tough month for a lot of people. In fact, January 24 is actually officially known as “the most depressing day of the year.” Clinical depression is one thing—see a doctor if you feel you are suffering from that—but there is also a very real, albeit less serious, kind of depression that happens for many of us when we couple the natural post-holiday letdown with the shortened hours of daylight: this is prime time for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to set in. I’ve never been diagnosed with SAD, but I don’t need a doctor to tell me that I feel more “blah” at this time of year. So I’ve been working on a few ways to combat that feeling this winter.

  1. Leaving up the Christmas lights. Inside the house, we are back to normal: the Christmas tree is down, and the decorations are all boxed up for next year. But as we were packing things away this year, I asked my husband to leave our outdoor lights up for just a little bit longer. They just seem to brighten up the dreary gray evenings. And heck, if Hallmark can start showing Christmas movies two months before Christmas, why can’t I extend this little part of it for few weeks AFTER the holidays?
  2. Light therapy. Lights aren’t just for decoration… For people who suffer from SAD, there are actual lamps that are therapeutic in the way they mimic the natural daylight that is often in short supply during the winter months in our area of the country. I bought myself a relatively inexpensive one on Amazon this year, and I just keep it at my desk and turn it on while I am working during the day. It’s too soon to tell if it helps, but it can’t hurt, right?
  3. Brightening my wardrobe. My winter clothing reflects my usual winter mood. In other words, just about everything in my closet is either black or gray. In the summer, I mix it up a lot, but in the winter, I basically am deciding which black top to wear on any given day. So this season, I’ve been slowly adding in a few items to brighten both my winter wardrobe and my mood: a pink scarf; a red sweater; animal-print shoes… Again—it can’t hurt!
  4. Getting outside. Regardless of whether the sun is shining or not, it always helps my mood to get a little fresh air. And unless the temperature has reached dangerous wind chill levels, I try not to use it as an excuse. As my Hungarian grandmother would say: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only improper clothing.” So I make a point to bundle up, put a sweater on my little dog, and head outside for at least a 20 minute walk almost every single day during the winter. I never regret it.
  5. Keeping the house clean. Seriously, who doesn’t feel calmer and more content when their house is clean? If ever there is a time of year that it is worthwhile to have Immaculate Clean come in and give your home a good once-over, January is it! It’s such a mood-lifter on those dreary January days to come home to a clean house—not to mention that this is a great way to combat those cold and flu germs that are so prevalent right now.

However you choose to cope with the winter blues this month, keep pushing on… Better, longer, sunnier days lie ahead!