Find Your Light

Posted on 21 January 2019,   0 Comments

Find Your Light: How to brighten your days, even in deep dark winter

By Lisa Derrick

It’s a dark old time of year. January means Christmas trees are packed away along with their tinsel and fairy lights, mornings are dark, and evenings seem to start in the afternoon when the street lights come on again and we shut our curtains at 5pm. Even daytimes can feel gloomy – where I write this in Cardiff, Wales, the sun can be pretty unreliable. But you’ve probably noticed feeling much happier when the sun comes out and there’s a blue sky? The link between light exposure and SAD is long-established. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the mood disorder caused by the shortage of sunlight on our skin in the winter months. I’m paler than the average vampire so I don’t ever lie in sunshine – but until it appears again, I forget how good it makes me feel – even if that’s from under the shade of a tree or from a sweet air-conditioned room. Whether or not we experience full Seasonal Affective Disorder, winter gloominess can totally steal some of our get up and go, the natural energy we might feel when that big ball in the sky is shining. If light brightens our life, how can we find that missing goodness when its dark outside?

1. Get on the happy-making music

Make a playlist of all the stuff that makes you feel springy, bouncy, like you can take on the world. The emo, sorrowful stuff that makes your heart plunge to your toes and brings tears to your eyes? Nope, not for today. Share your happy-making playlist. Ask for recommendations from friends and on social media. My current tip is Gruff Rhys’ Negative Vibes – which includes the line, “You and I can conquer all the negative vibes…” We can! Do you have one track that brightens your mood better than all the rest? Play it on repeat. Listen to the music that matches the mood you want to experience. Researchers have proven how our brains literally light up when we listen to music – get listening and turn those lights on.   

2. Do the good stuff that makes you, you

Sometimes we can get stuck hiding away in winter. When it gets dark early, it’s like a signal to our brains to go to bed. While hibernating and watching Netflix can be fun for a bit, we can lose sight of the stuff that gives us a real buzz. What’s the stuff that makes you, you? Drawing, baking, American football, watching ice hockey, writing songs, playing guitar, learning a language, coding, or make-up artistry, maybe? Whatever makes you, you – keep doing it, keep that light burning and don’t let it get overshadowed by the dark nights. 

3. Plan things to look forward to

Christmas can be a big thing to look forward to. Whether you enjoy the food, the films, or time off college and work, it can be ultra-sparkly and light-bringing. Then, before we know it, it’s over. Fill that Christmas shaped gap with other things you can look forward to. Film nights, museum trips, coffees, gigs – put some good stuff in your diary that’ll get you feeling excited again. Invite your friends – they might need a boost just as much as you, and you can have some good chats while you do fun things. And your Christmas tree might be packed away but fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas. String them around your succulents, the more the merrier. 

4. Exercise (preferably with a dog)

Lying still underneath a duvet is often more appealing than exercise in the cold, dark depths of winter. Yet exercise is almost guaranteed to shift some dark clouds and get us feeling better, with all those endorphins being released like floodlights for our brains. Maybe blasting that happy-making playlist will help get you moving? I change my exercise tracks all the time to stay interested, and they’re often music I wouldn’t listen to if I wasn’t exercising. Beyonce’s XO works well for me right now. Dogs are another good incentive to get out the door. My dachshund William loves a walk through the woods, on the beach, or a 5k in the park. Don’t have a dog of your own? Try Borrow My Doggy or Dog Buddy. Whether walking, swimming, basketball, hula hooping, YouTube yoga, football, hiking up a mountain or dancing in your bedroom – shake off the dark of winter, move in some light.  Just ten minutes of exercise is proven to help calm anxiety and lift our moods, and you can read HATW’s guerrilla tips with more ideas for moving.  

5. Try something new

The world can feel a bit magic when we see it with new eyes, but sometimes winter keeps us in a comfort zone, making nests on our sofas while dressed in pyjamas and big socks. Once in a while, trying something we haven’t done before will change things up, boosting our confidence and sense of achievement. How about setting your alarm and watching the sunrise with some friends? You could go to see a cinema film in the morning when the screen is quiet and feels like it’s your very own. Volunteer. Plan a day trip to a new town. Take a train ride you haven’t been on in ages. Try a new bus route. Start a meditation app. Read a new genre of book. Go to a cat café or a pet shop and get some animal therapy. Let us know what you try out!  

It might be dark and wintery outside, but you’re well on your way to doing positive things to find your light. Whether the sun decides to shine or not – you’re looking lovely and bright!   

– Lisa


You can find Lisa on Twitter: @lisajderrick & Instagram: @lisajderrick


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