Written by our Founder and CEO, our Celebrations Pulse Sunday Letters aim to engage with our community. From sharing stories to welcoming your ideas, we want to help you to express, connect, and celebrate the important people in your life.
For many people, January elicits excitement and hope. It’s the start of a new year and, potentially, new beginnings. Amid the great expectations for the next 12 months, many of us set out on self-improvement resolutions with determination and zeal.
For others, the month is cold and dark. It’s in the middle of a nearly three-month period of short days, long nights, and frigid weather. The environmental gloom can easily permeate our minds and affect our mental well-being.
The lack of sunlight can trigger what’s known as seasonal affective disorder – a condition that can lead to fatigue, social withdrawal, and depression during the winter months. Research and the estimated 10 million sufferers attest to the severity of what’s commonly – and aptly – referred to as SAD.
The good and the sad of January
John, a friend and community member, shared his mindset when January comes around:
My long-time partner’s birthday is Jan. 13, and that’s always a very happy day, and certainly one of the happiest days of the year. Then comes Jan. 16, which is the day that I suddenly lost my father 46 years ago when I was 12. It is always the saddest day of the year.
John added that being a runner, he’s often left to grind his workouts out on the treadmill. “I’d much rather be outside, in the sun and warmth, so I do think that has a lot to do with my down moods during the winter months.”
John is onto something. In past Celebrations Pulse letters, we’ve written about forcing yourself to get out of the house, either to take a walk, do an errand, or even just take a stroll at a local mall. Even though it may be cold, find an excuse to connect with nature and just breathe. Jim, for example, often bundles up and takes long walks in his neighborhood to clear his mind.
What are you doing to beat the winter blues? Share your storywith us and the rest of the community for a future edition of Celebrations Pulse.
Tips from our Connectivity Council
We reached out to our Connectivity Council members – Dr. George Everly, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Dr. Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist – for some other ideas to combat the winter blues.
Dr. Everly explained that depression in the winter increases due to several factors. Shortened days mean less sunlight and less time for outdoor recreational activities, and probably fewer recreational activities in total. This then leads to less social contact and thus a greater chance of isolation.
People become less active in winter, and we all know that exercise improves mood, and people generally eat more in winter and gain weight, which can have adverse psychological and physiological consequence. – Dr. Everly
What to do?
Dr. Everly shares potential remedies for each factor that contributes to the winter blues.
Make a point of getting at least 30 minutes of direct sunlight per day. Take a short walk outside, eat breakfast or lunch in front of a window.
Less recreational time
Make it a priority of taking a walk, even if its indoors. Or start a new hobby.
Less social interaction
It’s a great time to reach out to others; don’t wait for them to reach out to you. Reach out to someone through a phone call, email, or video at least once a week. Friends, family, and co-workers can all be useful sources of combating isolation. Remember there is always somebody waiting for a smile or even just a nod from another person. Be that person.
Getting motivated to go to a yoga or fitness class may be hard, and not everyone has access to an indoor pool. Start by making it easy on yourself by walking or taking an online class for just 30 minutes a few times a week. Then increase activity each week. You’ll find your motivation growing. Also, watch what you eat and curtail comfort foods that are usually high in sugar.
Create a psychological checklist
Dr. Chloe suggests that everyone create a “psychological checkup” to keep winter blues in check.
While we might feel more sad than usual during the winter, we can take this time to appreciate what we have, care for our mental well-being, and motivate ourselves to strengthen our relationships.
And we don’t have to be alone. Dr. Everly reminds us that the greatest predictor of resilience is the strength of our social connections. While we may feel a little more down right now, let’s look out for one another with a quick call, text, or visit. In other words, use your power to connect with other people to make someone’s day – or month.
All the best,
Chris & Jim
An opportunity to “Meet the Breeds”
Whenever we write about dogs in Celebrations Pulse, we receive a higher-than-usual number of responses from readers. Clearly, our community loves dogs as much as we do!
Jim reached out to a friend, Ron Furman of the American Kennel Club, to explore ways we could work with the club in support of our shared passion. It led to an in-person meeting at their beautiful headquarters in New York City.
One of our first questions was one that we know many of you share: Is the AKC just about purebreds and dog shows? We were excited to learn that AKC is so much more. As a not-for-profit, AKC funnels its funds back into the dog-loving community to support the health and well-being of all dogs (check out its AKC Canine Health Foundation), protect the interests of dog owners, and promote responsible dog ownership.
The wide-ranging conversation turned to other canine topics, including all the ways those of us with dogs have benefited from our four-legged companions. They are a great way to boost your mental well-being. In fact, numerous studies have shown that animals decrease levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, and reduce feelings of loneliness.
Are you thinking about getting a dog? You should definitely do your research. If you live in the New York City area, check out the AKC’s “Meet the Breeds” educational canine showcase at the Jacob K. Javits Center. More than 130 breeds – from Afghan Hounds to Yorkshire Terriers – will be at the event, which takes place Jan. 28-29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
You’ll have an opportunity to meet and interact with the various breeds, learn about their unique personalities, and talk to breed experts about what types of dogs might work best for your lifestyle. There will also be various demonstrations, games, an art station, and photo opportunities for the entire family. (Note: This is only an opportunity to learn about the breeds; no sales take place at this event, and outside dogs are not permitted.)
To celebrate our new relationship with the American Kennel Club, we are offering a limited number of free “Meet the Breeds” tickets to members of our community. If you live in the New York area, send us an email and let us know what breeds you’d like to learn about and why. After the event, attendees will be asked to share photos and stories from the event.