14 Self-care ideas to bring joy on your darker days

I recently read an interesting article about S.A.D. (Seasonally Affected Disorder). It said around 6% of us in the UK are seriously impacted and it can lead to depression. I suspect many others don’t have S.A.D. but are still affected by the shorter hours of sunlight and the typical lack of fun in the winter months. I went into this UK winter with apprehension having enjoyed 18 months living in the tropics with constant heat, light and green. So, I decided to work on a little solo project I called ‘JANUARY JOY’ of consciously finding things that made me happy.

We all have individual joy givers, so you might have some different things on your list, and pinpointing what helps you and what doesn’t is a really useful starting point. Here are some of the things I have been doing that have helped me that may give you inspiration.

1. Getting as much light as possible. I have had my blinds fully open and have been consciously choosing seats by the window or under a nice light. I bought a new desk lamp. I haven’t tried one myself, but someone recommended Lumie lights (lumie.com) which look wonderful and will be going on my birthday list.

2. Making sure I leave the house every day. Ideally for some exercise or at the very least a walk around the block or to do the school run. Even on the grim weather days I have been getting that waterproof on and braving the elements. Those of you that have dogs have a head start on this one (and a companion) which is wonderful.

3. Lowering my expectations and being gentle with myself. I’ve been reminding myself of the things I have achieved and not beating myself up over the things still on my to-do list. I have been listening to how I speak to myself. I’ve also been slowing down, which doesn’t come naturally. I have even been changing my plans if I feel I need to. In the past I have always been a ‘get up, dress up, show up’ kind of person, but sometimes it’s been more ‘cosy up’ and that’s OK.

4. Enjoying treats. I have been enjoying cups of tea, chocolate (how pleasing it was to see Easter Eggs arrive in my local supermarket on the January 4th!), hot baths, an alcohol free beer (I know, I’m wild), reading a novel (nothing too harrowing) or a magazine. I always like to have a light series on the go for some comforting TV time.

5. Cutting down on alcohol. I am not a fan of full-blown dry January as deprivation doesn’t work for me, but I have been consciously tracking my alcohol free days and being more mindful in my choices. I definitely feel better for it.

6. Looking for the beauty in nature. I have become obsessed with spotting signs of spring; bulbs, buds and slightly lighter evenings. I have enjoyed watching sunrises and sunsets, which are much slower events than in Singapore and one of the things I love about being home. (I realised I am turning into my mum when I got excited about the goldfinches on my bird feeder.)

7. Getting as much sleep as my body needs. I am an early night girl and have I loved snuggling up with my book and electric blanket. I am very aware that if you have a new born baby this may not be an option, and now a few years on, I am still thankful for every full night’s sleep I get.

8. Prioritising the things that matter and saying no to the things that don’t. This has been a work in progress for me over many years, but lately I have definitely been doing it more and it is very liberating! Saying no nicely is possible, and being brave enough to walk away from things that don’t add value or joy to you any more is priceless.

9. Planning fun things to look forward to. During January I organised some nice activities, I enjoy hosting friends so have done that. I have also been planning ahead for later in the year, booking tickets, making plans and getting things in the diary. I realised it’s only four months until music festival season starts, within grasping reach!

10. Learning something new. I have recently completed a mental health first aid course. I have also been listening to and reading some great developmental books. I went to a modern calligraphy class (I won’t give up the day job).

11. Stretching. I go to a Yoga class once a week and it really helps me in my quest to slow down, breathe and give myself a moment. Reference point 2, I have committed to going regularly and not cancelling because I don’t fancy going out.

12. Checking in with others. Whenever I have a wobble or a down moment for whatever reason I turn my focus outwards to someone else. I drop a message to someone I care about to see how they are doing. I send something to make them smile. (I don’t mention my wobble, that’s not what this is about.)

13. Sending hand-written post to people. A card, a little gift, a letter. It makes me happy and gives others a surprise and the knowledge they are loved.

14. Keeping checking in with myself. I write a weekly reflection every Friday – a review of the week and I find it really helpful. I include writing down how I am feeling and what has gone well this week, among other things. I know some people enjoy journaling daily, listing things they are grateful for. Find what works for you.

“Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on. Life will get warmer.

Anita Krizzan

This blog was inspired by a post I wrote in January 2022 for fellow Northern Hemisphere readers and from some of the ideas added by others, thank you.

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