By Jenna Lopez, LICSW, LIMHP
Hey Humans! It is that time of year again. The seasons are changing and bringing the falling leaves, sweater weather, holiday after holiday and our good ole pal, Seasonal Affective Disorder. This can be in reverse for some and to those of you I say “Cheers!” As their joy becomes a little easier to grasp those of us affected by winter are just about to begin our struggle.
As I wrote to you all last fall, it is a good idea to have a plan for the S.A.D. time of year that affects you. Adjusting and updating the plan as time goes on and we learn new things about ourselves. I thought I would share a few things I have learned and will be trying this coming winter.
A lesson the universe repeatedly gives to me is to stop robbing myself of joy. Coming out of last years S.A.D. times, I was able to recognize many ways in which my joy robbery seems to uptick in winter. I was able to become aware of how many things I wasn’t doing that I wanted to because I was talking myself out of it aka robbing myself of joy. I have been working on building the muscle that cultivates joy in order to decrease the strength of the muscle that grabs that joy away. In other words, I didn’t wait for the S.A.D. to come to initiate a plan.
The first change I made (because my therapist kept repeating the idea to me and I finally caught on) was to try harder to be curious about everything. Instead of allowing my mind to say things like, winter is going to be terrible!, I would pause and use curiosity to push back and say, But will it be terrible? A gentle reminder that I don’t know so why worry now and rob the peace I have in this moment. I used curiosity to help think about what things I thought could bring me joy, peace or excitement. Then I gently asked myself why I wasn’t doing them.
The best example of this is The Being Human podcast! It is something I have wanted to do for a long time but hadn’t. A gentle why not? Was all it took for me to evaluate that I was setting some expectations that I felt I couldn’t meet. Once I changed the expectation to “have fun” I was able to give myself this joyful experience of deep talking with amazing humans in my life. I do hope you all enjoy it, but that is also an expectation I had to let go of. I realized that if I was doing it for someone else, I wasn’t going to do it.
To all my winter S.A.D.-ies I wish you luck this go round. To those who are coming out of their S.A.D. time, yay it’s going to get lighter from here, I hope! How strong is your muscle for cultivating joy, peace and fun? Does it need to be strengthened?