Quitting Alcohol: 6 Ways to Embrace the Winter Months and Avoid SAD:
The clocks have gone back (in the UK anyway) and the dark nights have surely crept in. What with the lack of sunlight and the colder temperature, the stress of the upcoming festive season and the yearning for the summer months in the garden again, you can be forgiven for feeling a little deflated? That is without the latest grim news in the world of Covid-19 or the fact you are quitting alcohol!
But for some people this is a real time of concern because many studies have shown that Seasonal changes affecting mood and behaviour may be closely related to increased alcohol use. It is true, some folks with alcohol problems be it a large or small one, have a seasonal pattern to their alcohol misuse. In fact, it has a name because they may be self-medicating what is known as an underlying seasonal affective disorder’ (SAD) with alcohol or manifesting a seasonal pattern to alcohol-induced depression. I am sure that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in this, otherwise everyone would be seen in the street platting their legs in winter, too drunk and depressed to do anything else!
But let us think like the everyday person would. You get up, its dark, its cold. You go to work for the day, whether that is at home or away, and you come home and its dark. That does not sound great. But then there is the mourning of the summer that you might have had enjoying time in the garden, or with friends. You could basically be missing it and thinking that quitting alcohol can wait? More commonly known as ‘The winter blues’ we have all had a dose of it I’m sure and if you’re like me and you’re brain and mind can run away with you then you need to take action before cracking out the anti-depressants again.
Here are reasons to get you thinking about embracing the winter months:
- Get to grips with understanding why:
Here me out. When we understand why someone did what they did or why such an event happens, it is easier to process in our hard drive. Try and understand the seasons more scientifically and why they occur. I am not suggesting you grab a satchel and head off to school with the kids, but have you ever heard that ‘Things happen for a reason’, course you have! Seasons, and particularly the darker cold ones are not just here to send us batty, they are just part of a wider cycle of the planet and where you live. By understanding them logically it might train your brain to thinking more positive about them.
- Embrace the atmosphere at home:
You get home and its dark, cold, you forgot to set the heating and you think it is too cold for a refreshing AF beer or a cold glass of tonic water. Firstly, set the heating and try and remind yourself that home is your sanctuary. Forget the cold drinks, why not opt for a warm apple juice or if you are fortunate enough not to worry about high heating bills, whack the heating up and dance around in the buff…. It is your sanctuary, and winter months could be the time to do your thing! All I am saying is, get cosy in your surroundings, after all, there is something satisfying about snuggling up in front of the fire with a soothing hot chocolate knowing you are safe from the elements.
- Light candles and take a bath
I had to mention this on its own because it is a definite favourite of mine to do, and if you want to relax then this is still one of the best-known ways. In our house we have tea light candles throughout and as above it gives a relaxed and cosy atmosphere. Keeping calm is a big one with sobriety.
- Go to bed earlier
And get up earlier. You might lie awake for a while at first but doing this has 2 great benefits. Firstly, you have less time in the dark in the evening (if you struggle with the sanctuary thing) and secondly, if you’re in the Northern hemisphere at least, mornings start earlier so you can get any chores out the way or even better, sit and gaze out of the window and watch the world where you are start. You can still appreciate the birds that hung around chirping in the morning.
- Get wrapped up and get out (Of the city, town or neighbourhood).
Yes, you have your sanctuary at home, its cosy and now you do not want to leave it… No! That is just part of it. In spring and summer, you get bright colours and warm air and an abundance of birds and flowers, which is lovely, of course it is. But in Autumn and Winter you get the golden leaves, the clear morning skies and the crisp freshness of your breath as the warm air meets the cold. OK I will stop romanticising, but if you get yourself wrapped up in warm clothes and footwear (even double up on layers) you will find that nature in the winter months is simplistically beautiful. Then afterwards you have the warmth of the sanctuary to look forward to.
Whether it is planning for the weekend, month or for next summer’s holiday, do so with eagerness. There is nothing could be worse for your mental health than moping around and waiting for the warmer climes and lighter nights. Give yourself things to look forward to no matter how small. I find that I make more homemade bread in the winter months, which I can spend hours planning and it can take months to plan a weekend away.
Bottom line is, if you don’t act pro-actively and ensure there is plenty to do and reasons to enjoy the differing times of year, you will mope, get depressed and chances are, you will turn to alcohol for self-medication of the winter blues.
Check out my Sobriety Top Tips too. You can do it!
Finally, I want to leave you with this thought. Half of your life will be spent in Autumn and Winter, why waste it when you can embrace it!