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Life Happens: Winter doesnít have to be sad, with these ideas to keep up your spirits

HAMBURG ó Now that colder weather is here, it is only a matter of time before winterís icy grip is upon us. The days are shorter, the sun is buried behind gray clouds most of the time, and the trees are just empty sticks poking at the leaden sky.

Usually, this is the time of year that I like to sink into my winter funk. Undiagnosed seasonal affective disorder, as it were. I hunker down in the house, in oversized bulky sweaters, sighing, pacing and eating like Iím a bear preparing for hibernation.

I donít do well in reduced sunlight. The cold doesnít bother me as much as the grayness that stretches for months at a time.

Iíve investigated ways to cope with my SAD. Some experts recommend taking vitamin D3, as a way to raise low levels caused by reduced sun exposure. There have been winters where Iíve clutched my little bottle of D3, willing it to help, squeezing the life out of it, cursing it for not helping and abandoning it by January, as a lost cause.

That might be a little dramatic, but not far from the truth. I also have used a ďhappy light,Ē which is a small lamp that simulates sunlight. It works, in a way. But Iíve noticed something strange with the happy light. When I turn it on, at breakfast time, it does fill me with energy and happiness, while Iím having my coffee. I feel optimistic, and even excited to go out the door.

Until I actually do, and realize that itís still dark outside. My brain has a ďhuh?Ē moment, because it really thought that spring was here. Breaking the bad news to my brain takes away the temporary joy the happy light brings.

This year, Iím thinking that maybe Iím spending too much time thinking about winter. Forget the vitamins and happy lights. This year, I might just embrace the ice, the dark and the cold. It is what it is. Why fight it?

There are plenty of things that I could do, in the winter. The fact that I usually choose to do nothing but pace like Jack Nicholson in ďThe ShiningĒ is my own fault. I read somewhere that people who live in cold climates should make a point of taking a walk outside, every day.

The last time I took a walk in winter was to look for someone in the Tops parking lot who had jumper cables I could borrow for my dead car battery. I might try this walk theory. What can it hurt?

I could also go places and do things, instead of holing up like a squirrel. I could unearth my old snowshoes and take them to Chestnut Ridge. I could take advantage of our art galleries and museums, and spend quality time with Western New Yorkís history and culture.

Or, I could take in some live music, in one of our countless bars and restaurants, on a Saturday night. Or check out the night school classes that the area high schools offer. I could learn anything from needlepoint, to Zumba, to a foreign language.

There is more to winter than sunless days. Iím feeling better already.

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