January isn’t totally to blame for my winter blues, coming as it does on the heels of December's season of sparkle and joy. I suspect seasonal affective disorder, with its fewer hours of daylight and cold temps, also helps to rank January as my least favorite month.
In this first of a two-part series about beating the January blues, I share seven strategies I stumbled across while visiting an old-timey town that gentled a sad spirit. Have a read, and please come back next week for part 2 to see how discovering a 70-year old trunk in my childhood home turned my world around and blew the blues away.
1. Make New Traditions
Before he was ill, I promised dad I'd see him this Christmas. That was not to be.
As long as I can remember, Christmas celebrations centered around our parents and my childhood home in Connecticut. But not this year. It was the year our patriarch died, five years following mama's passing. The year I became a baby boomer orphan. The year my siblings and I lost traditional anchors and spun different orbits as our Millennial generation ascended to adulthood, establishing young families and holiday traditions of their own.
There have been joys in the past 12 months, but my heart was too heavy for the annual
500-mile holiday trek north to Connecticut.
Instead, I looked for new traditions that would lighten a grieving spirit. Editor/Spouse JM and I decided to spend two nights in an historic 1830s inn in Harpers Ferry, WVA, a five-hour drive from our North Carolina home and short hop to JM's Pennsylvania family.
2. Be in the Moment
I am always thinking ahead, planning, wondering what comes next, but I activated my off button for 48 hours. Nestled on hills jutting up from the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Harpers Ferry offered total escape by dint of the region’s geography, history, and sheer beauty.
3. Find Joy in Playful Imagining
Designated as an historic site by the National Park Service, it was easy to picture horses and riders clomping down cobblestone streets or hear shots from John Brown’s 1859 raid on the town’s arsenal. And the town’s old-timey cemetery near Jefferson Rock! All those stories to be told there, if you only imagine kind spirits speaking as you walk past their headstones.
Photos: National Park Service, Harpers Ferry National Historic Site, Harpers Ferry, WVA
5. Embrace the Unexpected
I planned a few events for our trip and got more ideas from our gracious hosts at the inn, but I didn’t want to structure everything. Sometimes, the best moments come when you're not looking for them….like finding that gentle stretch of the App Trail I could never imagine existed. Or JM photobombing my panotamic selfie on historic Jefferson Rock.
After long days exploring, we returned to the inn for cider and wine by a cozy fire in the candlelit parlor. I hadn’t taken time to pamper myself in months, but it was just what I needed. Life felt better. Chores and decisions flew off the Overwhelming side of my mental to-do list. Best, I began to find my creative mojo that had been hiding under grief. Writing didn’t feel like climbing Mt. Everest any more. After all, I had walked the App Trail and found joy in new traditions, right? I could do this!
These seven strategies lifted my January funk, and I hope they work for you, too. They helped me clear my mind and reflected on matters I couldn’t take in before ... like the life-changing discoveries from the trunk in dad’s basement. Please come back next week to see how finding old letters and photos in that trunk rocked my world.
Do you get the January Blues? What do you do to stay on top of the blahs in winter or any time? Might any of these seven strategies help you? Please share in the comment section. Catch next week for part 2 on Beating the January Blues
Photos: by Cat Michaels Michaels, except where credited
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