Beat the Winter (or Anytime) Blues

Happy new year! Or is it? The winter blues are in full swing for some.

In these first few weeks of the new year it can get so cold (at least in Canada it is) and dark (ditto). School semesters and all their work resume. Many workplaces get back to the full grind with little reprieve in the near distance. Other workplaces are staring down the stress of attracting customers or clients who aren’t in spending mode as their holiday bills come in.

Those who ‘should’ on themselves generally are ‘shoulding’ on themselves with even more fervour as they’re inundated by ideas of new year’s resolutions and finance, health and fitness references in the media.

Not to mention those who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or all the really empathic folks who are feeling everyone else’s angst at all of the above.

It’s easy to catch ourselves in a gloomier frame of mind.

Once the spin cycle starts, it can be a downward spiral from there until we’re standing in front of the herbal remedy section at the pharmacy (or reaching for other substances), wondering which will help us feel alive again.

There are lots of coping mechanisms out there and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or resigned.

But it doesn’t need to be that way. We can uplift ourselves at a moment’s notice! Today’s post will look at two tools you can employ (starting right now!) to pull yourself out of the winter doldrums.

Beating the winter blues

Have you seen the video with the basketball players and the person in a gorilla suit? It was a famous experiment by psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris on this oh-so-human trait called inattentional blindness.

Inattentional blindness means that we tend to miss really obvious physical things right in front of our faces because we’re busy looking for what we expect.

In the experiment, half the participants never saw the really obvious person dressed as a gorilla, even though the gorilla walked into the midst of the basketball players, thumped her chest, and then moved on. Half!

Inattentional blindness means that we tend to miss really obvious physical things right in front of our faces because we’re busy looking for what we expect.

And that was for a really obvious physical things in front of their physical eyes.

Why am I talking about inattentional blindness when I said I’d share two tools to help with winter blues?

Become a flirt…with the universe

Sound a bit wild, perhaps a tad…inappropriate, even??

Well, it’s not. You can look AND touch the universe. In fact, you do every day. Your outlook and the thoughts going through your head both frame how you perceive your lived experience, and set the energetic wheels of creation into motion.

And regardless of whether you distrust woo-woo energetic stuff and prefer hard science, or you distrust hard science in the absence of a broader worldview, it doesn’t matter. These tools can work for you and can be totally rationalized in your mind.

Science and energy of flirting with the universe

Both of the tools are easy, accessible, and take virtually no time out of your day. But before we just into the how, let’s consider the science and energy of why they work.

If you prefer a scientific perspective

Psychology literature outlines what is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. It’s the idea that if your attention is drawn to a particular thing, then you start noticing it everywhere. Like if you decide you want to buy a pair of Converse sneakers (or Coach bags…just sayin’), and then you start noticing Converse sneakers (or Coach bags) everywhere you go.

What you focus your attention on is what you will see.

So if you prefer science, what this means is that what you focus your attention on is what you will see. If you are so focused on all the negative, annoying, stressful things in life, then the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon will take place within your brain and guess what? You will be surrounded by negative, annoying, stressful things in life.

Fun, right??

If you prefer an energetic perspective

The energy, manifestation and metaphysical literary world agrees that our thoughts are energy, and the energy that we put out is the energy that is attracted to us. The idea of like attracting like, or energy magnetism.

If you prefer an energetic perspective, this means that what you focus your attention on is what you manifest in your life. If you are focused on all the negative, annoying, stressful things in life, then you continue to replicate that kind of energy in your life. Which again, guess what? Leaves you surrounded by negative, annoying, stressful things in life.

So regardless of which perspective you believe or prefer, it seems that if you focus on the bad things in life, you experience more bad things in life.

But it doesn’t need to be all bad!

What would happen if we were to focus on good, happy and exciting things in life?

Tool 1: Flirt with gratitude

Research has shown that gratitude is strongly associated with increased happiness, improved health and better relationships. You can check out this article by the Harvard Medical School.

Combine that with the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon or energetic magnetism, and it means that looking for things to be grateful for in your life will increase your happiness, and you’ll be surrounded increasingly by things for which to be grateful!

An amazing thing the studies referenced in the Harvard article is that they show that gratitude works even if you’re deliberately practicing gratitude. In other words, even if you don’t go around naturally feeling grateful, deciding to try out gratitude can work.

Gratitude works even if you’re deliberately practicing it.

Even if you’re not convinced, you can try on a little harmless flirtation with life by giving these tools a whirl.

Are you ready to try using gratitude to flirt with the universe? Here’s how.

  • Gratitude beginner: Sometime during each day, find THREE THINGS you’re grateful for, and TEXT or SHARE them with someone in your life. No matter how good or bad a day it is, find those three unique things.
  • Gratitude intermediate: Throughout each day, continue to find things for which you are grateful. Aim for at least SEVEN THINGS. If that sounds hard, consider that it’s fewer than one good thing per two waking hours. Again, no matter how good or bad the day is, find those good things.
  • Gratitude advanced: Throughout each day, find ways to be grateful for BOTH THE GOOD AND BAD THINGS. If you’re challenging yourself at this level, you’ll already be noticing the myriad good things you experience each day. The real challenge for this is to find ways to be grateful for some aspect of a negative experience. This is about turning your perspective on its head and training your brain to find the amazing.

An important rule: No repeats! Every day, your three things need to be totally different from each other.

Tool 2: Flirt with generosity

Generosity, even in small amounts, is another quick way to beat the winter blues.

Coming back to the psychology literature, giving triggers a neural signal that connects with the pleasure centre of our brain (aka the medial forebrain pleasure circuit). Interestingly, it doesn’t matter whether the giving is altruistic or selfish. Those dopamine-relevant pleasure centres are still activated regardless of why you give.

Author Rachel Stavis whom I’ve referenced a few times talks about a concept called transactional consciousness. This is the idea that “any gesture you make that instantly puts good into the world will raise your frequency.”* (i.e. will immediately put you into a better place).

Need some ideas on how to use generosity quickly?

  • Generosity beginner: Each day, find a way of making eye contact with someone with whom you’re interacting and actively listen to what they’re saying, or make eye contact with and hold the door open for the person coming behind you, even if they’re a few paces away and you’re en route to/from work.
  • Generosity intermediate: Put your generosity into overt action each day with something tangible: Buy coffee for the person behind you in line; let the person behind you in line with fewer groceries than you go first; or leave an encouraging, loving note in a public place (you can entitle it “For Whoever Sees This Next: It’s Meant For You”); buy a warm takeout meal and gift card for the homeless person you usually walk past.
  • Generosity advanced: Do one presence (beginner) generosity action and one tangible (intermediate) action each day.

Note: Some of these perhaps don’t sound like generosity, but they are. Eye contact, make time to hold a door, and active listening is being generous with your presence and effort. That is generosity in a world where we’re used to being wrapped up with our own thoughts and experiences most of the time.

Troubleshooting: What if nothing is going right in my life?

That’s where inattentional blindness comes in. No matter what we’re going through in our lives, there are things that are working for us. This isn’t about feeling guilty or ‘should-ing’ on yourself.

It’s about re-programming your brain to notice the beauty in your life. Reminding yourself to notice the things in your life that are wonderful. It’s about pure and simple gratitude.

If you’re not convinced that it’s possible for you to find things for which to be grateful because things in your life are just so bad, I encourage you to check out the books suggested below.

And, if you think you may actually need psychological or other support, as always, make sure you get it.

Those are the tools for this week. Have fun playing with them and see how things change in your life when you do.

Look for the beautiful.

All it takes is a moment.


I am not being compensated to share these resources. As always, find what works for you.

  • E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality, by Pam Grout
  • You Are the Universe, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D.

*Stavis, R. (2018). Sister of darkness. HarperCollins ebooks.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top