Living in the Northeast, every winter I fight against the effect the cold weather has on my state of mind and body. Whether you call it the "winter blues" or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I know I'm likely to shut down when the temperature drops and the darkness decides to settle-in until March.
According to Mental Health America, I'm certainly not alone: SAD affects half a million people every winter and the milder form of winter blues may affect even more. Typical symptoms include lethargy, overeating, sleeping problems, low libido and mood swings. While traditional remedies to alleviate SAD include expensive lightboxes and supplements, I cure my winter blues by simply stripping down and playing. It's fun and it's free, and being naked rocks!
I'm a firm believer in squeezing as much fun, pleasure and playfulness out of life as I can, and as such, I'm always on the lookout for new games to play with myself. My favorite winter game to play when it's freezing outside is one I call "Artificial Summer." Luckily, the winters in Philadelphia provide me with ample (freezing cold) summer sunshine, so when I wake up to sunlight streaming through the windows, I roll out my beach blanket and play pretend. Here are the rules of the game so you can play along too!
1. Find a room in your house or apartment that receives a lot of sunlight during the day. I live in a teensy, tiny studio, so this is a no-brainer for me.
2. Clear your furniture to the side so you have a wide open "beach."
3. Crank the heating up to high or set up a space heater in the room.
4. Pour yourself a glass of ice water with lemon or iced tea. Gather snacks like fresh fruit or trail mix.
5. Bring your favorite book, a trashy beach read or your journal and pen. Try to keep it as analog as possible... you're going to the beach after all!
6. Turn up your favorite summer songs — the ones that make you dream of driving to the beach with the top down. In a pinch Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, Manu Chao or even the sound of crashing waves should do the trick.
7. Lay out your beach towel or sarong on the floor. I use my favorite Mexican blanket to soak up some rays.
8. Strip down to your undies or fully nude (definitely recommended) and play pretend. Close your eyes and really develop the sense that you are at the beach in the sunshine. Let your body sink into the floor, as you let the sun's rays warm your entire body.
9. To add to the atmosphere, I usually put on my sunglasses and place several green houseplants around my blanket.
10. Read, write and chill. After I'm feeling warm and happy, I like to add a gentle yoga practice and meditation to expand and continue my blissed-out vibes.
Allowing the sun to hit your bare skin is an indescribable pleasure that feels so natural, innocent and right. In the winter our bodies are starved for vitamin D that comes from natural sunlight. Sunlight also raises our spirits by releasing endorphins, our feel-good hormones. For my less fortunate brothers and sisters who aren't blessed with winter sun — oh, how I remember those few winters I spent in England —"Artificial Summer" requires a lightbox or set of bright daytime bulbs and a lot more imagination.
See you at the beach!