Welcome to our new series: Ask Angella, where we do exactly that.
If you’ve ever had a potentially sensitive creative question, we want you to throw it our way so that we can hand it over to the likes of Hey Angella, a writer, student, art expert and all-around kind, resourceful and wise human being. Here’s the first question we’ll tackle:
“Hey Angella, There’s no way around it—winter is the worst. Do you have any tips on how to stay sane AND creative this time of year?”
A creative rut sucks, especially when you’re SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder (better known by its appropriate acronym, SAD) affects 1 in 3 people around the world and includes symptoms like lethargy, general sadness, insomnia, and agitation, just to name a few. SAD happens when your body gets less sunlight which decreases serotonin, a hormone that regulates your mood, and increases melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy when it gets dark. So with less sun, more sleep, and a case of the blahs where do you find the motivation to stay creative?
Not to sound like a hippie, but most of what you need to stay creative is ~inside you~, you just need the tools to access it. Here are some small steps you can take to alleviate your seasonal depression* as a creative person.
*(If you or someone in your life is struggling with depression, please seek professional help. We’ve included some links to resources at the bottom of this post.)
Seek color and try something new
Winter, by nature, is monochromatic. Very little is in bloom, the sky’s grey and snow is well, blank. Even if you’re an artist who strictly works in black and white, being around color is proven to elevate your mood. Though color therapy doesn’t necessarily cure depression it can definitely help. Warmer tones like orange and pink have the power to make rooms feel cozier, and cooler tones like blue and green can freshen a color palette. Similarly, a friend, who is an illustrator by trade, explained that he likes to switch up his medium by collaging rather than drawing to loosen up his creative flow. In doing something outside his wheelhouse, but creative nonetheless, helps him break the routine of doing the same thing day in and day out. So maybe you dislike color showing up in your own art, but you can still experiment with new styles and palettes for a warm up.
Maximize your sun exposure
Days are shorter in winter, even in sunnier places like California, where the sun sets at 4:30pm at the start of winter. So while getting out of bed earlier to meet the sun halfway may sound depressing in and of itself, maximizing your exposure to sunlight increases your body’s production of serotonin, which will help you feel good and stay creative. A quick walk outside first thing in the AM or sharing that morning sunbeam on the floor with your cat will jump start your artistic flow.
Get out to see art when you can
Museums and galleries have two things winter lacks: heat and bright light. Staying in the house because of inclement conditions day after day gets old, so when you can, wrap up and head to a museum or gallery to check out some new art. Not only do you get to stay warm and indoors, you just might be inspired by an artist you hadn’t considered before. If you live in a place that lacks cultural institutions, consider your library’s art section or leverage the powers of the internet. Most museums put their art collection online including the Walker Center, the Met the Getty, and the Brooklyn Museum. While it’s not quite the same as seeing art IRL, opening your eye to new work in any capacity does wonders for your creative spirit.
Akin to getting up early (as in, no one wants to voluntarily), is the effectiveness of exercising when you’re bummed out. Even if it’s just doing some jumping jacks or yoga in your apartment, exercising will increase your flow of endorphins, which are chemically linked to feeling good and getting creative. Endorphins help you focus and locks you into what psychologists call the “flow state”: a state of mind and body that not only increases creativity in the moment, but over time. So yes, you *can* get high on your body’s own supply.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, bunkering in can bring some relief to the cold. Light some candles or an oil diffuser and get cozy. Certain scents (geranium and lavender for example) can affect your mood. Comfort also alleviates anxiety which helps you feel safe. Try out a weighted blanket or curling up in a pile of pillows as reward for making it through another day. Self care is key!
Keep your friends and inspiration close
Writing a positive mantra or pinning up a print of one of your favorite art pieces above your work space will help you stay on track. If you’re feeling bad, reach out. Depression affects over 300 million people worldwide and there is no shame is asking for help.