Beating the Winter Blues

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A Hawaiian friend of mine said, “Don’t let the weather affect your mood.” I thought, “That’s easy to say when you come from a Tropical Paradise.” He believed in mind control, at least until he spent a few winters here, up north in Western New York. The bitter cold is certainly a factor when it lasts so long. It tends to wear us down as much as a lack of light. Color, or lack of it, can affect our mood. Doctors diagnose this syndrome as SAD, “Seasonal Depression Disorder”. Sufferers become hostile, angry, irritable and anxious.

Plants and sunlight bring color into our lives. They are a solution to SAD.

If you can’t take a trip south or to the Hawaiian Islands where plants are still green and flowers are blooming, try a local solution. When our family has cabin fever, usually by February, we pack up for a one night stay in a local hotel with a warm swimming pool. Another requirement is that it be surrounded by tropical plants. Today there are indoor water parks that families can escape to for that tropical feel. You can also take a short day trip to the Erie County Botanical Gardens and spend the afternoon. Don’t forget another local gem just over the border. Visit Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory in Ontario, Canada. Walk among tropical plants and colorful butterflies.

If this isn’t practical for the pocketbook, there are other ways to escape into a colorful world of green. Go to a local nursery with a greenhouse that sells houseplants, walk around, soak up the energy and pick up a new houseplant or two. Any indoor blooming plant will brighten your day, like a kalanchoe that comes in many bright colors. Try an anthurium that sends out stalks with a heart-shaped leaf type flower in white, red or pink. This time of year you might find winter jasmine just coming into bloom. It can fill your home with welcome, sweet aromas to chase away winter doldrums. Jasmine can bloom for several weeks. They like a southern window with plenty of humidity in a slightly cooler room. Splurge on a bouquet of beautiful flowers at the florist or supermarket. The plant kingdom is here to help. Isn’t your mental wellbeing worth it?

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Joanne Tanner is a Master Gardener w/ Cornell's Erie County Cooperative Extension since 1997. Joanne has worked extensively with children on several Community Garden projects, school garden projects, Yo Buffalo, Mayors Summer Youth Program and established the first Jr. Master Gardener Program in Erie County. Her garden tips have been published in several books on gardening as well as in the Buffalo News.