There is a big blank spot in front of the living room window where the Christmas tree stood for a month. There are a few stray needles the vacuum didn't pick up, and the banister seems boring without its festive red bows and green garland.
I've put away the porch lights and swag, and recycled the tree in the compost bin in the woods. Taking the tree out, I felt a pang that the excitement of the season is over, and the next thrilling thing to happen will be the first green buds of spring.
This is the time of year the bills start rolling in. If opening the mail isn't enough to depress us, many of us feel deflated after already breaking our brand-new New Year's Resolutions (It's fun to embrace those resolutions while hoisting a glass of champagne at midnight on New Year's Eve, but when it comes to making a lifestyle change, that's harder).
Yes, the winter blues have set in.
Experts tell us the winter blues are common, and if we actually followed our resolutions we might be able to dispel those blues a little faster.
The top resolutions traditionally revolve around health and fitness and include exercising, losing weight and making better food choices. Another top resolution is finding enjoyable hobbies and interests to expand our minds.
All these things can help dispel a mild case of the blues.
Daily exercise is essential. Exercise increases the levels of serotonin which helps regulate mood. If we can make ourselves begin or maintain an exercise program, it will increase our fitness and could have a positive effect on our mood.
Making better food choices is another way we can help ourselves feel better. Many of us crave simple carbohydrates, especially when beset by the blues. Initially, eating simple carbs may be comforting, but the feeling doesn't last long and often just makes us sleepy.
Experts say it's wiser to choose complex carbohydrates that take longer for our bodies to process. Unhealthy snacks may cause temporary relief, but will decrease energy levels and won't improve our frame of mind for long.
Another resolution that could help lift our mood is to pursue that new hobby. Read a good book, work crossword puzzles or get out among friends for dinner or a movie. It's easy in the winter to snuggle indoors for a month, but that might be too much of a good thing.
Try to take advantage of the few hours of daylight, if possible. Lack of enough daylight often leaves people feeling sad. Experts predicted that today in Georgia the sun would rise about 7:43 a.m. and set about 5:44 p.m. That means for many of us, we'll still be working during all the daylight hours, and driving while the world is dark.
The good news is we are getting a full 13 minutes more of daylight than we got just two weeks ago.
This should help us keep in mind that the winter blues are usually transient. Spring will come, but on long winter nights it does seem far away.