When Life Gives You Lemons: A Primer

lemons after the rain

Lemons refreshed after the rain

You’ve heard it before: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. It’s an interesting metaphor for this time of year and  coincides with the yellowing of lemons on my citrus tree.

The leaves on our deciduous Pistache are turning  yellow signally dormancy for the approaching winter. At the same time, once-green lemons are also turning yellow, indicating an approaching harvest.

I appreciate the benefits of lemons and lemonade.

ripening lemon

When I grow up, I want to be a lemon

The holidays are a mixed bag for a lot of people.  For some, they’re joyful, for others they’re fraught with pain. Is your cup half empty or half full?  Our exposure to media can leave us wanting, while the ghosts of Christmas past keep showing up uninvited. What can you do? If you or someone you know is feeling blue, here are a few ideas to lift your spirits while at the same time making someone’s season bright.

Helping Others:

Studies prove that “In general, people who help others stop focusing on their own pains and problems and worries and feel good about themselves.” – Health Day: News for Healthier Living

Hug your furry friend:

According to the American Heart Association “ownership of pets, especially dogs, reduces risk for heart disease and greater longevity.” Studies have also found that:

  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
  • People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
  • Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax. – HelpGuide.org


Rent a funny movie, call a friend and reminiscence about the crazy things you used to do together or watch a series of funny videos on YouTube.  Some people sneer at the number of ‘silly’ cat videos, but we watch them because they make us smile and laugh which in turn helps us feel better.

Give a Little:

Scientifically speaking, giving really is better than receiving. We feel better about ourselves when we give to others. Interestingly, as a percentage of income, some of the poorest people give the most. But giving isn’t just about tangible gifts. You can give of your time or your skills to help others. Reading to the blind, running errands for a shut in or offering your knitting skills to make blankets for people in need.

Sometimes you can double or triple your impact with one gesture. I recently attended a friend’s craft fair at a local church. Some of the proceeds of the sales went to support a scholarship fund. I bought a few hand-made blankets from one of the vendors and then donated them to Sacred Heart Community Services. Sacred Heart never has enough blankets to go around and usually have to limit one blanket per family. I believe this is what business people refer to as a multiplier. I bought blankets to support our community in need. The money spent supported a local, cottage business in addition to the scholarship fund. Carol of Carol’s Creations merges two layers of deliciously soft fleece with a lovely crocheted edge.  Her blankets will keep others warm this winter. The icing on the cake: when she learned that the blankets were for a community center, she gave me an entire box of fleece scarves to go with them. Give a little and feel the joy.

Get Moving:

This is one of my favorites. Walking, hiking, and hard-core gardening always lift my spirits. How does exercise relieve depression? “For many years, experts have known that exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.

Besides lifting your mood, regular exercise offers other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer, and boosting self-esteem. How often or intensely you need to exercise to alleviate depression is not clear, but for general health, experts advise getting half an hour to an hour of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, on all or most days of the week.” –Harvard Health Publications: Exercise and Depression

here comes trouble

Here comes trouble


Helping a Depressed Person: Ways to help. What you should and shouldn’t say.

Psychology Today: The Social Safe: Giving Really is better than receiving.

How do you get through the holidays? Please share your words of wisdom in the comments section below.


33 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Lemons: A Primer

  1. Thanks for all those heart-warming ideas Alys. My partner and I will be completely alone for the first time this Christmas, as I can’t leave my old dog to travel to my family. It will be strange! But then I think of all the people in much worse situations than that and it puts things into perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely thoughtful post Alys! There are so many wonderful ideas and helpful links here. Family circumstances mean I will spend Christmas day alone this year and strangely perhaps, I am looking forward to it – a chance to be quietly [Siddy allowing] with my thoughts of gratitude for times past and the people who have been my teachers. I know for many having to spend this day alone is very hard and I too encourage those who will feel sad to go out and volunteer in some way – it does amazing things for ones spirits! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Alys: all good advise there! No Christmas blues here in the Walker residence! we truly love Christmas and the love, gratefulness and new beginnings it represents. And trying to share that with as many people as possible;0) My only peace of advise to add to your wholesome list is: do not go to the shops too much and unsubcribe from all those crazy emails about deals, deals and more deals. Love your citrus fruits and the photos you made! xoxox Johanna

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Johanna, I love the idea of unsubscribing from emails with deals…and emails in general. They’re insipid. Great advice.

      I’m happy to hear that the Walker family will be together and in good cheer. Hurray for all of you. Merry Christmas.


  4. Excellent suggestions!! Walk, move, laugh, give … perfect!
    Yours is the last blog I’m visiting before heading to make final preparations for the annual Diva Donations (10th year, women giving anonymously, with 100% of the monies going to local charities). Quite a bit of work but I love doing it! Since it’s anonymous, I really can’t say much about it locally so it’s fun to share it with non-local friends.
    Love the photos and I’m going to try to apply your suggestions!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi ((( Alys ))), I missed you this weekend. I’ve had my moments with the blues but generally don’t stay that way for long. All the information and links was brilliant. It’s 2:42am so I’ll pop back tomorrow to relish every morsel when my eyelids are cooperating more. xoxox Love k

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m back, as it turns out ‘3 days’ later 😀 You’re so fortunate to be able to grow the things you do. Lemons at home are currently .98 each ! You could sell yours in Edmonton for .75 each (under cut those guys) and make a bundle. Send them along to me and I’ll be your middle man. Of course this will cost you big time. An extra week in my guest room and 50 lashes with Blossum’s ‘oh-so-soft’ tail, LOL

    Seriously though, depression is no joke. My mid forties are a bit of a blur. I think I was just walking thru life and not extracting much joy from it. For many reasons, I felt lonely and the daily routine of caring for a large property was getting to seem like misery. I always felt tired because with those crazy night sweats and hot flashes, I never got enough sleep. The best thing I did for myself (and my husband, ha) was to go on HRT. I know the theories of the yes and no sides. For me, I’m happier and more balanced emotionally. The other thing we did was move into the city so I could go back to work and have more free time. Isolation has it’s perks but for some people, like myself, it’s not good. Too much time to dwell on things. I’m happier to be around people I enjoy, doing something I love and filling in the free time with fun stuff instead of chores. “If it’s broke, you need to change it” was my mode of action.

    If moving isn’t an option, small things like joining a chorus group, art group or volunteer group can be uplifting too. Surprising what 1 or 2 days of joy can bring to the week. I know this time of year weighs on you heavily hon. Lean on me, when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on. Truer words were never written. I love you dearly xoxo K


    • Hee-hee! Now I’m back…over a week later. LOL. Busy, eh?

      I should have brought lemons with me to Coronado for your trip home.

      I’m sorry to hear you went through a prolonged depression in your forties. That’s brutal and painful as as you say and quite overwhelming.

      I’m glad you were able to put so many changes in place like selling the lake house, moving to the city and going on HRT. It sounds like a winning combination and the perfect thing for you. I like my solitude and I like me social time. I could never be content with just one or the other. Life is all about balance.

      Great advice about joining a group. You can serve others as a volunteer or spend time with like-minded folks who sing or make art.

      Liked by 1 person

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