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.