Beat the Winter Blues: Do Winter Your Way

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What do you do all winter when you don’t like to ski or build a snowman? Beat the winter blues with activities that make you happy.

I recently realized that the only way to survive winter is to do it my way.  As a summer goddess, I love to be around friends and family and I love to pamper myself. When I first moved to this wintery land, I fell into a pattern of isolating myself and letting myself go. I didn’t reach out to friends and I didn’t take care of my body or mind. I made it through the first couple of winters, but I wasn’t thriving. I didn’t have much to look forward to except the end of winter, and that wasn’t enough. I decided to make winter special by planning for fun stuff that I actually could look forward to. Here are a few examples of alternative winter activities.

Special winter activities

Take a spa day: Winter is a great time to go to the spa, particularly if it’s not something you’d normally spend your time and money on. It’s a super fun splurge, whether you do it alone or with a friend or two. Get a massage, a facial, a foot bath, a mani/pedi, whatever it is that makes you feel special and beautiful. You deserve it! Schedule your spa day(s) a few weeks or a month in advance so you have some time to look forward to it. The anticipation is part of the fun.

Is a day at the spa too much of a splurge? Set up a basket of lotions, bath salts, candles, essential oils and bubbles so that you can have spa time in the comfort of your own home. Use epsom salts in a bath and get the added benefit of letting your skin soak up magnesium. Add essential oils, which can help lift your spirits. Take some time to do some grooming and pampering so that you feel good and look your best. 

Host a (small) party: The other thing I love to do in the winter is to host a small gathering of friends at my home. I never plan anything big – that would be too daunting to organize this time of year. A small party, like the spa day, is something for me to look forward to. I hire a house cleaner for the occasion, plan an activity (making dinner together, game night, or discussing a book are good choices), pick up some food and drinks, and viola! Winter fun at it’s finest!

Plan a day out with friends: If the idea of having people over to your house is too daunting, then plan a day out with your friends. Go to a paint bar even if you can’t paint, try an escape room, string art, or take a cooking class. Try something different with a friend or two and enjoy the unpredictability and interpersonal bonding that the activity can bring. 

Carving out special activities for yourself in winter can help you get in a good mindset to tackle the days when it seems like the darkness and cold will last forever. You know the sun and warmth will return at the end of the season, and you have at least a few days before then to really look forward to. Figure out what’s fun for you, and make it happen. Don’t let it slide – this is really important. It’s too easy to get isolated in the winter. Commit to planning one fun activity this season and see how it goes. Make sure the activity you choose is easy to organize because the goal is to have fun, not to get stressed. 

Daily activities

In addition to setting aside some special days, plan for what you can do day-to-day. 

Have your resources ready for when you need them the most. 

Read books: Lose yourself in someone else’s story to help take your mind off of your own. 

Draw: Grab a sketch pad and some pencils and get drawing! Drawing can get you super focused and you may find the time quickly passing by. 

Write: Pick up a journal and let you thoughts flow freely. Open up a blank document on your computer and type away. Don’t worry about the outcome, just write! 

Knit, crochet, or sew: I can’t knit, but I really feel like it could be a good activity to keep the mind at ease! I’m pretty terrible at crochet and sewing too. However, I can see how creating beautiful clothing and blankets can bring joy to those who are good at it. Sara, a winter goddess friend of mine, loves to sew in the winter. When I asked her about it, she explained, “Sewing projects take many, many hours. I can’t usually devote too many hours to sewing in the summer, so it’s become a winter hobby. Creating something new when there is no new life outdoors puts a smile on my face!” 

Sing: Belt out a sad song, empowering song, or silly song. If you have a great voice, you probably love this activity, and if you don’t, well, who cares? You’re not doing it for anyone but yourself. 

Dance: Maybe dancing is more of your thing than singing. In either case, music is a gift. Dancing can release anxiety and reset your mind. 

Snuggle and care for your pet: If you have a pet, you already know a good snuggle can make you feel better on any day, and this is especially true in winter. As a good friend of mine says, “dog snuggles are better when it’s cold.” Snuggling and caring for pets is therapeutic for several reasons. A big one is the healing power of touch, which can lower blood pressure and heart rate and increase serotonin and dopamine. Animals can help relieve stress and anxiety, and they keep us from getting lonely, sometimes better than humans! They love and accept us without judgment, something we don’t always find with our other relationships. Dogs encourage owners to get exercise and getting outdoors with a dog can help you get sunshine and socially connected. Caring for a pet gives us a sense of purpose, responsibility and value, which is beneficial to mental health.  A 2011 study of over 600 respondents by the Mental Health Foundation and Cats Protection found 87% of cat-owners felt that their cat had a positive impact on their wellbeing and 76% felt that having a cat helped them better cope with daily life. 

Tend to houseplants or an indoor garden: Maybe having a pet isn’t possible right now. If that’s the case, getting some houseplants can be a good place to start to bring life into your home. Caring for plants in your home benefits your mood in several ways. Research shows that viewing green leafy plants boosts our mood. Plants emit oxygen, help clean the air, and some, like jasmine and lavender, can even help you sleep. Did you know that a NASA study showed that a spider plant could remove 90% of formaldehyde from the air? Plants are pretty amazing. Being around them and caring for them bring life and positive energy to you, something everyone could use more of in the winter. 

Create: My dad used to spend his winter days creating wood burnings of wildlife and painting brightly colored animal shapes onto driftwood. This is perfect for so many reasons. First, art was something he loved to do and could get lost in. The art he chose to do used both a medium and a subject based on nature. Incorporating nature into the indoors in winter is an aspect of hygge, it’s found to… Finally, the colors he used on his driftwood were bright and bold, and color is known to…

Flow

Several of the day to day activities above have the potential to put your mind in a state of flow – a concentration where you’re so focused that you enter a zen-like state where time goes by quickly. In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it an “optimal experience” for your mind. In the flow state, your mind is so immersed on the activity at hand that it has a chance to reset and stop ruminating on troublesome thoughts and problems of life.  If you’ve found a flow activity that you can do during the winter, be sure to carve out the time needed to do the activity on a regular basis. Remember, don’t be shy about doing winter your way. As Csikszentmihalyi writes in Flow, “a joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe.”

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