Beating the Winter Doldrums
January 20, 2012
It’s that time of year: Every morning your Facebook news feed fills with photos of car thermostats and weather reports. Status updates with too many exclamation points rant about just how cold it is outside. And no matter how many layers you put on, your feeble attempts to stay warm are overpowered by the biting wind beyond your front door.
However many winters one has seen, the cold can still be startling—and reason for complaint. Even now, the Northwest and parts of the Northeast are being battered by snowstorms. But rather than retreat and whine to your Twitter followers from the sofa, try some of these tips to fight the winter doldrums:
Tackle a New Hobby
Consider the talents you always wished you’d cultivated and enroll in a class for an exclusively indoor activity. Rather than being a shut-in, you could become an amateur painter, raw food chef, rock-climber, tap dancer or guitarist. If you’ve been whiling away the hours on Pinterest, go ahead and give some of those DIY crafts, recipes and home improvement ideas a try. Did you get a new gadget, instrument or tool for Christmas? Plan to conquer it in your downtime by spring.
Sleep Less, Rest More
Winter usually means less light outside and more time indoors, which can mess with your melatonin levels and negatively affect your sleep cycle. Commit to a sleeping pattern of about seven to eight hours a night. If you can, sleep in total darkness, and get sunlight as much as you can throughout the day. This normalizes your body’s production of natural sleep hormones and keeps you from feeling fatigued. And while it might seem like it would help, oversleeping won’t make you feel rested again. Try an app like Sleep Cycle which will wake you up at your most naturally rested point in your sleep pattern.
Brave the Elements
Come July, you know you’re going to miss the wintry white scenery, the chilly temperatures, the cracked lips ... OK, maybe that’s a stretch. But you might as well revel in the season while you can. Bundle up in your favorite coat and that cozy scarf you won’t be able to wear in two months. Drink coffee on the porch. Go for a (brisk) walk on your lunch break. And while the sun might not seem like it’s accomplishing much, exposure to sunlight even in the colder months is proven to improve your mood. Just a half-hour a day outside could revitalize you—and make being stuck indoors seem more inviting.
Share the Warmth
If you think you’re having a tough time with the cold weather, imagine how your area’s homeless community is coping. Organize a clothing drive at your office, church or school to collect coats, scarves, gloves and socks. Donate them to a local shelter or arrange a time to distribute them personally to people in your city. See if your neighborhood could even host a chili cook-off or weekly bonfire to invite people who might need a little warmth and company.
Movie Marathon with a Twist
It might seem cliché, but let’s get creative with this weekend activity: Strip the beds and couches and construct a massive living room fort. Maybe cover it in glow-in-the-dark stars and call it an indoor drive-in. Then pick a collection of films and work through them chronologically: Disney cartoons. Alfred Hitchcock classics. The Ernest P. Worrell series. After you’ve made your selection, invite some friends to bring popcorn, drinks and sweatpants and claim a portion of your living room floor.
Get Out of Town
Perhaps the cold will be more bearable with a little change of scenery. Browse Groupon Getaways or Living Social Escapes for great deals on quick trips, or find a cheap private rental on airbnb.com. Whether it’s a ski lodge retreat or a brief beach visit, a weekend away could reinvigorate you for the winter.
Embrace a Winter Menu
Extended time indoors may prompt snack binges, but resist the urge to just eat whatever is in the pantry. There are certain foods that undeniably taste better when the temperature drops than at any other time of year. Break out your Crock-Pot and become a soup and stew master this season. Make your own mulled apple cider and hot chocolate. Roast marshmallows indoors over the fire.
Get Some Color
It might be bleak and bleary outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carry a little color with you. Break out that obnoxious orange sweater, wear rainbow striped socks under your boots or find other ways to incorporate color into your wardrobe. Purchase bright flowers or prints for a little extra life indoors at your home or office. And if you’re really feeling committed, go ahead and paint one of your rooms in a new hue that is anything but an earth tone.
Support Local Economy
Many who try to shop for local food may find it easier to let this slide in the winter months or assume there aren’t as many options. But a winter market should still have potatoes, squash, broccoli, bananas, passion fruit, artichokes and other seasonal fruits, herbs and vegetables. If you’re not up for scouting out your own groceries, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and receive a box of seasonal produce from local farms each week. Of course, it’s more difficult to monitor where your food comes from on a night out, so find restaurants in your area that use locally grown items on eatwellguide.org.
Don't Underestimate the Winter Blues
Anxiety and sadness throughout the winter months isn’t always a product of boredom, colds or cabin fever. Significant and lingering mood changes may be an indicator of seasonal affective disorder. About 11 million Americans suffer from this episodic depression which is primarily linked to lack of sunlight. Talk to a doctor or a counselor if you need a little extra help to beat the winter doldrums.