The winter blues. Feels like a dreary fog rolling in. But like Professor Lupin’s Riddikulus spell — apologies to non-Harry-Potter-fans — playfulness and humor will often make the winter blues melt like snowflakes on a woodstove.
(That said, if you have depression or suspect you are depressed, go to your doctor. You don’t want to mess around with that. Depression is a bully, like that mean girl in high school. Put it in its place, pronto.)
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Make a Winter Blues List | #1
As the Good Witch maddeningly pointed out at the end of the Wizard of Oz, we’ve often had the answers inside us the whole time. (She couldn’t have clued Dorothy in earlier?) Making a list of what’s got you down is the first step.
And? It can even be fun!
First the Ick List
So what gets you down in the winter? Rather than avoiding the subject, get specific and face the dragon. (Honestly, he’s not that scary. He’s just tired and lonely.) Right now, grab paper and pen. List all the things that give you the winter blues. The big issues. And the petty things that you’re embarrassed to write down.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Has the sun already set when you leave for work?
- Does the dark drive home feel foreboding?
- Do you feel isolated during winter? Or are there too many people about?
- Does Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You chiming on the radio set your teeth on edge?
- Are your boots uncomfortable?
- Is the front door squeaking?
- Does shoveling bring out the worst in you?
- Is your house too cold? Too dry?
- Are the holidays bankrupting you?
- Did you lose someone?
- Is your home cluttered?
Don’t think about what you should write. And resist feeling guilty. Just get it down on paper.
Once you’ve emptied all your winter ickiness onto paper, pat yourself on the back. (Writing it all down felt kinda good, didn’t it?)
Then the Fairy Godmother List
Now’s the fun part! Come up with ways your amusing fairy godmother would solve each problem. Resist the temptation to stick to realistic solutions and play. Grab colorful pens. (Allowing ourselves to not take this too seriously encourages the good ideas to pop out.)
So, for example, if weekend cabin fever is on your Ick List, these could be some of your solutions.
- Fly to a beach in Mexico. (Can’t afford it? So what? Write it down.)
- Go to a bed and breakfast in Vermont.
- Rip pictures of beaches out of magazines and hang them on your wall. Play Hawaiian music.
- Play a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity.
- Stand on your head.
- Make a winter obstacle course in your yard.
- Go visit elderly dogs and cats at the animal shelter. Adopt one. Take him to the pet supply store and let him pick out a toy.
- Make pies and give them away to your neighbors.
- Get a Shakespeare play from the library. Act it out with your friends, even if you have no idea what the words mean. Make a video. Perform it on Zoom.
- Have a backwards day with your kids.
It seems naive and silly at first, but good ideas need encouragement. They’re shy. Invite them out to play.
If you’re stuck for solutions, imagine how you’d advise a friend. It’s often easier to come up with solutions for others than for ourselves. Get outside of yourself.
Once you’ve got a respectable list, try putting one of the solutions into play. See how you feel. Rinse and repeat.
From Winter Blues to Twinkle Twinkle | #2 and #3
Never underestimate the power of lighting. Warm lighting can transform your home into a cozy refuge.
Even something as simple as twinkle lights can alter the mood. They don’t need to be holiday-related either. Drape garlands of light about, filling your home with corners of bright loveliness. (In fact, you can probably scoop up some amazing deals after the December holidays.)
Candles are timeless. And the right scent does wonders. This pine soy candle is one of my favorites. The flickering flame and nostalgic scent sets your soul at ease.
Play good music while you’re at it. You don’t need to go onto itunes and spend a fortune. In fact, you don’t need to spend anything.
Go to your public library each week and pick out new CDs that you love. Or ones that you’ve never heard of. Ask your gang on Facebook what music they recommend you check out.
Do show tunes pull you out of a slump? Is choral music what gets the juices flowing? Or if Billy Joel your man? Grab a stack of everything, bring it home, and flip those babies on. You might even start dancing.
Just as fun? Get yourself a record player and score TONS of unheard funkiness at your local thrift store. There are jewels out there for next to nothing.
Bring the outdoors in | #4
Sometimes, our senses just need TLC. Plants are one way to bring life into the home. (Make sure they are safe for any pets.) But you can also grab some shears and take a traipse in the woods. Collect holly branches, pine tree twigs, pinecones. Or bundle up and go to the beach to seek sun-bleached driftwood, unusual rocks, and shells. Make little shrines of nature in your house.
Years ago, my Gramma found a glorious piece of driftwood at the reservoir behind their home, attached it to the wall, and decorated it with twinkle lights. (This was long before such things were Pinteresty.) It was stunning and so simple and we grandkids loved to gaze up at it.
Don’t skimp on good morsels of food and drink | #5
Have lots of healthy snacks on hand in your fridge or pantry. Whip up some tasty hummus and chop your carrots and celery as soon as you get home from the market. Air-popped popcorn will satisfy quick cravings without making you feel blah later.
This popcorn maker is a wonder. Just add some popcorn (this tricolor is my fave) and add a little oil if you wish. Then throw it in the microwave. Take it out as soon as popping slows down. Best popcorn ever.
Having lots of yummy winter fruits on hand will both hydrate and keep your immune system strong.
Ever roast chestnuts in your oven? Winter’s the only time they’re around! Take advantage. They’re delectable.
It’s also nice to have a few special treats on hand. Fancy olives. Nut-based cheeses. Your favorite coffee beans.
And nothing is more lovely in winter than a hot drink to warm up your insides! Quality coffees and teas are a natural go-to. Lately I’ve been obsessed with this Earl Grey tea with a little splash of soy milk and sugar.
Hot, mulled apple cider is a quick tasty treat as well.
But my favorite is hot cocoa with Dandies marshmallows. (These beauties put all other marshmallows to shame. They’re free of animals’ hooves and other gelatin-based sources, and taste so much better than the typical grocery store marshmallows. Like sugary clouds in your mouth!
To make your own hot cocoa, mix
- 2 Tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder (this Dutch-processed one‘s incredible.)
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 2 Tbs of soy milk
- pinch of salt
Whisk thoroughly over heat. Then add 2 cups of soy milk, whisking it into a froth.
Nothing beats a good story | #6
Instead of fighting the short days and cold weather, embrace them and settle into a favorite book.
You can listen to audiobooks, and enjoy the decadent feeling of being read to. (This is one of my favorite books on audible.)
Or find a beloved favorite and bunker down on the couch with a soft blanket.
Want a create cozy mystery series? Settle in to the delightful village of Three Pines with Louise Penny’s Still Life. Her whole Inspector Gamache series is just what the Winter Blues Doctor ordered.
Invest in warmth | #7 and #8
Feeling comfortable is essential to happiness.
Invest in a quality super-warm winter coat, snowpants, boots, socks. (Check that they don’t use animal products. Down — even repurposed — comes from startling cruelty. I didn’t know this until a few years ago, and returned all my down products.)
Being warm is one of the quickest ways to up your mood in winter.
A home that isn’t warm in the winter can be a source of misery for many of us.
Do a quick search for free government home energy audits. They’ll come to your home and will make (free!) simple changes to your home to make it more heat-efficient.
If you’re renting, talk to your landlord about doing this. It’s free for them and it will add value to their property!
We did this our first year in our house and got loads of improvements to our home, all without spending a dime. It’s definitely worth checking out and can make winters much more pleasant.
Also, if you have a fireplace, get it cleaned and USE it! Don’t have one? Consider an electric fireplace. Mr. Fitted to 4th and I have one and it’s pretty nifty.
Be a kid! | #9
Throw on your winter gear, and run outside to play like a kid! Go sledding. Invest in a toboggan and invite your friends!
You can go ice skating. Build a snowfort. Or borrow someone’s snowshoes or cross-country skis and see if that floats your boat.
Back in my college days during a monster snowstorm, my friend Kate decided to host an impromptu sledding party. Unfortunately, all the sleds were sold out. A percussionist friend came up with the brilliant solution of using discarded drum heads as sleds. Those suckers went frighteningly fast! (We also tried a kiddie swimming pool That wasn’t fast, but boy was it funny!)
After a good two hours of nighttime sledding, we slogged back to her apartment, where she made us hot chocolate with candy cane stirrers, and fresh biscuits (made from a box) with fresh jam. Nothing can beat that winter memory. And none of us had even a smidgen of the blues.
Try something new or visit something old | #10
Treat this season as a time to try something new. Or revisit an old loved hobby. Sketching. Photography. Woodworking. Playing an instrument. Solving a Rubix Cube. Learning a magic trick.
Get the mind working in new ways and enjoy that feeling of awakened curiosity. Join an indie movie club. Take an improv class. Cocoon your brain into a different part of yourself.
And finally | #11
The winter blues can also be a sign that something in your body needs tweaking. Visit your doctor and get your blood tested. If you’re like most people, your Vitamin D levels are probably low and need a boost. It’s always a good idea to see what’s going on in that blood of yours!
In following my own advice, here is a list I made 2 years ago and it truly worked in making my winter more lovely!
- Invest in a superwarm, long winter coat, snowpants, a warm hat, and three pairs of mittens.
- Cut my vegetables as soon as I get home from the market so they’re ready to eat.
- Replace the dead battery in the automatic starter on my car key.
- 4 out of 5 days, leave work on time when it’s still light out.
- Put the compost bin by the front door, so I don’t have to fight the snow piles each day.
- Research/buy animal-free cozy outerwear at Patagonia.
- Look on Craigslist for free sleds and find nearby sledding hills.
- Weatherproof my boots.
- Order nut cheeses from Miyoko’s.
- Read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.
This year’s list:
- Find some new winter boots. Use Amazon card to stock up on cozy socks.
- Learn how to make Mom’s gingerbread.
- Jump every morning on my trampoline (does wonders!)
- Read the new Vanderbeekers book!
- Listen to a new record each night on our record player after I’ve walked the dogs.
- Light candles and read book by fire.
- Listen to the new Alan Alda podcast I just discovered on my way to work.
- Make a growing list about what I’m thankful for. Use sparkly gel pens.
- Cut some evergreens and make an simple display. Maybe grab some pinecones from the woods?
- Grab our camera and take some pics outside. Even though I don’t know how to use the camera yet. Leave instruction manual at home. Experiment.
- Find ice skates When nearby lake freezes, twirl around on it! (Wear lots of padding — will probably fall a lot.)
- Try that trick of pouring maple syrup on freshly fallen snow. Always meant to do that.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- What will some of your to-do’s be to combat the winter blues?
- OR … Did we miss anything? Tell us what else you’ve found makes winter more fun!
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