10 Ways To Beat Those Winter Blues
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Who else is so over winter?
Ugh, it’s no secret that winter and I have never gotten along. My happy place involves sunshine, tank tops, sandals, big sunglasses, ponytails, ice-cold drinks, bright morning walks, warm evenings on the patio with friends, and warmth galore. But somehow the place that I call “home” only indulges me with this happiness for 4-5 months, tops. The rest of the year is marked by freezing cold wind chills, gloomy gray skies, cold steering wheels, awkwardly thick winter coats, red noses, and annual cases of “the winter blues”.
Or more accurately, I feel like I should call them the winter “meh”s. I don’t tend to get super depressed in the winters, or think that I have full-on Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder. More than anything, winter just makes me feel noticeably unmotivated, and tired, and annoyed, and — well — just kind of “meh”. The holidays are a helpful motivation to make it through the first few months. But once Christmas and the first snowfall have passed, I’m basically ready for winter to be over. Stat.
But of course, for so many of us Old Man Winter usually decides to overstay his welcome and we still have a few more months of the bitter cold to press through. So for anyone else who might be fighting the familiar ol’ “winter blues”, I thought I would share today the 10 tips that I have learned over the years that I’m convinced help me make it through. Don’t set your expectations too high; none of them are rocket science. But they help me, so maybe they’ll spark a little brightness in your days too to help you beat the winter blues too.
Everything about winter causes me to tense up. Seriously. The second I step out into the cold, my breath catches, my hands clench up, and basically my entire body tenses up as I steel myself to brace those freezing Midwestern winds. It doesn’t take long before that tension spreads to my mind too, all-too-often making me feel just as bitter as the annoying temperatures outside. And then after awhile, the tension has a way of seeping into my heart as well, when I find myself oh-so-dramatically imploring my friends — “Will this winter EVER END?!?”
Me + Winter = Tension.
But I have found that there is one surefire way to loosen that tension: MOVE.
Some of you may have read that my January “dare” for this year is to Move In The Mornings. I’m a fan of that dare year-round, but there’s a very specific reason that I chose that one for the coldest month of the year. It is the best way to fight the winter blues! So if you are at all like me, you can’t make it optional — you’ve got to move each day! Exercise indoors, brave the cold and exercise outdoors, prioritize extra walks around the office during the day, join the FitBit party and clock those steps, whatever it takes. Even if it’s just for a few extra minutes a day, get movin’.
Soak Up Every Possible Kind Of Vitamin D
I mean it. Wherever and whenever you can track it down some extra Vitamin D in your day, do it. Because the more, the (literal) merrier when it comes to Vitamin D, if you ask me.
I’m no doctor, but some of my best recommendations include:
- Take Those Vitamins: I mean, they’re the strongest and most reliable source. And if you don’t like pills, join me in unabashedly chewing the adult gummy vitamins each day. They’re my morning treat.
- Bask Under A Heat Lamp: Not the tanning salon variety; I’m talking about legit sun lamps. I invested in a small one when I worked in a basement office for years, and I’m convinced it made a huge difference. Worth every penny!
- Eat Foods Rich In Vitamin D: Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, egg yolks, portobello mushrooms, tofu, etc.
- Chug Drinks Rich In Vitamin D: Dairy milk, of course, as well as soy milk and fortified orange juice.
- Soak Up The Sunshine When It’s Out: My dog is really good at this. When the sun’s out and there’s a ray shining onto the floor, he’s there instantly to soak it up. I think we were created to do the same. So even if the sun only peeks out for a minute, walk to the window and let the sunshine warm your face.
Get Out & Go Places
Every winter, I hear so many people talking about nesting and “cozying up” inside. Frankly, I think it’s a given that we’re all going to do that. The harder thing is to force yourself to get outside and actually go places, or at least that’s the hard part for me. But you know what? Every time that I actually brave my freezing car and head out to a happy hour to meet some friends, or go to the gym, or head to church even when it’s 8 degrees outside, I never regret it.
I think it’s because the simple act of going places usually means that my day will be a little bit more exciting. And it gets me moving. And more than likely, it means that you will I will be spending time with some other people who will brighten my day.
Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll still get to spend plenty of time cozying up indoors. But when you’re on the fence about whether or not to get out and go to Whatever That Thing Is, take my advice and go.
Add A Splash Of Color
Anyone who reads the recipe part of this blog knows that I’m
a little bit totally obsessed with color. And while I appreciate the whites and grays and blacks that seem to be all the rage every winter, I have to admit that brighter colors are always what cheer me up.
So if you find yourself stuck in the winter blues (and shades of gray), add some color to your winter! That could include your wardrobe, your food, your drinks, your decor, even buying a colorful pair of running shoes. If nothing else, it’s a small step can at least remind you that the bright colors of spring and summer are just around the corner.
Invest In “Ultimate Warmth”
My friends sat me down and taught me this Very Important Lesson last year. If you live in a climate where it gets cold, it is worth your time and your money to invest in the absolute warmest apparel possible.
This includes an exceptionally warm coat, no matter how fluffy, furry, puffy, or bulky. This includes a good-hair-day-squishing hat or some nice muffs to cover those ears. This also includes warm socks and boots to keep those little piggies warm. This includes serious mittens or gloves that fit (my mom gave me “texting” mittens for Christmas that work surprisingly well). And hey — if you have the means — this also includes the end-all-be-all of winter warmth, seat heaters, which are going to be a non-negotiable in my next car.
It is definitely possible to do ultimate warmth in style, and my hat’s off (or warmly on) to those who manage to make it tres fashionable. But if push comes to shove with warmth and fashion, ultimate warmth should always win, even if that requires that you bundle up like the kid from A Christmas Story on the bitterest of bitterly cold days.
You know that I think this is always a good idea. ;)
But I mention it because so many people stuff themselves with carbs during the winter and forget about the abundance of amazing and delicious seasonal produce that is fresh this season! It’s great comfort food, and meant to be enjoyed and enjoyed while it’s cold out. So celebrate it, and get cookin’ with…
- Brussels Sprouts
- Butternut Squash
- Sweet Potatoes
…and of course, much more. If you need recipe suggestions, I may or may not have a whole blog full of them for you.
Pick A New Show + Book + Band + Podcast
Since you probably will be spending more time inside during the winter, why not use that time to dive into some new art?!?
We now live in the days of binge-watching everything, so find a new show and use the season to make your way through it. And a new book (or two, or ten). And a new band (and hey, plan a roadtrip to go see them live!). And a new podcast (something to look forward to on those freezing car rides).
New art tends to always bring new inspiration to life, so have fun finding some new artists to follow and let them inspire you!
Take A Tub
I’m all for conserving water. But I have to tell you, a few years ago I rediscovered the magic of a nice, hot bath.
And I got completely hooked.
Partly because sometimes a hot bath is the only way that I can truly warm up and stop shivering after having spent time out in the cold. Partly because they are unfailingly relaxing and enjoyable, especially with salts and scrubs and essential oils and all of that froofy jazz. And partly because I find “taking a tub” to be one of life’s most delightful little luxuries.
So take a few minutes to scrub that tub (I hear this is the most common reason why people don’t take baths), invest in a few candles or bubbles or whatever sounds relaxing, put on some music or bring in a good book (or prop up a laptop nearby and turn on an episode from Hulu, if you want to be like me), and enjoy the splendor that is bath time.
Figure Out Your Favorite Hot Drinks
…and make them often.
Even better? Look for a new hot drink each winter that can be your “signature drink” for the season!
For example, love coffee? Find a delicious new roast or a new coffee shop to frequent. Love hot cocoa? Experiment with making different varieties at home. Love hot tea? Well, I must insist that you try my favorite tea of all time (that I make every single day in the winter). Love wine? Discover the joy of mulled wine. Love cocktails? Heat ’em up this winter.
Whatever you love, make it warm and make it often. Because hey, in addition to being all delicious and comforting, hot drinks also have the added benefit of usually smelling amazing and warming up your paws as you hold those steaming mugs. It’s a winter win-win.
This one falls into the more practical category. But it makes sense — if you’re going to be indoors more during the winter, take the time to do some winter cleaning. If you ask me, it makes much more sense than spring cleaning, when I’m so elated that winter’s over that I want to spend every single second outdoors.
So set aside a Saturday to take inventory of your stuff. Decide what you can live without, and give it away. Decide what you want to keep, and organize it. Work on your finances. Work on your meal planning. Whatever you need to organize, just do it now while (baby) it’s cold outside.
Make (Warm) Plans You Can Look Forward To
Ok, I’m just going to say it. If you can by any chance get away to vacation in the midst of winter to a warmer climate, do it. This winter I went all-out and planned a trip to Mexico over the holidays and am getting ready to fly south to Austin to work remotely for the entire month of February. A little extreme? Yes. Has it broken up the winter and made it much more manageable? Heck yes. For someone who hates cold weather as much as I do, I feel like a warm trip (or two) is going to be something I would like to budget in every year, and worth every penny.
But. If life finds you in a season where you are firmly stuck in the cold weather all season long, find ways to remind yourself that — yes — this (winter) too shall pass. And that warmer days are ahead.
So make plans to after winter to enjoy every second of that warmth and sunshine! Some ideas?
- Make a summer bucket list in advance that you can look forward to: I absolutely love how my friend, Kristen, does this with her family!)
- Go shopping for that spring/summer wardrobe: The good news is that spring lines are typically released in January, so you can plan your looks ahead of time. Even better, build a capsule wardrobe for this spring!)
- Plan warm activities that you will enjoy: Sign up for those outdoor yoga classes you’ve always wanted to try, or book that pool membership for the family, rally friends to gather for weekly summer picnics, or scope out that new dog park.
- Set goals that you would like to achieve before the spring: I know everyone always jumps to “swimsuit season” here, and hey, if that’s a goal of yours, get to working out and go for it! But keep in mind other short-term goals as well. For example, how about some of the goals mentioned above? Become a mega-fan of a new band! Organize those closets! Conquer your French press. Learn how to love kale. Commit to a new workout. Host weekly movie nights. Just find something you’d love to focus on for a few months, and make the most of that time.
As my dad used to say, sound like a plan, Stan?
Oh Henry! This is great, Ali.
This list is AMAZING. You covered everything I’ve tried. For people who do find themselves having more serious S.A.D. symptoms, like me, I suggest talking to your doc right away. After a pretty bad winter last year, I discussed options with my GP, and she put me on a low-dose SSRI (generic Lexapro) with the goal of getting my serotonin levels up in time for this winter. It really helped, and my winter depression has now moved into the totally manageable “meh” category! And you don’t have to take meds forever: My doc says that usually one year of an SSRI like this is enough to get your biochemicals back on track, so I’m looking forward to going off mine this spring.
This was ac really well thought out and excellent list. I happily live in Southern California now days, but when I lived in Colorado, I used to take a steaming hot bath every afternoon to take the chill out of my bones. It seemed to warm me all the way through, and I could make it the rest of the day feeling warmer.
I heart your dad. And I love everything on this list. By nature, I am not a home body and struggle with the idea of hibernating and eating casseroles for 5 months. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. :)
Wow, you really covered everything! I’m right in the midst of organizing – it’s time to clean house! We have games night a lot, a fun way to spend a night in with some friends :)
I dislike winter a lot more now that I am older and I live in Canada. I am still not sure why I live in a place where the air can hurt my face! I think my grandsons might be a really big part of why we don’t snowbird for the full winter. But, to me, the really, really, really warm, but lightweight, clothes tip has worked. It contributed to the enjoyment of walking on sunny cold days. In my younger days, I might have worried just a little bit more about fashion. But now, walks with the dog (who wears booties) are just so peaceful and go along way towards my well-being and hers. I am starting to cross-country ski…who would have ever thought that would have happened! And, like you, a few ventures into warmer climes go along with it.
Pretty sure I caught you wearing a peacoat and no hat the other day when it was 5 degrees. GIRL! I’m sure it was just a mishap, though. ; )
It WAS a cute peacoat, tho. And colorful. So.
My friend sent me a link to this post and how you feel about winter sounds identical to how I feel!! I’ve been so crabby and annoyed all week and I’m over the cold! Thanks so much for sharing your tips. I think I will try to take a more proactive approach to the awful cold. Love the blog!
Love everything in this post from the adorable doggie to the list. I have SAD and I can go days at home with no human contact if I allow myself. It is a struggle to get out and get moving. I own my own business and winters are our slow period and it is hard to motivate myself to get up and moving. This cold and the short days just make me so sad. Great list. Thanks
I take the winter time to plan all of the fun things to do in the summer! I cannot wait. Hot chocolate helps too. A lot!
Great list! I just booked a trip to St. Lucia in February (happy birthday to me!) and can’t wait to start packing… which means I should probably get to organizing my closet so I can find those buried summer clothes. Also, I love to cook with and eat citrus this time of year. Most of us tend towards comfort foods in winter, but citrus is seasonal and somehow tastes like summer. Here’s to conquering the winter blues! :)
Great list! I always try to book a vacation towards the end of February, usually skiing but sometimes somewhere hot to have something to look forward to!