The winter blues. They can feel like 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 harmlessly dissipate like snowflakes on the fireplace.
(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 big, lying ninny, like the mean girl in high school. Put it in its place, pronto.)
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. (Honestly. Glinda couldn’t have clued Dorothy in a little earlier?) Making a list of what’s got us down can often help us figure out our solutions better than a “10 Ways” list like this one every could. And, dare we say, it could even be fun?
First the Ick List
What gets you down in the winter? Rather than avoiding the subject, let’s get specific and have a little fun with your misery! Right now, grab a piece of paper and pen and get cracking. List all the things that give you the winter blues, no matter how petty or silly they seem.
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? Does shoveling bring out the worst in you? Is your house too cold? Too dry? Are the holidays bankrupting you? Did a dear one pass away during the winter and that memory haunts you? Is your home cluttered?
Don’t think about what you should write. Just go with your gut and get it all down on paper. The big stuff. The small stuff. All of it.
Once you’ve depleted all that winter ickiness, 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 you or your fairy godmother could solve each problem. Resist the strong temptation to edit for realistic solutions and play a little. Grab some colorful pens. Party down. (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.
- Invite friends over for 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.
- Have a backwards day with your kids.
It seems naive and silly at first, but good ideas need encouragement. They can be shy. Invite them out to play.
If you’re stuck for solutions, imagine what advice you’d give to a friend. For some odd reason, 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 house 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, aren’t they? And the right scent does wonders. Bedrock Tree Farm Soy Candles are my favorites. (I have no affiliation with them. I simply love them.) The wick is a piece of cedar wood, and your home will smell like cozy happiness and gentle memories for hours. I buy a new one every year, and the resulting mood feels like an old friend visiting, sending the winter blues out the door.
And speaking of the blues, 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 in there.)
Bring the outdoors in | #4
Sometimes, our senses just need a little TLC. Plants, of course, are one way to bring life into the home. (Make sure they are safe for any pets.) But you can also grab a cheap set of 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, long before such things were Pinteresty. It was stunning and so simple.
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.
Having lots of yummy winter fruits on hand will both hydrate you and keep those vitamins coursing through your veins.
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. This winter, I’m going to order some Miyoko’s Creamery nut-based cheeses to make ordinary evenings into special occasions. (Again, no affiliations here. I’ve tried her cheeses and they are, I think, made with magical fairy dust. Swear to god.)
And nothing is more lovely in winter than a hot drink to warm up your insides! Quality coffees and teas are a go-to naturally. Lately I’ve been obsessed with 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. Plus they’re free of animals’ hooves and other gelatin-based sources, so win win there! I have no affiliation with them either. :)) I make my hot cocoa with 2 Tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 Tbs sugar, 2 Tbs of soy milk, and a 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. Or find a beloved favorite and bunker down on the couch with a soft blanket. If you need a long-can’t-put-it-down-book, I cannot recommend Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo enough. It’s a magnificent winter read.
Invest in warmth | #7 and #8
Feeling comfortable is essential to happiness. Invest in a quality super-warm winter coat, snowpants, boots, socks. (Just make sure they don’t use animal products. Down — even repurposed — comes from unimaginable cruelty. I didn’t know this until a few years ago, and returned all my down products for refunds.)
With warm gear, you might even find yourself copying my coteacher last year, who routinely jumped into the snow with the kids at recess!
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! If you’re like us and don’t have one, consider a fake electric fireplace. They feel real, man. And they’re amazing. (Yes, the electric bill is higher. But this is one’s happiness!)
Be a kid! To heck with the winter blues | #9 (number nine, number nine…)
With the right winter gear, you can go back to your childhood fun. Go sledding. Invest in a toboggan. Go ice skating. Build a snowfort. Or borrow someone’s snowshoes or cross-country skis and see if that floats your boat. (Renting or borrowing equipment is your best bet. You might end up loving cross-country skiing, but if it doesn’t feel fun to you, then it’s better to find out with rental equipment.)
Back in my college days during a monster snowstorm, my friend Kate decided to host an impromptu sledding party. Unfortunately, there were no sleds to be had. Anywhere. Everyone had sold out with the storm. So one of my percussionist friends came up with the brilliant solution of using discarded drum heads and a kiddie pool as sleds. Drum heads beat store sleds every day of the week. Those suckers went frighteningly fast! (The kiddie pools weren’t fast at all, but we laughed pretty hard going down the hill in them.)
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. super simple.) 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.
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 of something in your body that needs tweaking. Visit your doctor and get your blood tested. If you are 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 of what I’m doing to keep the winter blues at bay this year.
- 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.
- Get all my business tax info ready to go by December 31.
- 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.
Now it’s time to hear from you! In the comments below tell us:
- Did you try the Winter Blues list? What did you discover? What fun solutions will you try?
- What are some ways YOU typically beat the winter blues?
- Did you go make the hot chocolate yet? How good was THAT?
As always, if you found this information valuable, please share it on your favorite social media platform! Till next week!
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