Beating the Winter Blues

Ugh, January is in full swing. Many people, including myself, cope with seasonal depression this time of year. The holidays are over, and now it’s just a long stretch of cold here in the Midwest. As an attempt to stay positive and help myself as well as you all, here’s some tips for beating the winter blues this year.

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Some chilly mornings are actually lovely.

Cuddle and drink warm beverages

This might be a no-brainer, but it pretty much sums up what I think winter-lovers (bless them!) like about this time of year. You can be cozy indoors without the guilty feeling that you’re wasting a perfectly good day. You can catch up on a good show or knit something or listen to a podcast and just be. It really is great. I’ve been told that I’m not very good at just “chilling.” I’m an over-achiever who likes to go-go-go most of the time. But even I can see the benefits of a good rest day every now and then between the busy ones.

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Winter survival guide = Coffee in morning, Tea in afternoon, Wine at night.

Catch up on reading

We don’t have television channels or Netflix, so library books are my main go-to for indoor entertainment. I love how much I can learn from books. I love how they transport me. I love how the hours fly by when I’m in the middle of a good book I’ve never read before. Right now I’m reading a bunch of popular memoirs that Good Reads recommended for me. There have been a lot of hits. I especially like how memoirs tell a story without being fiction. I like getting inside other people’s heads and seeing how they experience the world. There’s nothing like it.

Go outside

Outside is my happy place, so I try to get out even when the weather isn’t perfect. In fact, I’ve come to grow cynical of how crowded the sidewalks and parks are on “perfect” days. I quite enjoy being outside even if there is a little bit of cloud cover or a slight drizzle. Those other people are missing out!

I love this Mr. Money Mustache article about the still and peacefulness of being outside in the winter, when most people choose to be indoors. It can be truly rewarding to go for a brisk walk or run in the winter. Someone once said “There is no such thing as bad weather. Just the wrong clothing.” Dress for the weather and get out there! My hubby bikes to work all winter long, as long as the roads aren’t icy. He inspires me to do more outside year-round. The zoo is great in the winter because there’s so few people and you can see the animals closer than ever in their indoor spaces (at least at our zoo here in town.)

Workout and eat right

A lot of my depression comes from lack of physical exertion. I may not be able to get out and run as many times a week as I can in the summer, but there are other ways to exercise. I tend to do more Insanity DVDs in the winter than in the summer. These are great for evenings indoors after the kids go to bed. It feels almost as great as running because of all the cardio and I love that no equipment is required! (Not promoting them, it’s just what I use.)

If you have a gym membership, winter is a great time to use it! Mall-walking is also a thing. I did it last year once a week to get out of the house with my friends. We’d pack our small kiddos in strollers and walk a few miles while catching up on life. (Of course, we avoided buying things!) Nowadays I struggle with malls feeling depressing, so I’m more likely to brave the cold than to walk at a mall, but it’s a great way for those who can’t handle the cold as well to stay active all year. And it’s free!

I gotta admit that running outside in the winter feels like the ultimate winter hack to me. I wear compression leggings, a moisture wicking shirt, a fleece, and cover my ears and hands. Once I’m going, I generate so much heat that I sometimes want to take off the fleece. (It’s generally recommended that runners dress for 20 degrees F warmer than the actual temperature.) It’s great to be able to enjoy the fresh air without having to “feel” the cold…and I get a workout. I did stop running as much the kids in the stroller, since they don’t get the benefit of the cardio warmth. It means longer runs on the weekends rather than lots of short runs during the week, but I’ve been enjoying pushing myself to new limits (while not pushing the stroller, haha!)

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The winter running uniform. And a seflie because I ran 6 miles on zero motivation.

Eating well year-round is important for health and for mental stamina. We’re more likely to feel sleepy and depressed if we aren’t nourishing our bodies properly. Even though green smoothies are more refreshing in the summer heat, I make them year-round to get my greens…usually followed with a cup of green tea to warm me up again. Veggie soups are also a great way to warm up and stay nourished. I’m pretty sure part of the reason people feel down after the holidays is a tad bit of guilt from overdoing the desserts. Sugar can do that to a person.

Do a creative project indoors

Get those creative juices flowing! Now is a great time to do some long-awaited home improvement projects or start writing a book if that’s your thing. I always feel better and more productive when I have a long-term project that I’m working on. (This blog is a nice outlet for my creativity too!) Whatever your skills and passions, see if you can adapt them for the winter.

Catch up on rest

This time of year is known for being serene and quiet, with extra long nights. Embrace these long nights by getting a little more sleep. Occasionally I’ve been known to go to bed around 7pm because my kids are in bed and the house is quiet. I don’t think it’s lazy – I think it’s healthy if it’s what your body is asking for.

Soak in a warm bath

This is one of my favorite cold weather activities. It’s so therapeutic for both the body and the mind. In the summer I’m a 5-minute cold shower kind of person. In the winter, I take it slow and soak for as long as the water stays hot. Sometimes I add some magnesium flakes or essential oils for an extra dose of luxury. We use hot water sparingly, but I like to think that I’m saving it all up for my baths. This makes up for the fact that we keep our house cold (around 60 degrees F) in the winter to conserve energy. (Here’s my tips for dressing warm even indoors!)

Throw a party

It might be that winter is harder on extroverts than on introverts – I can only speak for myself though. I need social interaction in my life. Invite just one friend over for tea and a heart-to-heart. Or throw a little get-together with several friends to cheer one another on. There is strength in numbers, and community is one of my favorite things in the world. Put out some appetizers, turn on some music, and let the good times roll. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends to bring something to eat or drink. Hosting needn’t be stressful. Chances are everyone else wants to get out of the house and mingle too!

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Try not to complain

This one is hard, but I’ve found that it really helps if I’m intentional about not complaining. “I hate winter.” “I’m ready for this to end.” “When is spring again?” are all great conversation starters, but they also tend to intensify our dread of this season. Why not change our inner (and outer) dialogue by embracing every good thing about winter we can think of. I’ve even flat-out told people “I’m a summer person, and I was even born in Florida, but I’m trying not to complain about the cold weather. At least I have a warm bed to sleep in tonight” or “at least I can drink all the tea I want” or “at least snow boots are cute.” It might sound cheesy, but it often cheers us up (even if the other person still decides to be miserable) when we put a positive spin on the situation.

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Happiness is contagious! Try to spread joy in the little things.

Of course, taking a trip to a warmer place would be wonderful…. But since this is a frugal / minimalist blog I’m assuming that most of us won’t be doing that. If you are, have fun! For everyone else, I hope this list is somewhat inspiring and you’re ready to battle out these final weeks of chilly weather. Anyone else have tips for surviving winter in a cold place? Please share! I’m all ears. We can get through this together! 

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Enjoy the beauty that is out there…and remember spring is coming!

 

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2 Comments

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  1. I’ve never been a winter lover but I agree that having a grateful attitude and enjoying good books, warm drinks, and for us, snuggling by our fireplace, helps a lot. Last year I think I felt more “down” in the summer because we were out and about so much, it was kind of exhausting. It’s the nature of having little ones, but I’m an introvert a bit of a homebody at heart, though I don’t really live that way.

  2. Hooray for getting out in the cold! I’m not a fan of cold rain, but other than that, no weather is too chilly to go out in. I like your advice about staying positive: I can always remind myself that I have a house rather than a tent and can turn up the heat if I want. 🙂

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