Fall has always been a mixed season for me. When I look up, I see the bright colors on the trees stirring with the brisk wind of new beginnings. But, when I look down, all I see are dying leaves stomped into the cold earth… both of which remind me that winter is not far behind.
Winters are difficult for me. The cold temperatures, lack of sunshine, and isolation can accentuate whatever troubles I have and put me in a gloomy mood. When I was younger with less responsibilities, I would combat that gloom by escaping somewhere warmer for a few weeks. But, since that is not always an option any more, I take comfort in this quote by Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
Here are the 10 ways that I have found to access that invincible summer within.
1.Move. I hate gyms and treadmills and exercise classes. But, I also know what a profound effect movement can have on positive mental health. So, when the weather turns colder, I make an intentional effort to move more. Some ways I do this is by parking a little further away when I go to the store, dancing in my living room (or even occasionally at a nightclub), and taking short walks.
2. Take up a new indoor hobby. One winter a few years ago we lost power for a week. It took about a half hour for boredom to set in. And, with 3 kids stuck in the house, boredom quickly descended into aggravation and mayhem… which further depleted my energy. I found relief through an emormous puzzle. Something about focusing all my thoughts on simply finding the right puzzle piece quelled the angst that was threatening to overwhelm me. Puzzling is only one of thousands of hobbies that could help get you through the winter. Check out this site for more ideas.
3. Go to the movies! Watching movies at home is nice and cozy, but getting out of the house and seeing a movie on the big screen can be so much more rewarding. And don’t be afraid to go alone. Some of my most intense experiences have been through watching movies in the theater by myself. Allowing yourself the freedom to feel the deep emotions that movies can inspire, without being observed or interrupted, can be really uplifting.
4. Grow something. I have not been blessed with a green thumb. In fact, almost every gardening endeavor I’ve taken up has ended in a weedy buffet for the groundhogs. But, every winter, I pick up an indoor plant or two for my house… usually something that smells good or can be eaten. Having a living, growing plant in the house can remind you that winter won’t last forever. Here are some of the easiest indoor plants to maintain. And, here are a list of edible plants that require very little effort to grow indoors.
5. Buy cozy clothes. My first pair of fleece lined leggings changed my life. There is nothing like the cold wind blowing on your legs to keep you hiding indoors. Once my legs were wrapped up in warmth, I accepted more invitations, took more walks, found more pleasure in the outdoors. And when I grew tired of leggings… I discovered fleece lined jeans!
6. Make your house smell good. Scientists have long speculated that smells affect mood. In the winter, when more time is spent indoors, these smells can be even more important. When I was a child, every time we were stuck indoors for too long, my mom would make fresh cinnamon rolls. To this day, the smell of cinnamon makes me smile. Here are some unique, do-it-yourself ways to make your home smell amazing.
7. Take a risk. Winter is the perfect time to do something you’ve always wanted to try. Poetry slams, karaoke, stand up comedy, open mic nights, improv. These are all good options to get your heart pumping. The excitement of preparing for a performance will increase your energy and liven up your mood.
8. Get some sunlight. There are plenty of winter sports to get you outside. But, if, like me, you are not enticed by the idea of spending hours in the cold, doing activities that often lead to injury, there are still ways to get some much needed sunshine. One of my favorite winter destinations is indoor botanical gardens. Longwood Gardens, in the Philadelphia area has an enormous indoor rainforest that feels like a quick trip to the tropics. An afternoon spent in the heat and greenery can boost my mood for days. Here is a rather comprehensive list of botanical gardens around the country, many of which have indoor sections.
9. Try new things! New books, new restaurants, new towns. With less daylight and opportunities for social interaction, winter days can often blend into each other. Break up the monotony by trying something new. When I’m having trouble shaking the winter blues, I’ll often get into my car and drive to a new town where I’ll try out a kind of food I’ve never eaten or visit an interesting bookstore. If I don’t have the energy to leave the house, but still crave newness, I’ll check out the recommendations section of Goodreads to find a book that is uniquely suited to my tastes.
10. Escape! I know, I know… I said that this isn’t always a realistic option, but… if you have the time and the financial means, a mid-winter vacation can be very effective in getting you through until spring. In fact, I have often given up taking a summer vacation (when beaches and local entertainment are accessible) in favor of saving up for a winter trip. There are hundreds of travel sites that offer good deals on travel, but I have found the most affordable options through Travelzoo.
When all else fails, I try to remember that winter, like everything else, will pass. And, instead of feeling pressure to remain highly energized, I reflect on this quote by Lewis Carroll and allow myself just to rest for a little while:
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”