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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

20 tips for thriving in winter

With winter right around the corner (that's right, it's still officially fall!!), I wanted to share my top 20 tips for thriving during a long winter.  I grew up in Missouri and thought I knew what winter was until I lived in upstate New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee.  Having five northern winters under my belt, I can confidently say that these tips will make your long winter much more enjoyable.  And before you know it, spring and warm weather will be here again!

**I decided to call this a thriving list instead of a surviving list after reading this post from Elise at Enjoy It.  Thriving brings to mind thoughts of enjoying yourself whereas survivings makes me think of just scraping by.  

1. Get outside It may seem counter intuitive, but it actually helps alleviate the stir craziness if you get outside during the cold months.  Go ice skating, build a snowman, shovel a driveway, take a walk, or be real adventurous and go down hill or cross country skiing.  Some of my favorite walks have happened in the snow - there's a magic to the quietness of winter.
2. Eat some comfort foodYou're not going to want to eat lots of warm, filling foods in summer, so take advantage of this cold weather with some of your favorite cozy recipes.  We make lots of clam chowdertarts, and chili around our house.  And mybaking and bread making are at their height in December and January.
3. Take up an indoor hobby I fill a lot of my long winter nights with lots of arts and crafts projects.  I do the majority of my painting in the cold weather months when I don't have barbeques and gardening to distract me.  I'm also hoping to learn a few newknitting skills from my mom - I see some circular needles in my future.

4. Use a light machineSpending so little time in the sun can start to take its toll on your mood and your body.  Paul invested in a light machine a few years ago, and when I start feeling down I sit in front of the light machine for a few minutes a day and seem to feel better.  
5. ExerciseBeing cold is no excuse to sit around all winter long - and it won't end up making you feel any better.  In addition to walking the dogs, I try to do a work out video a couple of days a week.  I'm definitely not as active as I am in spring, summer and fall but even a little release of endorphins can do wonders.
6. Invest in warm outerwearI'm talking down coat, furry hats, puffy mittens and insulated/waterproof boots.  They make all the difference when the wind chill is below zero...for several weeks in a row.   

7. Dress in layers 
Long underwear is your friend.  Learn to embrace tights, boots, scarves, and sweaters.  Winter is a lot better when you're not perpetually freezing. 

8. Insulate your windowsWe add a layer of plastic to our windows to keep our house warm and our heating bill as low as possible.  It makes me feel a little claustrophobic, but it's necessary.  

9. Get a library card or Netflix subscriptionLong, cold nights are a perfect time to catch up on all those books you've been wanting to read and all the movies and tv shows you've been wanting to watch.  If you want to be really cool you could make a check list of the books/movies and cross them off as you go through winter.   

10. Decorate for winterOne of the saddest day of the year is the day all the Christmas decorations come down. Ease the post-holiday depression by decorating your house for the rest of the winter months. Gold ribbons and snowflakes can really make a place sparkle.  I hung these little guys up last year.  

11. Keep up your social lifeI don't go out as often as I do in the summer, but I still make a point to meet people for happy hours or have people over for game or movie nights.  Laughing and spending time with friends is good for the spirit.    

12. Plan your gardenI like to think that Mother Nature spends January and February planning her spring debut, so I like to plan my garden plan in winter too.  It's actually really helpful to have things planned so you can order your seeds and plant your starters in time for spring planting.  

13. Take a tripWhen the long winter really starts getting to me in February and March, I try to take a trip south for a mini reprieve.  Last year we went to San Francisco (part 1 and 2), and I can honestly say it was one of the happiest weekends I've ever had.  The sunshine just felt soooooo good after so much cold and clouds.  I've also made a February tradition of visiting the orchid show at the Missouri Botanical Garden with my mom.  Flowers always seem to cheer me up.  
14. BlanketsA good blanket makes me very happy in winter.  My aunt bought us an amazing blanket a few years ago that I live under from November to March.   

15. Take picturesI've seen a few bloggers posting about their December photo albums.  The idea is to take pictures and scrap book a page for every day/week for the whole month so you don't miss all the cool stuff that happens.  December was already full enough without adding another thing to my to do list, but I thought that making a winter photo album seemed like a great idea for remembering that there's still plenty to enjoy and capture in January, February, and March.    
16. Enjoy warm beveragesJust thinking of a cup of tea on a cold day gives me warm, fuzzy feelings.  And what better time of year to enjoy a hot toddy? 

17. Bring spring insideWhen I start getting antsty for spring in February and March I start buying tulips and other flowers for our apartment.  The bit of color helps to remind me spring it on its way. 
18. Throw a party
Poor January and February seem to have been forgotten when the holiday schedule was compiled.  A few years ago Paul and I started having friends over for a Groundhog's day party, in JVC we had a leap year party, and oursushi making party from last year might have to become a tradition.  It doesn't matter what you celebrate, just get some friends together and put your party dress on.  Having something to look forward to and plan is nice when you need to lighten up another cloudy week.

19. RestUltimately, winter is the time of year for slowing down. For recouperating from the craziness of the last year, for taking stock, and for getting excited for the next year's plans. May through December are always super busy for me, so when it starts snowing in April, I try to remember that I won't have the bad weather as an excuse to just befor the majority of the rest of the year.  Slowing down and just being is an essential part to thriving.  

20. Celebrate/embrace winterI was terrified at the start of my first northern winter in Syraucse. I guess I thought I would slowly freeze or just be unhappy for six months. But it actually turned out to be a really enjoyable time. I learned how to drive a 16 passenger van in the snow, drank warm cider with donuts, ate lots of good soups, learned how to bake bread and granola, went ice skating, went sledding, and even did some star gazing on top of a huge pile of snow and ice one night. When I was able to just embrace the season for what it was, I actually liked winter. The end of the season will always be hard (snow in April is just depressing), but overall I've decided that winter is nice. 

What would you add to the winter thriving guide?

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