10 Ways to Fight the Winter Blues

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You have to create your own warmth and sunshine during these long dark months.

Winter months can be hard for many people. With very little sunshine, many hours of darkness, and bone-chilling temperatures, it is easy to succumb to the blues and to feel depressed, isolated, and uninspired. Some people fight the blues by jetting off on tropical vacations, but that's both expensive and terrible for the environment. A better approach is to implement small daily practices that make your own life at home more pleasurable. Here are some suggestions from someone who lives with snow for six months out of the year.

1. Get outside every single day.

It's important to stay active throughout the winter months. Cycle to work. (Lloyd wrote up a great guide on how to dress for winter cycling.) Walk your kids to school. Shovel snow. Go on weekend hikes with family or friends. Plan a winter camping trip. Visit local festivals. Just don't hibernate!

2. Plant an indoor garden.

You can grow vegetables indoors or simply surround yourself with houseplants that add a cheery, peaceful vibe to a room. Read: 6 houseplants to boost wellbeing

3. Cook cozy, cold-weather fare.

Embrace how the change in seasons affects your diet. Make slow simmering stews and braises, spicy curries, heaps of soups, and fresh homemade breads. Winter is the best time to bake. Turning on the oven can warm your house and make the kitchen a gathering point for the family.

4. Invite friends over.

Host informal gatherings on weekend evenings. No one will complain about curling up on a living room sofa to play board games for hours or to watch a movie together. Host a spa night with friends.

5. Create rituals you enjoy.

I love taking hot bubble baths on winter evenings and drinking homemade matcha lattes or chai tea in the afternoons. My husband and I watch a favorite show and eat popcorn in front of the fireplace after kids have gone to bed. Tsh Oxenreider, writing for The Art of Simple, says she loves diffusing specific essential oils that she saves for winter months.

6. Start a supper club.

Meet once a month, alternating between people's houses, and take turns choosing a theme and assigning dishes. Or it could take the form of Friday Night Meatballs, where during the quieter winter months, you make a batch of spaghetti and sauce and whoever wants to join can show up to eat if they bring a bottle of wine, garlic bread, or dessert.

7. Make a reading list.

If you're going out less in the evenings, then you should have more time to tackle all those books you wish you could read. Make winter your reading season, with dedicated hours spent in silence, traveling the world from the comfort of your couch. Set a goal, i.e. one book per week. Read: How to maximize the number of books you read

8. Keep the windows uncovered.

Another great suggestion from Oxenreider's article on this same topic is keeping curtains open or using gauzy transparent ones to allow sunlight to enter the home. This will brighten the space, boost your mood, and make the short days feel just a wee bit longer.

9. Turn the lights on.

This might sound anti-TreeHugger, but if it prevents depression and makes you more productive, it's worth the tradeoff. Trent Hamm did some calculations over at the Simple Dollar: "I simply turn on the lights all over the house so it’s not dim anywhere. We use LED bulbs so the energy cost is pretty low. Running about 75 LED light bulbs for an hour costs about a dime, so it’s well worth it." Lighting candles at home (stick with beeswax or unscented organic soy for health reasons) can create a lovely atmosphere in the evenings, as well.

10. Invest in some really great socks.

You may raise an eyebrow or even laugh aloud, but this is real, folks. Nothing is more miserable than having cold feet, and I highly recommend spending the money on a few great pairs of wool socks that will keep your feet toasty warm and dry all day long.