Thursday, February 13, 2014

6 Ways to Embrace the Final Weeks of Winter

I know, I know - this winter has been SO cold and SO snowy for many of us in North America. And right about now, it feels like it might never end. Even during an average winter, I usually start to feel the "winter blahs" hit right around now. With a brutal winter like we've had this year, those blahs seemed to set in even earlier (probably around the time it hit -40ºC in the first week of January!)

There's no doubt about it, winter can get you down if you let it (even if you're a hardy Canadian). These last few weeks of winter I find it particularly important to focus on making sure I plan lots of uplifting activities in my life to help me get over "the hump" until the warmer weather finally greets us and I can get my hands in the garden once more.

I have found all of the following really valuable in my quest to embrace these last cold, snowy weeks of winter:

1. Get outside: Yes, I know it's cold out there. Maybe REALLY cold. But despite the fact that I'm usually reluctant to leave the warmth of my home at this time of year, it's one of the best things I do for my mental health when I make myself do it. If you're properly dressed, I've found it's quite possible to be comfortable at temperatures as low as -20ºC (and I am one of those people who feels the cold more than average). Yes, that means warm boots, wool socks, hat, gloves, scarf and a heavy coat, but if you take the time to bundle up, you'll be rewarded with an enjoyable outdoor experience. I have been toasty warm hiking through the woods even on very cold days when dressed appropriately. If possible, get your outdoor activity in at midday when the daylight's at its peak. To make the idea of spending time outside more appealing, consider doing an activity you can only do in winter, like cross-country skiing or skating on an outdoor rink.

2. Connect with friends: I spent the afternoon having lunch and chatting away with a good friend yesterday and I felt so refreshed afterwards! While I don't always have time to spend an entire afternoon hanging out, there are lots of ways to fit in a bit of "friend time" even if your schedule is pretty full. Meeting at lunch or after work for a coffee, or going for a walk together on a Saturday morning will give you a major boost in a minimal amount of time. Of course, there's something extra restorative about a longer, more leisurely visit, so inviting a friend or two over for lunch or dinner is a perfect way to while away a winter afternoon or evening.

3. Give yourself a spa night: The cold, dry winter air can wreak havoc on your skin, so this is the perfect time of year to treat yourself to a DIY Spa Night. You can find my suggestions for a frugal yet pampering home spa session here.

4. Cook up some warming foods: As the snow piles up outside, spending hours in the kitchen with a hot oven becomes an appealing prospect. Take some time to make baked goods and nourishing homemade stock, as well as simmering some soups and stews on the stovetop. Including some warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, turmeric, cumin and black and cayenne peppers in your recipes will help warm you up from the inside out.

5. Tackle a project or take a course: Once spring arrives, I know I'll want to be spending as much time outdoors as possible. So, these final weeks of winter are a great time to tackle an indoor household project or two. Whether it's decluttering, reorganizing, refinishing, or a minor renovation or two, having a project to focus on will keep your mind occupied and give you a sense of accomplishment once you complete it! Taking a course to delve more deeply into a subject you're interested in, or try out something completely new, is another fun way to keep your brain engaged for a few weeks. Through online learning sites such as Coursera, you can broaden your horizons without leaving home or spending a penny!

6. Snuggle up! If it's going to be cold out, you might as well embrace it by doing things you can't do in the heat of summer, like snuggle up under piles of blankets with a special someone and a hot beverage. A stack of DVDs and books from the library will help you stay entertained while you keep cozy.

What's your favourite way to enjoy winter?

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