6 Tips to a Happier Winter

I used to think I hated winter. But living in NYC, it’s difficult to ignore a season that lasts almost half the year. So, I consulted my friend who loves winter. She grew up in Minnesota and thinks the winters in NYC are spring-like. Here’s what I learned from our conversation:

Don't Be Hard on Yourself

First, if you hate winter don’t be too hard on yourself. We may be hardwired to be afraid of cold weather given that threats of starvation and exposure were very real to our ancestors. Luckily, at this point, most of us do not have to fear for our winter survival so we can let some of that go. We can appreciate the winter as an opportunity to challenge and strengthen our thermoregulation system.

At the same time, going out into freezing cold air every morning can be pretty unpleasant and challenging. So don't expect to like it if you don't. Don't pretend it's not cold, either--because it is! Face the truth and prepare for it.

Hoard with Practicality

Now is the time to stock up! Long before the flurries fall from the sky, take some time to wash winter clothes before you need them, and have them folded, attractive, clean and accessible. You may need to replenish your sock, glove, hat, scarf and long underwear supply.

One way to stave off winter weight gain is to stock up on cold weather foods. Get ready to warm up your core from the inside by gathering and preparing soup recipes, teas, warming spices and cocoas. Root vegetables, dried fruits and grain porridge can help sustain your body in cold weather.

You may want to stock up on home gym equipment so you have no excuse not to work out. A jump rope, resistance bands and a yoga mat are all you need to get started. Engaging in a well-rounded physical activity program can help strengthen our bodies and our confidence in our bodies against winter’s assault.

If you are sensitive to dry air, set up a humidifier. Keep one at home and one at work. This can reduce the chance of getting a cold, part of what makes winter difficult. Don’t forget to stock up on tissues and a neti pot. Even if you don’t get colds, you’ll probably want tissues in your pockets since the changes in temperature often result in a preponderance of phlegm and mucus.

Make Indoor Time Enjoyable

Chances are, you will be spending more time indoors. Make your home as cozy and comfortable as possible. Read books about really cold places such as The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a childhood favorite. There are several good novels and non-fiction books about disastrous trips to the Arctic. Or, conversely, put together a reading list of warm weather books that take place in Florida, Italy and Africa.

This can also be the time to catch up on affection with loved ones. Nothing can make a home cozier than game night with your friends or with a special someone.

Shine the Light on S.A.D.

Make sure you expose yourself to sunlight, especially if you are susceptible to winter blues. Can you get at least 60 minutes of time outdoors in sunlight, preferably walking with a playful, energetic dog? Special lights for Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) are popular but you should consult with an expert first. The wrong amount or inconsistent use can result in side effects like irritability and insomnia.

Dress in Layers to Boost Self-Confidence

Dressing for warmth rather than aesthetics can impact our confidence and make us feel pudgy, without the pleasure of having eaten extra food. Some winter clothes such as silk underwear, are soft and sensuous. But warm wool sweaters can be itchy and increase our unease. If we are doing winter right and taking care of ourselves, we are dressing thickly. Cold bodies are vulnerable and so our sense of confidence has to come from within. Wearing layers of clothing can give you more control, as clothing can be peeled off and put back on as needed. It’s not quite a strip tease but it can give you some self-assurance in the face of temperature changes that you are powerless over.

Witness the Circle of Life

While our bodies are trying to insulate, something else entirely is going on in the outside world. The leaves and flowers are gone. While death is a part of life, winter is not necessarily death. In winter we can see the inner architecture of life laid bare, especially through trees, which may lose their leaves but do not die. Branches are bony as our own skeletons. In winter we see unadorned, basic structures of life. It is a tough season in which we learn what we are made of.

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