It’s February 2nd. Groundhogs Day.
Remember the movie where Bill Murray can’t escape that day that keeps starting over every single morning the exact same way? My guess is that the writers picked Groundhogs Day as the never ending day because that’s what many of us feel like when we are 6 full weeks into winter. Extremely stuck in winter. Groundhogs Day is smack dab in the middle of winter.
We are long past the novelty of snow and all the charming Christmas songs about “Walking in a winter wonderland” and “ Let it snow, let it snow let it snow” Here in Michigan we are saying “Let it stop, let it stop, let it stop”.
But nope, we are only at the halfway point on Groundhogs Day where, if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter.
And who are we kidding, even if he doesn’t see his shadow, Spring still doesn’t even technically arrive until March 20 ( 6 weeks later) So the whole Groundhogs Day is just a big tease anyway, a way to offer up some false sense of hope of an early Spring. And it’s worse than that in Michigan because in all honesty we could potentially have up to 10 weeks more of Winter.
So I’ve compiled a list of my favorite things to beat the Winter Blues! If we possibly have 10 weeks there is something to try for each week left of Winter! Let me know if you try any of these suggestions, if they help and if you have any of your own ideas!
1.Spend time outside when you can. I know winter can be blustery and just downright bitter cold but we gain so many mental and physical benifits to being outside. We need sunlight and the Vitamin D exposure that comes from the sun. Nature also soothes and restores us (yes even in winter). If you enjoy winter sports, enjoy them to the fullest, but if you need to just go for a walk in your neighborhood or even a location with heated sidewalks, that works too.
2. Enjoy houseplants- We need green in our lives to reduce stress and give us a sense of well being. When we don't spend as much time with green spaces outside, we can enjoy the health benifits of houseplants. They clean the air and clear our minds!
3. Indulge (occassionally) in comfort food For me it's the actually the process of making a pot of soup, a warm casserole or weekend baking of buiscuts, bread, scones or even baked oatmeal that provides a joy I don't normally enjoy the rest of the year. To me there is no greater joy than stirring a warm pot of soup while the snow is gently falling outside.
4. Spend time reading. It's so easy to spend those times inside in front of a screen but too much screen time can zap energy and lead to feelings of depression. Reading is challenging to the brain. It requires focus, concentration and imagation. And who doesn't like the combination of good book, a cozy blanket and a warm cup of tea? Local libraries often have winter reading challenges to get you motivated!
5. Organize a room, closet, pantry, or even a drawer. When you are cooped up inside, you want to make that space enjoyable and usable. Spending time organizing, purging and cleaning can give you a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that keeps the mind focused on the momentary task rather than on negative thoughts.
6. Find out what is going on in your community and get involved- Winter means we are past the excitment and busyness that often starts from the beginning of the school year and takes us through the holidays. Suddenly, life can come to a standstill. This is a great time to find out what your community has to offer and find ways to get involved, whether thats a church or spiritual activity; a creative activity such as art or cooking classes or theatre group; sports or activities for outdoor enthusiasts or a nonprofit of all kinds that help out people, animals or social causes that are important to you. And getting involved in your community is a great way to meet like minded people and develop new friendships.
7. Work on a project- I have found winter to be the best time to work on projects that I don't work on during the busier times of the year. I will catch up on photo albumns, writing, painting or work on a home improvement project. Again this is another way to keep motivation going and gives a sense of accomplishment that buffers us against winter blues or blahs.
8. Connect with friends- Winter requires us to intentionally connect with friends and family as the built in structure of holidays are over and the spring and summer events that often bring us together such as graduations, weddings, family reuinions are several months away. Winter is a good time to reach out and call friends, have a fondue party or a soup bar! Have people over to play board games or cards. We have to be intentional about socializing in the winter because the events that bring us together are not necessariily built into the first three months of the year. And staying connected to our social support system is one of the greatest buffers to depression.
9. Journal- Winter is a good time to get reflective, to get in touch with our internal world, to make any changes or work on our own growth. If you can't think of what to journal about, start with a gratitude journal and process the good things in your life each day.
10. Plan a vacation or a garden- One of my favorite activities in the winter is to spread out seed and flower catalogues and go through them. I draw out my garden areas and plan them out with old favorites and new varieties of plants I want to try. I also enjoy researching vacation places, even if I don't end up going, I enjoy exploring possible AirB&B's and activities in places I might like to visit someday. (Especially warm tropical places!) Planning for something to look forward to in the future is a good reminder that the days won't always be cold and gray.
Keep in mind this isn't an exhaustive list. I'd love to hear how you beat the winter blues. If you have more severe symtoms of depression or struggle to find joy in anything, I urge you to seek out mental health resources in your community. The suicide hotline 800-273-8255 is available 24 hours a day for those in crisis.