For as long as I can remember, I have dreaded the cold weather and winter. Colder weather and shorter days trigger my depression – I'm sure you can relate. Suddenly, any time after 3 p.m. looks like I should be napping and anything that requires more than a jacket and scarf makes me feel like I shouldn't be leaving the house. Fewer people are out and more people are just snuggling up with their lovers and friends. It usually means you're probably spending more time alone too. I have too much time to think, too much time staying in, and rarely any time in the sun.
When this happens, people start to inevitably feel "down in the dumps" as the days get shorter and the nights get colder. It's a little thing that experts refer to as "seasonal depression."
Living in New York City has always meant that I would see these colder months and shorter days for solid 3-4 months every year. I know I can't be alone in this, so I've compiled a list of things you can do to make sure that no matter how cold or how lonely you feel, you can combat the cold weather blues one sun-less day at a time.
1. Don't make cold weather an excuse to stay in.
I'm soooo guilty of this. Once the weather gets cold, it's like I think there's a caution sign on the inside of my house door saying do not exit. Suddenly, I'm in my house all night long after school or work and there's 0 difference between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. Do NOT do this. Put on your best sweater dress, blow out that hair and go out. Don't stop having fun, don't stop socializing. Don't let the cold weather keep you down.
2. Commit to a fun workout.
Last year I picked up personal training and spin during the winter and it kept me feeling so balanced. Breaking a sweat releases endorphins that are crucial to your well-being. If you feel yourself starting to slip into a bit of a depression – hit the gym ASAP. It'll keep your mind and body active, and you'll look bomb-AF when summer strolls in.
3. Book a vacation for the middle of winter.
Why does everyone plan vacations between spring and summer when it's already sunny out? Plan to go somewhere warm and break up these colder months or, plan to go somewhere cool and just explore new territory. Bottom line? Go somewhere other than your own home.
4. Limit your TV watching.
Everyone thinks that cold weather means it's time to binge non-stop on Netflix. But, this will also contribute to your seasonal depression. Pick up a book, write in a journal, do sudoku, finish a crossword puzzle, play hangman for all I care – just stop sitting in front of the TV from 4 to 10 every day and call that a life. Keep your brain stimulated.
5. Pick up a hobby you've always wanted to try.
For some people this is crafting, for others, this is learning a new language or instrument. If you're trying to stay indoors, at least make it productive. For all you know, that music can turn into a new talent, or that Spanish class can lead you to a resume booster.
6. Adopt an animal.
This is a real commitment and not everyone can adopt a pet or is ready to. I wouldn't say you should necessarily just do this for the sake of getting that pet you always wanted, but it if you were looking to get a new pet, now may be a good time to train an animal or get acquainted with it. This could be better than doing it in the summer where people are heading somewhere new left and right and you don't want to stay indoors potty training your new pup.
7. Cook your dinners and try new recipes.
Cooking is a much more time consuming than ordering Lo Mein from your favorite Chinese place – and it's usually healthier too. You can experiment with all sorts of proteins, veggies, spices, and pasta. You can use the rest for dinner and in time you can start to create your own recipes. If you're eating poorly, your mental health will also slip into the danger zone. It's important to get your nutrients in and cooking can be the perfect way to ensure that.
8. And if you don't know how to cook, take a cooking course.
Check it out on Groupon. There are so many places that offer classes that teach people how to cook different cuisines and how to use different ingredients. You'll be a semi-pro in no time.
9. Invite friends over and bake.
Besides cooking, baking is definitely a go-to of mine during the winter. I love inviting my girlfriends over for some wine and baking up cookies or brownies or some random smores recipe we find. It's low-key and it gives you a chance to reconnect with friends who might be on their own schedules too.
10. Visit your family.
I hate when I hear that people don't reconnect with their family besides on holidays. And while I get it – we often will travel miles or states to be with the person we love or friends who we went to college with – so why don't we do it with our family? I recently made my grandmother block out a whole Saturday with her sister to teach me and my friend how to make one of their old Greek recipes. Its a day I'll cherish forever.
11. Walk home instead of commuting.
This sounds so silly but one of the best things about winter time is this tranquility that's in the air. Going for a long walk bundled up on your way back from work, playing your favorite podcast or listening to Mariah Carey's Christmas album for the 100th time can give you some time to clear your mind after a long day. And it's a good exercise – *endorphins*!
12. See a therapist.
You might be laughing or think you don't need one but everyone, and I mean everyone has baggage. If you're getting down this time of year or maybe it's not just this time of year, but something else that's been bothering you and it's just manifested itself now. Talking to someone is always a good idea.
13. Volunteer with an organization you're passionate about.
Get out there and make a change. Help the homeless, feed the hungry, help someone find a new pet at an animal shelter. You don't know who you'll meet along the way, and you don't know how inspired you might become to do more.
14. Clean out your closet.
Need I say more? You, I and the rest of the world know there's more there than you use. We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Donate what you don't wear anymore or, sell it on eBay and make some cash.
15. And when you do that, redecorate.
Are you still using the same bedspread from when you were in college? Are your bedroom walls still bare regardless of the fact you moved in a year ago? Time to hit up your local home goods and decorate. Make it a winter project to make your room more "you" again.
16. Find a winter sport you can learn to do.
I didn't grow up skiing or snowboarding, but I always take up the opportunity to go with my friends somewhere new and participate in the winter sports they've grown up on. Mountain weekends are always fun and relaxing and give you a million memories of trial and error on the slopes.
17. Catch a basketball or hockey game.
'Tis the season, and these sports are always fun with a few beers and wings. You always meet new people and you always have a blast in the crowds.
18. Throw a holiday-themed party.
Whether it's at your house or a fun place you and your friends have been dying to check out, throw an open bar and have everyone who comes pitch in for their spot. It could be an awesome chance to get together friends from all circles and even create networking opportunities. Plus, who doesn't want to stay warm with a few Fireball shots?
19. Hop on a train to a nearby city.
Amtrak is always sending out emails of last minute deals and Megabus is dirt cheap if you're ballin' on a budget. Call your best friend, book a hotel or explore a day in a new city and make your weekend a new adventure.
In the hustle and bustle of life, sometimes winter gives us that perfect opportunity to snuggle up in bed with our favorite movie, tea, and oversized blankets. Moderation is key. So turn off your phone, leave your emails unread and relax. Don't do it all winter long – but, a little R&R is important every now and then.