I’ve always found joy in transitioning with the seasons. The newness is exciting, brimming with opportunity and the potential that resides in what’s to come! For me, transitioning with the seasons means changing small bits and moments of my life to signify the entrance of this new time of year. Each of the four seasons has unique and beloved hallmarks of their entrance, like the first snow, plants budding up from the ground, or the beloved late-night summer sunsets.
As many of us Michiganders know, winter can be hard in general due to lack of daylight and colder weather creeping in. It can be particularly disheartening these days when we get up for work when it’s dark, and often finish work when it’s dark, especially with spending all this time at home.
I’ve put together this small list for myself and anyone else who needs a little motivation to embrace winter for what it CAN bring us, rather than what seems to be gone or taken away. The dormancy, the quiet and calm allows us time to connect to ourselves in ways we can’t all year long.
Here are five ways to maintain wellness during the winter time:
- Change your scenery.
Now is the time to remove all the traces of Christmas (unless it really brings you the joy you need right now!!) and start fresh. It is so incredibly satisfying for me to take down the decorations, clean the nooks and crannies, and enjoy the openness and lightness that results in the house. I’ve got my neutral-toned blankets and quilts out to play, and enjoy burning more fresh, floral or nature-inspired scents in my candles.
One decoration that I did leave up from Christmas are some of the greens around the house. Not all of the big boughs of garland, but little trees that are tucked on tables or shelves, those have stayed. In my head, the pretty wintery trees are still outside, so why not have them in the house, right? Liz Marie Blog mentions this as well in her blog post about “Undecorating for Winter”, where she suggests mixing winter greens with new fresh plants during the winter months. Jarod and I have two real low-light plants in our home, as well as some of these faux wintery greens, that work to add more life and freshness to the home.
2. Find ways to spend time outside and/or get daylight.
Even just for a walk around the block, invest in good winter accessories to keep warm in the brisk weather. We’re going on a vacation up north in Michigan at the end of the month, so Jarod and I have been thinking about our warm weather accessories quite a bit recently! Proper mittens/gloves, scarf, socks, boots, and insulated coat all lend themselves to a better experience out in the cold. The addition of masks this year can also help to keep warm!
If you’re like me and some days forget to go outside, spend time near windows during daylight hours if possible, increasing exposure to natural daylight. My work computer is in front of a large window in our office and it helps tremendously to see outside, watch the birds, check on the weather, etc. We try to keep our windows mostly uncovered during the day so all the light can pour in. If it’s a particularly cloudy day, I’ll even resort to spending some time in front of my HappyLight (the one I have is linked here) to receive some of the same benefits. Definitely suggest investing in one of these if you are even a little bit interested.
I’m sure most of you fully understand the benefits of daylight, but take this as another reminder of its importance. Daylight has been associated with improved mood, enhanced morale, less fatigue, and reduced eyestrain. Many studies show that the performance and productivity of workers in office, industrial, and retail environments can increase with the quality of light (source for all this info here).
3. Maintain an exercise routine.
Good for any season, but especially important when cooped up inside all day long. This is the one that in the past would usually make me moan and groan, but since graduating from college, I’ve found more joy in exercise than ever before. I’ve worked out consistently since May 2019 and I’m proud of it. In September of this year we bought a used workout bike on Facebook Marketplace, and I decided to try out the Peloton digital app to transition to indoor workouts in the cold-weather months. WOW. I’m obsessed and now work out more than ever before! I mostly do cycling and strength workouts, but have recently started enjoying a few yoga classes as well. The workouts are truly engaging, the music is fun, and the way you feel afterwards is unbeatable.
If you’re brave enough to head outside for your workout, kudos to you! Running in the cold months can often be better than during hot summer weather. Whether indoor or outdoor, there’s so many options: walking, yoga, pilates, dance aerobics, strength training, kickboxing, jump-roping, you name it!
I won’t even pull out the research for you on this one. In my personal experience, regular exercise helps me to have improved mood, better sleep, more energy and more confidence overall. It helps myself be a better “me” to those I interact with and helps me stay healthy in many ways.
4. Cook seasonal food.
You may think there’s little to truly eat seasonally during the winter compared to spring or summer, but that’s not actually true! Hopefully there’s at least one or two things on the list above that you’ve heard of and/or enjoy. And not only is this a tasty tip, it’s one that benefits your health in more ways than one. Danielle Michael from Mount Nittany Medical Center highlights five benefits that come from eating seasonally:
- Richer flavor
- Better nutrition due to variety
- Affordability, as produce in season is more abundant, so it is less per pound in the store)
- Environmentally friendly due to less distance for the food to travel
- Community benefit (supporting local farmers!)
Another awesome list of winter produce comes from Saveur, here at this link. They also provide a guide of how to buy, store, and use these ingredients.
To me, the biggest win of eating and cooking with seasonal produce is that you get the chance to make recipes that help winter feel more enjoyable to you. Whether it’s a familiar cozy soup with hearty root vegetables or finding ways to sneak citrus into your diet for a little Vitamin C, you really can’t go wrong. My goal is to sneak in one or two of these foods into my diet each day, even if it’s just an apple with lunch or roasted broccoli at dinner. Overall, incorporating these wintertime foods helps you feel more connected to the season at hand. This tip tempts me to write a blog post about my go-to winter lunch/dinner recipes…
5. Take time to appreciate the season we’re in.
With all of us staying home a lot more these days, life sure feels a bit slower. With a slower pace comes ample opportunity. And this opportunity presented to us is one that calls us to hold dear these simple and ordinary moments.
Who better to look to for advice on appreciating winter than those who dwell in it, in its most harsh form? A recent NYT article details three strategies for making it through winter based on advice from Scandinavians; specifically in this article, the Scandinavians mentioned are from Tromso, Norway, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
In Tromso there are two months straight where the sun does not rise. Sounds pretty awful, right? But to them, winter is a special time of year they look forward to with joy, rather than a time of year they dread. A large part of this, as they describe it, is having a positive mindset. It all starts in our own heads.
If you’re looking to improve your winter-time mindset, grab a pen and piece of paper and jot down five things you like about the winter. It doesn’t have to be anything huge or wild. It can be mundane. Here’s my list:
- Lighting fires in our wood-burning fireplace inside, which keeps us warm and provides a cozy background noise/smell.
- Taking winter walks along the lake. For us, either at Lake Macatawa or Lake Michigan.
- Working on puzzles in the evenings while listening to music.
- Picking out soft and warm clothing items to wear each morning. My collection of World’s Softest Socks and big sweaters/sweatshirts are always in the mix.
- Watching a fresh snowfall, whether in tiny little snowflakes or the big puffy ones.
When most years we’re moving so fast we barely know which month we’re in, this year let’s be slow and present to what’s in front of us. It will all pass soon enough; we very well might just have a strange aching for the times we’re in today one day long from now.
Let me know if these tips are any helpful to you! Thanks for reading all the way through. Hope you can find ways to implement some of these things to make your winter even just a little more enjoyable.