Has anyone else ever wished they had the ability to hibernate? What a brilliant strategy for getting through the winter: Plump yourself up with rich rich foods all fall and then cuddle up in your fur coat and take a good, long nap.
I actually attempt this winter coping mechanism nearly every evening. My slightly amended version includes a bowl of popcorn, a heavy blanket, and a good book. But it certainly makes me sleepy and warm. Alas, I never get to nap for long: My husband kindly reminds me that I will wake up with all manner of kinks in my neck if I attempt to sleep in the chair.
Midwinter is here, and unfortunately, we don’t have the option of sleeping away this long, dreary season. It’s a challenging season for many, the lack of sunlight outside somehow becoming replicated within the heart. I can put on a mask of cheerfulness, but to be honest, this season has often challenged me with “down” feelings.
Anxiety, boredom, lonliness—they get cooped up in my heart even as I’m feeling boxed in by the walls around me. Sound familiar?
I decided to create a list of activities that help me get through the midwinter blues. Sometimes, I just need a fresh idea, a little forward movement, or a reminder to think outside of myself in order to reignite my heart. And I thought I’d share these ideas with you—a winter “bucket list” that we can turn to on the days when we’re feeling out of sorts
If you’re struggling a little—or a lot—with the winter doldrums, here’s a few ideas that might help you add some spark back to the season:
- Ask an old—or new—friend out for coffee. Is there an old friend you find yourself wondering about from time to time? Or maybe you met someone new awhile back and the two of you seemed to hit it off. I know what some of you are thinking: But they probably don’t have the time or interest to go out with me. It doesn’t hurt to ask, does it? Maybe your offer will be just the thing that brightens up their dreary winter day too!
- Try out a new hobby. Are you interested in learning how to crochet? Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to use those power tools? Winter is a great time to look into local hobby classes or just grab some supplies and see what you can learn from YouTube. And if you can find a friend to join the adventure, even better! I went to a painting class with our church youth group last year: My painting turned out “okay”, but my spirits were refreshed by the creativity and laughter shared.
- Finish an old project. Something about midwinter just makes me feel bored. But really, I have no ground to stand on! I could walk around my house right now and easily create a list organizing or home improvement projects I’d like to take on. And don’t even get me started on the craft projects that are stashed away at various levels of completion! Sound familiar? Next time you’re feeling down, grab the paintbrush, sewing machine, organizing bins, or whatever the job calls for. Even if it doesn’t sound all that “fun,” you’ll feel good about accomplishing something.
- Brighten Your World With Flowers: A splash of color from some bright, cheery flowers gives hope that spring will eventually return! It’s easy to pick up an inexpensive bouquet at most grocery stores: add “flowers” to your next shopping list and let them brighten up your winter days at home—or give them away to someone else who might need a little winter cheer. Other ways to enjoy flowers this time of year? Visit a local flower shop to browse and enjoy the fresh floral scents, or grab a book about gardening from the library and enjoy dreaming of summer.
- Write encouragement notes to your friends: Proverbs 11:25 reminds us that “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” I’ve often found that taking a few minutes to jot a note to someone I love will lift my spirits. (Funny how that works, isn’t it? Getting focus off myself works wonders!) Make a list of friends or family members who you’d like to encourage. And next time you’re at the store, splurge on some stationary/notecards. Then, when you start to feel the downward pull of a dreary afternoon, you can pull out your list and jot off a few notes.
- Challenge Yourself with a New Read: Maybe you don’t really enjoy reading and the challenge is simply to pick up a book. Or maybe you gobble up novels, but it’s been awhile since you read something informative. Give your mind a challenge and pick up something you wouldn’t normally read. Poetry, biography, travel books, how-to manuals—there’s no end of genres to choose from! Even if you don’t end up finding it “entertaining,” at least you’ll have the satisfaction of trying something new.
- Organize an Easy Craft Night: I added the word “easy” to this idea for a reason: A “craft night” can be as simple as grabbing some store-bought snacks and inviting friends to come over and bring their own crafting/organizing project along. (There’s no reason stitchers, scrapbookers, knitters, or photo book organizers can’t all be working together. And if some just want to practice the craft of chatting, that’s okay too!) Leave the house “as-is”—it’s apt to get a little messy from the crafting anyway. If you do have the time and energy, you could gather supplies ahead of time for an easy project (like these DIY Clothespin Picture Frames), but try to keep it simple so your guests won’t head home with a half-finished project in hand!
- Take a winter hike/walk. I need to be honest here: I really hate being cold. And this would probably be the very last thing I would feel motivated to do on a cold, winter’s day. But a friend recently commented, “There’s no bad weather. There’s only bad gear.” And I know he’s right: On the few occasions when I actually go to the effort to bundle up in eighty-seven layers and head outside, I always end up feeling reinvigorated by my time in nature and fresh air. So it might be the last thing you’d ever consider in this dreary season, but heading outside might just be the very thing to refresh your weary spirits.
- Surprise someone with a visit or a gift. Do you have an elderly neighbor who’d enjoy some homemade cookies? Or a grandparent who’d be delighted by a visit? Consider other “lonely hearts” out there: Who else might be feeling a little down during this winter season? And what could you offer to cheer them up?
- Learn About A Current Social Issue. These days I feel like there are a lot of opinions out there, but not a whole lot of facts. It’s tempting to just throw my hands in the air and look for relief from all the negativity on the Hallmark channel. But I’ve discovered that with just a few minutes a day, I can actually learn quite a bit over the course of time. Simple Google searches can lead you to articles from different perspectives. Books and podcasts are another great avenue for learning. (I’ve been listening to “Truth’s Table” lately, learning a lot from three women who come from a very different vantage point than me.) Next time you’re tempted to just check the Facebook feed again, try reading something to learn instead: You might just spark your better self and replace that midwinter blasé with new passion and insight.
- Plan a Game Night Tournament. Winter nights are a great time to pull out some munchies and sit down with friends to play games. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair that involves full housecleaning and a fancy menu (If you turn it into that, it’ll never happen!) Pick 3 or 4 games that can be played in around 30 minutes. Then award points (10 points for 1st, 8 points for 2nd, 6 points for 3rd) and keep a tally of scores throughout the evening. (For larger groups, you might need to set up more than one gaming table.) Add a little fun by finding a funny jacket or hat at the thrift store that will be worn by the leader after each round.
- Learn a New Dance Move: Yes, you might feel crazy and uncoordinated, but dancing can be a fun way to get your body moving (and enjoy the happy endorphin kick that comes with physical activity)! You can go public and sign up for some ballet, hip-hop, or ballroom dancing at the local rec center or studio. But if you’re a little hesitant about your abilities (like me), you can also find tutorials right on YouTube: Why not try a country line dance or go old-school and learn The Hustle? I once found a YouTube video with a beautiful liturgical dance set to worship music: I never managed to learn the whole dance, and I felt a little silly dancing in my living room, but I felt renewed as I followed the uplifting movement and music. (And I was amazed by how much sweating I did without ever thinking about “doing exercise”!)
I hope one of these suggestions will help you find some joy and “spark” during these midwinter days. And if you have some ideas of your own, I’d love to hear about them: Drop a comment below and let us know how you like to battle winter fatigue!