How to make the most out of winter

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been experiencing a really weird mix of festive joy and SAD-induced low moods since winter hit this year. I wanted to try and combat this by attempting to take my depression by the horns and focus on embracing and enjoying life, so I wrote out a few ideas for making the most of the next couple of months. And I thought, well, I have a blog, I may as well share! I hope you find some inspo here, from self care to self improvement, fun social ideas and yummy treats. 

Make a seasonal wreath

I know Christmas is almost upon us, but I don’t see why a winter wreath has to be exclusively a Christmas Day thing. It’s a perfect way to bring some nature into your home, in a stylish kind of way. There are wreath making sessions all over the country that you could go to, but what I did instead was buy a handmade wooden wreath at a craft fair, and do it up a bit by adding holly leaves and painting bits of it gold. It looks lovely and wintery up in my flat!

Start a creative home project

This could involve upcycling old picture frames, making a macrame plant hanger, painting some plant pots to look cute and trendy, or even organising your books and DVDs by colour to make a striking feature out of your bookshelves. You could hand make candles or bath products, or dry out some oranges and make pot-pourri. Basically everything on Pinterest. In fact Pinterest is probably your best starting point – create a board with all the projects you would genuinely like to do, and work your way through them! 

Learn something new at home

Short, cold days mean spending more time indoors for most of us – a weekend trip or a night out can really lose their appeal when it’s dark, raining and bitingly cold. Instead, why not invest some time into learning a new skill you can practice at home, perhaps even on your sofa? I’m about to start learning BSL using an at-home course which I’m really excited about! But you could start sketching, doing embroidery, learning a coding language, photography, photoshop, woodworking, making model planes, knitting, baking, yoga, indoor gardening… so many of these things get written off as ‘millennial grandma’ activities but hell, both my grandmas are/were awesome. And actually, innocent hobbies like these are fucking FANTASTIC for your mental health (less innocent hobbies are also included! Doesn’t have to be PG to be good for you). Of course they won’t cure you, and if you have depression you’ll probably abandon a few along the way (hi, me). But carrots don’t make you see in the dark either, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat your veggies, right?

Socialising

On the complete flip side of the last point, is this. Making plans with others and sticking to them is one of the key ways that Norwegian people get through their long, dark winters. I certainly have a tendency to hibernate in winter, which I’m determined to stop doing! It helps to structure your days, get you out of the house, and spend some time laughing and smiling with others. So look up fun free/cheap things to do near you and invite a few friends along! It doesn’t matter if this isn’t something you do very often – so many people are lonely these days that your friends are more than likely aching for extra human contact too. If you really are isolated, and you genuinely don’t have anyone to ask to go out, try the friend section of Bumble or join Meetup.com to find new people. 

Volunteering

Look up opportunities in your area – you could work in the warehouse of your local foodbank, do social media outreach for a local charity, organise clothing collections or meet up with isolated elderly people for a cup of tea. The volunteering world always needs eager, friendly and kind people to give their time, and to give it unconditionally. Also, with the decimation of our social services, many jobs in the health, social care and justice services that were previously paid are now volunteer positions, which is disgraceful, but if you have the time, that’s the only way many vulnerable people will ever get the help they need. And if all else fails, I don’t think there’s a charity shop in the country that will turn you away from a stint volunteering as a sales assistant! 

Bake stuff!

Life’s too short for bullshit January detoxes, diet culture and food shaming. Winter is a time for enjoying wholesome home baked goods, and in our household we plan on embracing this completely! I’ve been enjoying making gingerbread this year, and I think I’m going to try ginger biscuits and maybe even my first ever fruitcake too. James has been perfecting a danish pastries, and he’s gotten really good at them! Here’s a Pinterest board full of yummy treats you might like to try – lots of vegan ones in there too. 

Read! 

If you’re already in the habit of reading, that’s great, but if not, here are some tips. Reorganise your space so that there’s a lamp nearby, which will mean you can read comfortably. Phones and computers can be read easily with a light halfway across the room, but the same can’t be said for books, so make sure your space is adapted for it. Set aside one or two of your evenings in each week where you don’t open your laptop or do extra work. Put music on as soon as you walk through the door, and eat dinner without turning the telly on, because you’re guaranteed to get sucked in if you do! There are so many distractions that it really can be hard for a lot of people to get in the habit of reading, but this should help you make a start. 

Rewatch your favourite films

Buy some snacks, make some popcorn, stock up on DVDs or downloads, light some candles, snuggle under a blanket and shamelessly spend a weekend rewatching every feel-good film you’ve ever loved. Not to bang on about Pinterest, but I do find it particularly useful for organising my thoughts, and I’ve actually created a surprisingly pretty board to remind myself of all the films I enjoy – here’s the link if you want to check it out!

Get outdoors

Not to get all ‘Cordially Invited’ on you, but yes, enjoying the outdoors during winter is GREAT. A winter walk is bracing, beautiful, and fantastic if you suffer from SAD. A walk that doesn’t involve too many slopes is ideal if you want something relaxed, because there’s less risk of slipping on ice (we used to go walk around a beautiful reservoir called Carsington Water when I was a kid, really chilled out but absolutely beautiful). Or you could go ALL the way, rent out some winter hiking gear and attempt Ben Nevis like we did last March 😉 Here is a website full of accessible walks if you or a friend/family member has a disability too: Walks With Wheelchairs

Cook some seasonal yummyness 

I like to keep things fresh and seasonal, and find that it keeps me interested in cooking when SAD and depression take their toll. Of course, James takes over when things get really shit, and makes us yummy, healthy comfort food. Here’s my food Pinterest board for some inspo, I absolutely love using Pinterest to find new and interesting seasonally appropriate meals! 

Declutter and tidy

I recently read an article in Breathe Magazine about a scientific study that was done on cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and its relationship to mess. Cortisol rises throughout the day when you’re at work, and in the study, people who came home to a tranquil, clean environment saw their cortisol levels fall as the evening went on. People who came back to a messy flat did not experience a fall in cortisol levels, and instead their stress levels stayed the same until they went to bed. Having a tidy space does really make you feel better. If you can (i.e. if you aren’t depressed or ill) get up and tidy the area you spend most of your time! Especially in winter when we do spend so much time indoors, being in a pleasant environment is super important. 

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