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Every year when fall ends, I dream of a white Christmas. I crave cocoa and fires, Hallmark movies and fuzzy socks.
But in reality, I spend winter madly preparing for Christmas, then I put Christmas away and spend the rest of winter crying over how cold I am.
So this year, I’m taking back the cocoa and fuzzy socks. Here’s how to survive — and fingers crossed, enjoy — winter.
1. Buy a wake-up lamp to use as an alarm clock.
If you’re at a desk all day, you should have a sun lamp or a happy lamp. It’ll boost your energy levels — an easy win that most people know about.
But most people don’t realize they can wake up to “sunrise” even if the sun doesn’t show up in the morning.
Get a wake-up lamp on Amazon, and trick yourself into thinking it’s sunny outside. Hey, at least it’ll get you out of bed.
2. Splurge on fleece leggings and fuzzy socks.
I buy three pairs of thick, fleece leggings, two or three oversized sweaters and as many pairs of fuzzy socks as I can fit into my sock drawer.
Then I change into them the minute I get home. In the winter I look forward to this ritual, and having something to look forward to can really help you get through winter.
Look for fleece leggings at Costco or Target. Shop Costco in November because when seasonal inventory is gone, it’s usually gone.
Gap is a good place to stock up on fuzzy socks — shop during Black Friday to get them 50% off. Grab sweaters at Target when they’re at least 50% off — swing by the clearance racks every time you’re there to check.
3. Make a book-reading list and complete it by March.
Set a goal to tackle books you’ve “always wanted to read but never have time” to read.
Reading instead of watching screens at night helps your body prepare to sleep.
Parenting pro tip: Schedule a time every night when screens go off and the whole family picks up a book and reads silently for a set number of minutes.
4. Have dinner prepped by 5 p.m. when possible.
The days get shorter in winter and I lose motivation as fast as the sun sets.
So, unless you adore cooking, avoid at all costs any situation where it’s dark and you haven’t started dinner yet. If you’re at work until after 5 p.m., just marry your Crock-Pot for the winter.
When I put off prepping dinner until it’s dark out, the result is Taco Bell. Every. Single. Time.
5. Buy a couple of indoor plants — succulents, if you kill green things.
Surround yourself with living things when the world seems dead outside.
OK that was dark, but for real, buy a plant or two — make sure you love the pots they’re in. And if you know you kill green things, buy succulents.
Trader Joe’s sells $3.99 succulents. Stock up!
6. Get ahold of used or cheap outdoor equipment like snowshoes or skis.
Part of the reason people in extremely cold regions (like Denmark… and Minnesota) don’t mind winter is because they look forward to outdoor activities.
You can go the easy route and buy snowshoes — DICK’s Sporting Goods has a great loyalty program — and then go on a hike. Or consider committing to a winter sport like skiing or snowboarding (or even inner tubing).
7. Know where to find deals on winter boots and outerwear.
You know the saying — “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
That’s a lie. I believe in bad weather, so the truth is closer to “bad weather is made worse by bad clothes.” So, make sure you’re buying waterproof boots and outerwear when they’re on sale.
Watch for boots and jackets to go on sale at Kohl’s — use that holiday shopping-earned Kohl’s Cash to create your own sale. Or plan to buy for the next year at the end of the season in March when stores like Target, Nordstrom Rack, and Dick’s Sporting Goods are reducing prices to make way for summer gear.
8. Burn a scented candle in the evenings — even if you’re just watching TV.
There’s something about fire that makes us chill the heck out.
First choice would be an actual fire in a fireplace, but since most of us don’t have a wood-burning fireplace, we’ll have to settle for candles.
You can get really cheap Yankee Candles, and I recommend getting a few so you can burn them liberally.
9. Bundle up and bring a travel mug of cocoa or tea on a walk outside.
Make a cup of cocoa or tea to bring along, and don’t focus on exercise, although you’ll be getting it.
Focus on just staying outside and grabbing some sun (Vitamin D!) no matter how cold it is.
The cup of tea is just another way to trick yourself into doing it by adding something you’ll look forward to.
10. Prep veggies and fruit at the start of every week for easy snacks.
I’ll be honest — I don’t totally avoid sugar even though I know it makes me feel gross. But in the winter I don’t need help feeling sad and sluggish, so I try to cut back and save sweet for desperate times (like after the sun goes down).
Pre-cut veggies and fruit at the start of every week, and point yourself at the refrigerator instead of the pantry when you need a snack.
11. Grab a friend and sign up for a once-a-month class like woodworking or cooking.
Or pottery or hand-lettering or Zumba or Yoga or whatever you think will take your mind off the cold.
Doing an activity with a friend will help the cold days pass more quickly.
12. Repeat after me: “Herbal tea is the new evening cocktail.”
Once again, I need no help feeling sad and sluggish in the winter, so I cut back on wine and other alcohol.
I got a Denby teapot for super cheap during a Macy’s One-Day sale, and I make loose-leaf tea in the evening. This replaces my glass of wine after the kids go to bed — at least until the weather warms up.
13. Pick a (fun) project you can finish in a few months.
It really doesn’t matter what you do, but finishing a project will give you something to focus on and a nice emotional boost when you finish it.
14. Splurge on a massage at least once during winter.
Book a spa appointment or just convince your husband that your sanity depends on him giving you back rubs once a week.
Since cold weather causes muscles to contract and lose heat, the result is often tightness throughout your body.
15. Put a heated rice pack in bed with you at night.
Warm up a rice pack and put it in your bed five minutes before you get into it to avoid icy cold sheets.
16. Try hitting the gym at night instead of in the morning.
Or vice versa if nights are your normal workout time and you just can’t do it in the winter.
Change it up in order to stay motivated instead of skipping it altogether.
17. Plan a few phone calls with your people instead of text conversations.
Even if you don’t like talking on the phone and even if your best friend lives in town and you text all day with her. Plan a phone call a few times during the winter just to laugh, because laughter can boost your mood simply because it forces you to take in more oxygen.
This only works if it’s someone who is easy to talk on the phone with.
18. Choose sounds of nature for your alarm — birds chirping or waves crashing.
If you can pick an alarm sound that mimics nature — think: happy, sunny, bright — it’ll be more pleasant to wake up on dark and cold winter mornings.
19. Decide that everyone gets a hug in the winter. (OK, maybe not everyone.)
Go ahead and hug your loved ones more often than you may normally hug them. Hugs help release oxytocin, which is an antidote to depressive feelings.
So basically, science agrees that hugs make people happy.
20. Surround yourself with pictures of tropical places.
You can buy a calendar and cut the pictures out and hang them up everywhere around you or just change your computer wallpaper so you can periodically see sunshine.
It’s a mental trick if you’re desperate enough, which I am.
21. Host a sledding party.
Invite family and friends to join you for sledding, followed by low-key chili and cocoa at your house afterward.
And there’s no shame in canned chili, for the record. Staying as social as you are in warmer weather is the goal in order to avoid that isolated and depressing feeling.
22. Convince your tribe to meet up once a month for brunch.
It’s not that people are too busy to get together in January and February, it’s more that they don’t want to leave the house because it’s cold.
Plan once-a-month brunch dates with your girlfriends at restaurants you’ve wanted to try in your town. This is another play toward staying social and connected with people that matter to you.
23. Don’t take those twinkle lights down after Christmas.
Twinkle lights add ambiance and atmosphere that make you feel happy, and you’ll want that throughout the rest of winter.
Be sure to take them down eventually though, unless you live in a college dorm.
24. Give yourself a few cheap, DIY beauty treatments.
Dry skin is a serious hazard in the winter. Pick a day and buy what you’d need to do a few of these DIY beauty treatments.
25. Make snow ice cream with your kids.
We’ve all done it. I remember making snow ice cream for the first time in second grade. So, for the sake of winter memories, make snow ice cream!
1 gallon of snow
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk
Put a large bowl outside while it’s snowing to collect fresh snow. Stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk to get the right consistency.
26. Download the Night Sky app and look at winter constellations.
Most people know the stars are different in the winter than the ones they see in summer, but very few people actually look at them.
27. Start a puzzle your family works on together once a week.
Working on a 350-1,000 piece puzzle as a family is a great bonding experience.
Plus, they’re super cheap. Make a goal to finish the puzzle by the first day of spring.
28. Beat static with a solution of half water and half fabric softener.
Spray it on all the things to avoid the extra annoyance of static cling.