I have a friend who loves the winter. She finds the summer too hot, with too many flies, and she doesn’t like summer clothing. She doesn’t understand the concept of beating the winter blues. Most people you ask, however, will tell you just the opposite: it’s the winter they dislike, with its cold, dark, windy days and the need to wrap up to the point of looking like a Michelin Tyre Man.
Quirky side-note: the latin slogan of the Michelin Man is Nunc est bibendum, which translates as, ‘Now is the time to drink’. A rather good slogan for a cold wintery night, don’t you think? Not such a good one for driving though. I suppose they weren’t overly concerned about that back in 1894…
So which camp do you fall in? Does the onset of winter bring you down and have you scurrying for the sunlamps or do you appreciate the change in seasons and the potential beauty that brings?
I spent many years living in Edinburgh. In the north of the UK, the mid-winter days are very short. Just imagine it, you head off to work in the morning while it’s still dark, and when you leave the office to go home, it’s already dark again. It means that lunch-breaks and weekends are crucial.
For many of us, the shorter days and cold weather can sometimes leave us feeling a little low. If that sounds like you, brighten up your days with some of these pick-me-up ideas to beat the winter blues.
Embrace the winter!
What?!? “But I’ve just acknowledged that I don’t like it!” I hear you exclaim. Hear me out: everyone can remember a time in their lives when something lovely about wintertime touched them and made them smile: that cold, sharp feeling of your first breath as you walk out of your house, the sky a piercing blue, fabulous high pressure, winter sun… it’s a beautiful moment (OK, I admit, there aren’t too many of those in Edinburgh…).
Or maybe, it was the smell of a real, log fire, or of the beauty of the bare trees offering up an extended view out to the horizon, unencumbered by leaves.
Perhaps it was seeing those gorgeous, tiny ice crystals that form overnight on every surface and make everything sparkle first thing in the morning.
Every season has its beauty. Sometimes we forget to stop and look, we fail to see the loveliness of it as we try to tuck our heads further back into our coats, turtle-like, and rush to our destination. Being more mindful of out surroundings can allow us to appreciate them more.
Find some heat
Cold weather does have its beauty, but when it’s cold out, there’s nothing lovelier than a log fire to cosy up next to. If you’re not fortunate enough to have one at home, find a local village pub or bar that has one. Take a book if you’re on your own. Snuggle in with a glass of red and make the most of it.
Or if you prefer something a little more active, how about some hot yoga – also known as Bikram yoga.
If heat’s your thing but activity isn’t, why not arrange a mini-spa day. Make it a fun day out with friends or a blissful day alone. Lots of hotels and gyms have spa facilities and offer day passes.
Tease away the knotted winter muscles in a hydro pool and a sauna. Even if you can’t stretch to the cost of a massage, the health benefits of a sauna alone are enough to make it worthwhile.
I often used to spend my weekends in a small, tin-roofed cottage in the Scottish Highlands. It was a pretty basic place, but it had all the necessary elements to spend a magical weekend surrounded by nature. It was also the coldest place I’ve ever been. One winter the temperature marked -17 on the thermometer and the water in the toilet froze. Hmmm, it doesn’t sound magical, but honestly, it was.
We scampered about outside in the snow, playing ridiculous games (Him: I dare you to run a lap outside, around the house, totally naked. Me: Deal! ). Forget the fact that it was ridiculously cold, which it was. It was also beautiful: crisp, virgin snow that makes that eerie squeaky sound underfoot, the way that the acoustics change when everything is covered in snow, how the light is totally different. And it makes you play. PLAY! As adults we rarely play, unless it’s with a child. When’s the last time you played?
So when it snows so much overnight that you’re snowed in, what can you do?
A) curse and swear and tear a tendon trying to dig your way out? Or,
B) accept that you’re there for a while longer and enjoy it?
It’s at this point that a log fire, a bottle of Baileys and a good book seem heaven-sent. We all rush around so much in life, but how often do we just stop, and appreciate?
Food and drink
One of the fabulous things about winter is the type of food and drink that it invites you to enjoy. I love a good salad, but there’s no way I’m eating that in winter. Nope, give me stews, dumplings, fondue, soup…. the list goes on. There are so many heart-warming recipes to try in the winter, food that soothes the soul AND gives you some internal central-heating (see some delicious recipes here)
The same goes for drink. And it doesn’t have to be alcoholic. How can you not be enticed by a frothy hot chocolate, made with real chocolate and cream, or a green tea and honey? All the same, I’m unlikely to turn down a good malbec….
Make it colourful
Brighten up your days by swapping out your bedding and curtains for something more upbeat and colourful. Jump up out of the bed every day to a cheery, energy-inspiring colour.
Why not do the same with your clothes. Just because you’re almost living the life of a vampire, in perpetual darkness in mid-winter, doesn’t mean you have to dress like one.
Music and entertainment
Plan a night out to go and see some live music, or a comedy act. Laughing is a tonic for the soul.
Here in the UK we are getting better at ‘being social’ outside. We always used to rush madly back to our homes after work, escaping from the typically inclement British weather. It makes us a very ‘closed’ culture though. Go anywhere in the world where it’s warm and you’ll find relaxed, open, chatty people who are far more sociable than we Brits usually are.
Why not host a dinner party for friends, or a games night? Don’t let the cold, dark nights turn you into a hermit!