8 Ideas to Beat the Winter Blues and Boredom

Fri, Jan 08, 2016 @ 08:01 AM Jen McDonald Military Life

It’s that time of year… holiday decorations are stowed away in the basement, the school bus has resumed its daily rounds after the holiday break, and summer seems so far, far away. 

Most of us have settled back into our normal routines and our New Year’s resolutions that seemed like such a good idea a few weeks ago are already starting to lose their shine.

For many of us, the days vary between gray and rainy, gray and snowy, gray and cold, or some combination of all the above.

All of the above conspires to make me want to cocoon myself in a blanket and sit in front of the fireplace until the sun is out on a regular basis again…preferably consuming something loaded with gluten and cheese while watching a never-ending stream of Downton Abbey on Netflix. (I can’t be the only one!)

What to do?

While my family's had the opportunity to be stationed all around the world in loads of different climates, growing up in the desert southwest coupled with several tropical military assignments has landed me firmly in the warm weather camp. I like loads of sun, warm weather, beaches, mild breezes…wait, what was I talking about? Oh yes, winter.

But rather than gripe and moan about the daily forecast, how about some creative ways to beat the winter blahs? Obviously, a healthy diet and exercise can only benefit us during the long winter months, but I need some ideas beyond that to get through the next few months until spring appears. Perhaps these ideas will help you, too!

1. Go outside whenever you can.

What?! Isn’t the point of winter-hating to hide inside from the biting cold? Well, while stationed in Grand Forks, North Dakota (having moved there from Guam—oh, the cruel irony), I was convinced I’d need to hibernate through the first winter because I was not cut out for this weather, thank you very much. That didn’t last long, as cabin fever quickly set in.

I learned from the locals that gear is everything! Sporting waterproof boots with lug soles, a parka that was good for many degrees below zero (why is this even a thing), silk long johns, and a robber-like knit cap with mouth and eye cutouts, every day or two I’d waddle around the icy neighborhood like an overstuffed snowman in order to get a breath of fresh air and a little perspective.

2. Take up a new activity!

I know, I know, exercising is on every single “how to feel better and cope with life” list, but with good reason. Regular exercise not only improves your physical health, but it’s also a proven mood enhancer. Even if you happen to be stationed in a colder climate than you'd like, why not throw yourself into a new winter sport? Perhaps learn how to ski or snowboard or take some walks with camera in hand to capture winter scenes.

3. Throw a party or host an event.

With all the holiday parties and activities behind us, it can seem like there’s not much to look forward to right now. Why not organize a get-together or party? And it doesn’t have to be a big ‘do’: meet with a new neighbor for coffee, help out a friend's home business by hosting a home show, or plan a couples’ or girls’ get-away.

A chef friend of mine offered cooking and wine pairing classes on Saturdays during one long winter, which gave our circle something special to look forward to at the end of each week.

4. Think like a tourist.

What are the local haunts and attractions you haven’t gotten around to yet? Winter is a great time to visit museums, eat your way through those local hole-in-the-wall restaurants you've heard about but haven't had time to try, or take in a concert. Look for events on your installation or city’s Facebook page or website for ideas.

5. Plan a reward.

Why not follow through on a New Year’s resolution and then reward yourself for your effort? Whether it’s a weekend trip, a spa day, or simply some much-needed catchup time with a good friend, building in a reward will give you something fun to anticipate.

6. Try something new.

Learn a new hobby or skill (knitting, anyone?), try some recipes on Pinterest, rearrange your furniture, or paint an accent wall. Change it up! One winter found me sporting several shades of hair color!

Changing other things when you can’t control the weather can be fun and distracting. Explore the numerous decorating ideas on MilitaryByOwner to inspire your own ideas or consider tackling some home organization you've been putting off. 

7. Volunteer.

Not only will helping others get you outside yourself a bit, it only benefits your community. Volunteering will also help you meet new people, give you experience to put on your résumé, and can serve to forge new connections.

8. Sleep.

Yes, this seems a bit contradictory to telling you to get out there or do something new, but if you need extra sleep, go for it. This is the perfect time for naps or some sleeping-in weekends. The sun will be out longer soon enough!

Rather than just passing time, why not make the most of these wintry months? I’d love to hear your creative ideas. And for the rest of you sun-seekers like me, hang in there. Summer will be here before you know it! 

Note: Seasonal Affective Disorder is a medical condition (a well-documented subtype of major depression), and a person suffering from this syndrome should seek help from a medical professional who can prescribe photo therapy, medications, or other therapy. If you feel that you need more help, don’t hesitate to seek it! Check out the free, confidential help available for military and their families at Military OneSource.

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