In many regions of the United States, winter can be long, dark, and cold. It's tempting to ensconce ourselves in our homes, preferably under a pile of blankets with no plans to leave until spring. But just because the days are short and the air is cold doesn’t mean we have to be confined to our homes all day. Getting out and enjoying all the season has to offer—yes, even the cold, wind, and snow!—can stave off cabin fever all winter long.
Bundle up and go for a walk
The best way to avoid cabin fever—even when the temperatures are dropping below zero and snow is on the ground—is to get outside and move. With the exception of occasional days in the northern states when it’s actually dangerous to go outside due to extremely low temps, the cold doesn’t need to stop us from getting some fresh air.
As the Swedes say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing,” and there is some truth to that. Find warm clothes—hat, gloves, coat, boots are necessities when it’s frigid—and bundle up. (If it’s icy, make sure your shoes have good traction. Or, you can invest in Yaktrax, essentially ice cleats you can easily attach to any pair of shoes—a necessity if you’re running!) The initial bite of the cold is intimidating, but once you get moving, you’ll be amazed by how warm you feel. If you’re really hesitant to brave the cold, pick a sunny day with clear skies. The fresh (albeit cold) air feels so good after days, weeks, or months of breathing the artificial stuff!
Change your indoor environment often
Maybe even weekly, buy different flowers, use different vases, change the throw pillows or paintings hanging on the wall, or burn different-scented candles. Even if you do spend most of your time inside, you’ll feel like the environment is changing often, which will help keep cabin fever at bay. Embrace the Scandinavian concept of hygge, which refers to cozy, happy living (particularly in the winter!) Sprinkle your space with candles, leave homemade muffins on the kitchen counter in a pretty dessert stand (a la Joanna Gaines), and warm up your space with living plants. Keep the books and frames you have on display on a steady rotation, or buy a favorite magazine every week, and lay it out on your coffee table. Little luxuries such as these don’t cost a lot and provide big bang for your buck in simple joys.
Or, if you need a complete change of environment, brave the roads and head to a coffee shop or your local library. Some libraries have beautiful views of a city or nature and fireplaces you can cozy up next to—especially exciting if you don’t have a fireplace (or a working one!) at home.
Capitalize on winter activities
There are some activities you can only do in the winter cold. Take advantage of these seasonal opportunities, whether for a date night, a fun outing with your kids, or a solo adventure! Many mid-sized to big cities have some type of outdoor ice skating rink open throughout the winter—some in the middle of the city, others at parks, frozen lakes, or clubs. Even if your area doesn’t have an outdoor rink, check out an indoor ice rink. It never feels more appropriate than in winter to bundle up in your cutest hat and scarf and go for a skate, even if it’s indoors. You can also try out other winter activities like snowshoeing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, or cross-country skiing, depending on where you live. Even if you don’t live in the middle of the mountains or nature, don’t count skiing out too soon—some cities and towns offer snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on local golf courses.
Or, have a good old-fashioned snowball fight! Whether with your kids, your spouse, your best friends, or your family, find an open space (your yard or a park will do), build some snow forts, and make some snow balls. This childlike fun will be sure to lift your dreary spirits.
Start a wine, coffee, or book club
Grab a few of your gal pals and start a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly club. You each can invite siblings, neighbors, or other friends and quickly grow the size of your gathering by all inviting friends from your own circles. Simply rotate who hosts the event every time (others can contribute hors d’oeuvres and desserts). Get creative and pick a theme that centers around your interests: a wine club as an excuse to drink wine together (and try a new bottle every time you gather). A coffee club (even if you opt to drink decaf) is especially fitting for the winter. As coffee is a shared love among many, you’d likely have no trouble finding a group of gals who want to try a different blend of coffee every month!
Joining a book club (as a previously self-proclaimed “non reader”) is one of the best things I did upon moving to a new city; I love the excuse to gather with girlfriends (and meet new ones!) at all times of the year for great discussion. If you don’t have time for reading, do a podcast club—all you have to do is listen to one episode of a podcast (30–60 minutes on average) before each meeting.
You don’t have to talk too much about the wine/coffee/book/podcast—this is largely an excuse to get out of the house and get social. You and your club get to make the rules, but whatever you decide, you’ll find that attending each meeting is one of your favorite reasons to brave the winter cold!
Visit a conservatory or garden
In addition to the cold, one of the hardest parts of winter is looking outside and seeing the same dreary hues of grays and browns on the ground and in the sky. We long for the lifelike colors of green and bright colors that come with the other seasons of the year. One way to find this in the midst of the bleak winter is to visit a local conservatory or gardens that have greenhouses. Seeing plants flourishing in the middle of winter, feasting your eyes on vibrant colors that are missing outside, and walking amidst living plants without a coat on will surely boost your spirit. While there are some museum-like gardens you need to pay for, many conservatories are free to the public! (Two beautiful ones in some of the coldest cities include the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago and the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota.)
If you’re living in a place with a dreary winter for the foreseeable future, embrace it. We can hibernate through the season, or we can find ways to get out and enjoy all that winter has to offer.