21 Ways to Kick the Winter Blues!

Balloons

By Aryn Henning Nichols • Originally published in the Winter 2013-14 Inspire(d)

It’s tough to stay positive in the winter – when it’s edging on four feet of snow outside, the thermometer hasn’t popped above zero in days, and the only fresh vegetable in your house is a month-old potato, the force of the couch is strong. If it’s a blanket that’s made to be worn, it’s okay, right?

Wrong! At least not in the long-term. As Dylan Thomas said: “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Use this winter to get happy, inspired, and ready for spring!

Try making some changes and goals that sound fun. It can really work, says Mary Jorgensen, of Decorah-based certified Rising Sun Life Coaching. Jorgenson believes making small adjustments in your day can make a big difference in your life, and we couldn’t be more on board! So we’ve put together a list of inspire(d) ideas to “kick winter doldrums in the shins.”

Jorgensen also added a great tip that we couldn’t resist sharing: “Smile, even for no particular reason; scientists know that smiling generates good hormones, uplifts your mood, and – an added bonus here – prompts other people to smile back, which gives you warm fuzzies to beat the cold.”

We love that.

Make time for YOU:

There really is no such thing as “no time”. There is definitely “little time”, though, so you have to schedule the things you enjoy most – literally put them on your calendar on a time/day that you set, and stick with it. Go to a movie, get a beer or coffee with friends, take a yoga or meditation class (read some tips on meditation here). If it were my schedule, I might get a massage, take a bath…maybe even pencil in a nap!

Move! (No, not south… your body!)

“Practice the best antidote there is: exercise, dance, move your body in ways that generate blues-busting chemicals for your body and mind,” Jorgensen says. We agree, and so do experts at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. An  article published by Mayo connects exercise and stress relief: “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re downright out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.”

Plus, there’s more!

  • Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day.
  • Exercise pumps up your endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters.
  • It’s meditation in motion. After a workout, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do.
  • It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression, and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
  • Do what you love.
  • Make a schedule and stick with it.
  • Set realistic, smart goals.
  • Find a workout buddy.

(Be sure to consult with a doctor before beginning a new exercise program.)

At Inspire(d) HQ, we are currently loving spinning, yoga, pilates…and dancing, of course. Always dancing. Oh – and who could forget sledding?!

Play in the snow

Just embrace it. It’s here.
Sledding, snow angels, snowball fights, snow forts, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, snowmen. I’m already excited!

Shower

Play music while you’re showering

This sounds so simple, but you’d be amazed at how a little music can change your whole outlook on the day. Pick a playlist that is upbeat and makes you nod your head. Now just keep nodding. This is you saying “yes” to your day, even if you didn’t know it!

De-clutter your space:

If you’re going to be inside all winter, you may as well like what you’re looking at! Walk around your house with a basket, filling it with things that don’t have a home. (You might need a pretty big basket. That’s okay.) When you’re done, look around and see if you’ve missed anything. Be relentless; surround yourself with only things you love! Next go through the basket and make piles: to donate, to recycle, to trash, and to keep. Get the first three piles out of your house as soon as possible, then come back to address the last pile. Find solutions for storing these items so they will be easy to find and put away in the future. Then look around at your tidy house and all the things (and people, of course) you love. It’s a happy thing, right?

Livingroom

Move furniture

While you’re in house mode, maybe it’s the perfect time to rearrange! A new living room layout can feel like a new house! Take it a step further and learn a thing or two about feng shui. We enjoyed “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston.

Read inspiring books.

While you’re checking on feng shui books, why not check out some other books that are inspiring/happy/funny? We asked our Facebook friends and readers what books were their favorites – what a great selection we got! Report back if you decide to read any of them! (facebook.com/iloveinspired)

An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton
Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus
The Abarat by Clive Barker
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Little Princes by Conor Grennan
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres
Chapters From My Autobiography by Mark Twain
When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris
The Art of Life: the Autobiography of Dan Eldon by Jennifer New
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl
The Geography of Bliss by by Eric Weiner
Following Atticus by Tom Ryan
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
A Path Appears by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Reminder: Check with your local bookstore to see if they have what you want to read in stock!

Books

Put Pen to Paper:

Getting and sending mail feels good, and so does letting ink tell your thoughts to a piece of paper. Try it this winter!

Line up a pen pal
Write one thank you note a week
Write down all your crazy ideas in a notebook for future inspiration
Write a letter to your kids to open years down the road (or write a letter to your parents to give to them when you graduate or get married or just because).

HappyList

Make Happy Lists

This is something I started doing in college when I felt a little down or (shhhh) homesick. I would take a piece of paper – it can be big or little – and absolutely cram it with things that made me happy. From coffee to best friends to nice sheets to scarves to fresh snow to chocolate. Usually by the end I was feeling…gasp…happy! I also tucked the lists away. It was fun to happen upon them randomly later – (almost) as good as finding a long-forgotten $20 in a winter coat!

Plan a trip

Sometimes the best thing about winter is leaving winter. If you can’t swing a ticket to warmer climes right now, start planning for a “someday” trip. Make a savings strategy and a folder filled with sunny images. Even if it takes a decade to collect the dough, the anticipation and Trip Advisor reviews will pull you through many a chilly night.

Beach

Look at the stars (they seem even brighter in winter) and learn some constellations:

Roxie has just started shouting MOON at night, and that, we think, is a great way to celebrate this dark, dark season. Look at the moon! Look at the stars! Get out there in that crisp air and breathe it in and just look up. While you’re at it, learn some constellations – it’s fun! Our favorites in the northern hemisphere winter sky are: Orion, Gemini (Benji’s sign), Taurus (Aryn’s sign), Pegasus, and Cassiopeia. Check out the cool astronomyonline.org site to learn more!

Remind yourself how lucky you are

Sometimes it’s annoying to hear “Hey, it’s not so bad,” but generally it’s true. So try to remember it. And believe it.

Make pancakes on a weekday

Pancakes

Drink Coffee/Hot Chocolate/Tea

Okay, that morning cup of coffee makes you feel happy and awake, but a cozy warm drink, sipped with a friend or by yourself on the couch – that’s all about taking care of you.

Bake!

I’m pretty sure winter exists almost purely for baked goods. Few things are cozier than a warm oven sending out delightful wafts of chocolate or apple or lemon or pumpkin or caramel or (you get it)… through your house.

muffins

Take a class (art/language/welding/cooking/knitting/coding)

Check out your area college’s offerings – you can often audit courses, or even simply sit in (talk to the professor first). Also see what your arts organizations, galleries, and museums are up to, or even the local yarn shop or your chamber of commerce. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to tackle a goal or learn something new!

Dance. For real: Dance!

Even if you’re terrible. (You’re not…)

Bring a little color into your house:

I love to have fresh flowers on my table – that shot of color brings a smile to my face every time. But you could also make paper flowers or even a paper heart garland for a wall.

Flowers

Make a new friend

Easier said than done, but boy is it nice to have friends. This new friend can be useful for planning trips, throwing dinner parties, coffee dates, as an exercise buddy or pen pal, or if you need help moving a couch! Pretty sweet dividends, right?

Speaking of Dinner Parties…

Small get-togethers make long winters zip by. Make it a potluck and it’s even easier!

(Check out our the Great Dinner Party infographic!)

Blanket Forts

No matter if it’s one blanket or ten, “all the experts” agree a fort is a good activity. Even better yet, put together a little picnic and dine al tento. (< Totally a word.)

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Aryn Henning Nichols loves the first snowfall, but hates the 54th (you know, that one in May). Finding creative ways to get happy has been a life-long goal, and a big part of why she started Inspire(d) Magazine with Benji over seven years ago.

Read the Winter 2017-18 Inspire(d) Online!

Here’s what’s happening in the Winter 2017-2018 Inspire(d):

Learn to be Koselig This Winter! Stay cozy tips • Norwegian Best Cake recipe • local author interviews • Driftless outdoor fun • Justin Trails • EARL mass transit • & more!

Read the whole thing online here!

A note from Aryn:

My goal with this Inspire(d) is that you feel like you’re sitting down for a cup of coffee with a good friend.

There’s fun conversation, tasty food, and warm fuzzy feelings. In other words, it’s totally koselig.

We said that phrase a lot over the last month here at Inspire(d) HQ. “Oh, there’s a fire in the wood stove! Koselig!” “Smell that cake baking? It’s so koselig!” “Yes, you should light another candle. It will make it even more koselig!”

Koselig (“koos-uh-lee”) is a Norwegian word that loosely translates to cozy. It’s a bit more than that, though, and Sara Friedl Putnam explains it for us, with help from the folks at Vesterheim Museum (they’ve got a koselig exhibit this winter!). Basically, cultivating a koselig lifestyle means seizing any moment that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling – even if you’re heading outside! The koselig fun begins on page 14, and it for sure doesn’t end there. We’ve got an infographic (pg. 23) filled with ideas for getting koselig, so you THRIVE this winter (instead of just survive). We also test drove a recipe for what Norwegian’s call the World’s Best Cake (verden’s beste kake). It was fun to bake…and eat (pg. 26)!

Speaking of cake, make sure to put CAKE BREAK at Vesterheim on your calendar: 3:30 every Wednesday from December-mid April. Yep.

Oh, and again, speaking of cake (yes!), the recipe for that chocolate cake on the cover can be found right here. It’s our go-to birthday cake.

All right. Moving on from cake (fine). Next up: Books! More specifically, local books. We caught up with three folks entrenched in that scene for some fun Q&As: Wisconsin author Kathleen Ernst; Decorah’s own Keith Lesmeister; and Steve Semken, founder of Iowa-based Ice Cube Press. The interviews start on page 32 – check them out, then consider checking out their books for great winter reading.

Next, grab a glue stick because it’s time to make a smiling sun bookmark (pg. 47) to brighten these dark winter days (tutorial here!).

As mentioned, koselig doesn’t mean you just stay inside…you’ve got to get out for fresh air, exercise, and fun, too! Remember: There’s no bad weather, just bad gear! We put together a list of outdoor activities to get you motivated and out the door (pg. 48).

Our Sum of Your Business follows that thought. Justin Trails Resort near Sparta, Wisconsin, loves winter fun. They’ve got snowshoeing, cross country skiing, a sweet snow tube hill, and even rentals for skijoring! Donna Justin took time out of her busy schedule to share some of what she’s learned in the three decades she and her husband have run Justin Trails Resort (pg. 51).

Are bad roads/ your iced up car windows / snowed in driveway keeping you from getting out? Well, you’re in luck! Kristine Jepsen learns – and teaches us – how to ride EARL Public Transit here in Northeast Iowa. Spoiler alert: It’s super easy, and they take you right where you want to go (pg. 56).

We also chatted with recycling guru Terry Buenzow over at Winneshiek County Recycling to get the 411 on what’s recyclable, what’s not, and what we should do with those broken twinkly lights and holiday extras (pg. 64).

And finally, we’ve got yet another great probituary interview – Barb Welgos – to wrap things up (promise that’s not a holiday pun).

Read the whole thing online here!

Keep it koselig this winter, friends. It’s time to thrive! Here’s to an amazing 2018. Let’s do this.

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Make It: Sun Bookmark!

Brighten up those winter nights of reading with a little sunshine tucked into your book. Make a sun bookmark today!

What you need:

Sun bookmark template (download here)

Glue stick or other glue

Scissors

1. Print out the template (download here)

2. Cut out the yellow part

3. Cut out the sun ray section (see where the template says “cut”)

4. Fold the sun face over backwards and make a defined crease

5. Glue under the sun face and fold into place

6. Now your yellow shape should look like this!

7. Fold the right “ear” forward toward you

8. Make a defined crease

9. Glue the white part that you just folded over

10. Fold the sun part over the freshly glued section to form a square

11. Just one part left!

12. Glue the top portion of the sun rays (leaving just the jagged rays unglued)

13. Tuck the rays up into the bookmark and press down to glue it to the backside of the sun face

14. Save your place in your current book with your brand new sun bookmark! Happy reading!