I was wearing a swimming suit with a t-shirt over it, and sandals still covered in fine sand. It was almost Halloween, 2019. I was in line at a grocery store in Oahu, Hawaii and absolutely ecstatic to be escaping Idaho in October. In front of me a college-age girl was buying a can of pumpkin and a box of spice cake mix.
I knew those ingredients.
“Are you making pumpkin cookies?” I asked, slowly remembering it wasn’t July.
“Yes!” she replied excitedly. We had a conversation about how it doesn’t feel like fall in Hawaii–ever. Living in Hawaii’s perpetual summer, she said she missed seasons. I realized, in just my few days in Hawaii, I had totally forgotten it was fall time, without the earth telling me so around me. Maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed those 78 degree days as much if that was all I knew, and if I didn’t know I was heading back to a long, cold winter. Opposition is beautiful, I thought.
There is Beauty in Every Season
And then I was back in my small house with a small child, thinking it was too cold to go outside, and we missed our outdoor life of summer, with the parks, walks, swimming and vacations.
Winter doesn’t have to be our favorite in order for us to enjoy it. I’ll always love summer most, but I don’t want to be bitter and depressed the rest of the year, so I am learning to appreciate every season.
Winter was hard before the pandemic hit, so staying even more isolated, with fewer social gatherings and more time at home is going to be downright challenging for me. A mom can only read books to her kids for so many hours, and sweep up a sticky floor so many times before it feels futile, and she wants to just escape the mess, the crying, the canned-sardine feel. But in winter, it can feel like there is no where to go.
Here are some helpful tips that I have learned in my first two years in the Idaho tundra, that I wish I had learned earlier!
A word on Intuition
Sometimes it seems that we instantly go looking for advice before we stop and ask ourselves for answers within. If you’re struggling to enjoy winter, I hope my findings can help, but your own intution will probably help most of all! Maybe make a list of things you think can help your particular situation. Intuition trumps internet articles, even mine. 😉
Throwing Money at the Problem Helps
- Buy flannel sheets (we have these ones)You’ll thank me every night you don’t have to slip between icy sheets! SO cozy.
- Get thermal base layers. Wearing thermal pants under your jeans is a game-changer! I got the 32 Degree brand at Costco (2-pack for $12 I think). You can find the same ones here on Amazon. They might just become your new pajama pants.
- Buy more hard-core clothes than you initially think you need. Depending on where you live, you might need to up your winter gear game even more to not be miserable. I’ve heard great things about these long-cuff mittens for kids that actually stay on. Darn Tough socks are apparently the best and last forever, with a lifetime guarantee! A cute ear band and smart phone gloves make my daily walks and runs possible.There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.
4. Organization tip: Keep a box near your door to hold all the hats, gloves, and even socks so can put them away as soon as you come inside, and you don’t have to go hunting them down next time you go out. A box in the back of the car with spare coats for kids has saved us when one makes it into the car without a coat.
Changing our Attitude Helps Even More
- Friluftsliv is a Norwegian word that illustrates the committment of celebrating time outdoors. And it doesn’t have to be ice skating or skiing—it can be a daily walk outside, a picnic in the backyard, a hike through the woods, a bike commute. I have a friend who made the goal to walk outside every day this winter as long as there’s not a blizzard. Such a great committment! This Blue Zones article explains the benefits of the wonderful attitude of friluftsliv. How can you make sure to celebrate time outdoors this winter?
- Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is a Scandinavian word meaning “the art of coziness and making a special atmosphere with loved ones,” from what I understand. It’s gratitude, indulgence, coziness, ambiance all in one. The Instagram interpretation of it is is candelight dinners, wooly socks, white Christmas lights strung everywhere, warm drinks, friends and family gathered around a fireplace, reading books under fluffy knitted blankets, etc. I have started lighting a candle in the evening in our bedroom instead of using the lights, and it definitely brings coziness–especially coupled with those flannel sheets.A good start to hygge is making this date-sweetened ginger hot chocolate….have you tried it yet?
3. Anticipation of something fun. Make a winter bucket list! I love seasonal bucket lists because they give purpose and guidance of our free time, but there is no pressure to do it like a goal. For example, we have “romantic sleigh ride” at the top of ours, and that’s not super likely to happen. It’s just an idea and if we do it or don’t do it, great! You can include service ideas, day trips, at-home activites and projects, Christmas traditions. Just seeing the winter-specific activities on your fridge will make you appreciate this season. If you have little kids, a list of things to do in general is helpful. When your outdoor adventure lasts 10 minutes, and there is still 2 hours until nap time, look to your list and remember “oh yeah, we could do bubbles.”
Here is a jam-packed Winter Bucketlist I created, to help you get started!
Put winter-specific things on your winter bucket list, like cross-country skiing! You wouldn’t believe how much effort it took for us to get a baby sitter, rent skis, etc. but it’s a memory I cherish.
And remember, you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it.
4. Affirmations. They work! They re-wire our brain. The Think Up app is a really beautiful, convenient way to do affirmations. Here are some ideas of winter affirmations you can say:
- Winter is magical.
- There is beauty in every season and in everything, even me.
- I don’t believe in bad weather, just different kinds of weather.
- No matter what the weather is outside, I have sunlight in my heart.
- The cold of winter gives the warmth of summer sweetness.
- Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.
- The world is resting. I can rest, too, and enjoy it.
- I am warm. I am a light to everyone around me, warming them up.
- I can create my own environment no matter my surroundings or the temperature. I choose an environment of acceptance, happiness, and gratitude.
- A list of things you do like about winter can also be an affirmation. “I love winter. I love the silence outside and smell of cold air. I love that oranges are on sale and I get to wear sweaters. etc.
5. Mindfulness. Is there anything mindfulness can’t improve? Don’t think so! When you’re cold, think about how exactly it feels. Notice the cold and wind on your cheeks. Notice the numbness of your toes. Feel it and acknowledge it. As you warm up, notice the sensation. Cherish the mortal experience of winter and the gift of having a body that can feel temperature. Also, pray and tell God how you feel. Ask him to help you love this season and thrive.
The Right Food and Drinks add Charm
- My top tip lately is to use hot water in morning smoothies. If you use frozen fruit, you probably dread drinking a tall, cold smoothie on a cold morning. I boil extra water for oatmeal, then pour half of it into my blender full of frozen fruit and greens. Makes it room temp and doesn’t keep me cold all morning!
- Herbal tea makes a calorie-free cozy beverage that will warm you up! I love this Sweet and Spicy tea which needs no added sweetener. I’ve also heard Evening in Missoula tea is amazing. We’re also into hibiscus tea right now (so beautiful and tons of health benefits). We get dried hibiscus leaves from the bulk bins at Winco. What are your favorite herbal teas?
- Make lots of soup! The charm of homemade soup simmering on the stove is one of the best parts of winter. You can pack tons of vegetables, spices and legumes in, they make great leftovers, and they can be frozen easily for quick meals later.
- Check out my category of cozy winter recipes here. So many yummy, comforting things to nourish ourselves with this season! I’m all about pumpkin spice “lattes” lately.
As an Arizona native who never had much trouble in winter, to a stay-at-home-mom feeling trapped and painfully cold during her first Idaho winter, to now happily embracing her third Idaho winter, I promise you can change! You can go from feeling dread as winter sets in, to feeling grateful for another winter and all the experiences it brings. You can go from feeling bitter to blessed. Your body will change from feeling pain at 50 degrees to handling frigid temps like a champ. The nice thing about being human is, we can change! Our bodies and minds are amazing.
A happy, healthy winter doesn’t just find you. You make it. Enjoy creating a beautiful season!
P.S. Here is that Winter Bucketlist. I recommend using it for ideas, and making your own personalized list!