A few years ago, I moved from the sunny beaches of Southern California to the cool forests of the Pacific Northwest. I know most of you will think that’s crazy, but I’ve found I do better in cooler environments.. Plus I loooove all the plants, water and greenery here. It feeds something in my soul. (Side note – I recently had a Mayan nawales astrological reading and was told I do best in cold forests and by lakes, which confirmed this was a good move for me!)
One of the challenges I knew I would have to face is the long, overcast winter here. It doesn’t get too cold, but we do have many, many months of short days and overcast skies with no sunlight in sight. A friend of mine here recommended this book on the Danish idea of Hyyge and it started me thinking about how to cultivate happiness in winter.
I think that most of us have a wide variety of things to do when the weather is sunny and warm that we associate with happiness. Hiking, swimming, picnicking with friends, going to the park with our dog and more. But what about in winter? Do you have a host of go-to activities that bring you happiness in the winter?
I made it my goal to create such a list of winter joy activities that are easy and cheap. I now make sure that I do at least two of these things each day so that I can avoid the doldrums of winter.
Here’s my list:
- Hot chocolate: Make your own, don’t use the powdered mix, because it’s exactly one-million percent better. I use 2 Tbs Trader Joe’s unsweetened cocoa powder, and mix with 1.5 Tbs sugar and about ¼ cup of any type of milk. Microwave for 30 seconds (just long enough for the milk to get hot) and then stir the sugar and cocoa into the milk. Fill the cup up to the top with milk, add a square or two of dark chocolate, and microwave again for 1-2 minutes, or until it gets to the temperature you like.
- Candles: You can never have enough candles in the winter. I like scented ones that make my whole living room smell of winter goodness like cinnamon, clove, balsam, and fir. I take a trip to Home Goods at the end of Autumn and stock up on enough yummy smelling candles to get me through the winter.
- Fairy or x-mas lights: Oh, the joy that a string of little white lights brings me. I put fairy lights in glass jars, string them up around my windows, and wind them up and around my plant stand. There’s something about those small, white lights that just feels joyful.
- Use your fireplace: If you have a fireplace, use it often! I’ve started lighting fires during the day while I’m doing my healing sessions and it’s so, so cozy. There’s something primal and comforting about the heat, sounds and sights of a fire.
- Mull something: Mulling spices can be added to wine, spirits or apple cider to make a delicious warm winter drink, but sometimes I just put some in water and simmer for a few hours. It makes my whole place smell amazing.
- Blankets, Blankets, Blankets: I have cozy, soft blankets on every chair, couch, and bed in my house. This one from Barefoot Dreams is my favorite but really anything soft and comforting will do. Also, pillows, pillows, pillows – same idea, make it comfy and cozy! Bonus if you have a dog or cat that will cuddle with you under the blanket.
- Intentionally scheduling connection time with friends and family: Research has shown that connecting with others is vitally important for our mental and physical health, but it’s easier in the warmer months to have moments of connection and conversation seamlessly when we’re out and about going about our day. In winter, when we spend more time inside, we need to be intentional about making sure we have those moments of connection and conversation throughout the week. I make sure to be a bit extra when it comes to scheduling phone conversations with friends and making dinner or coffee date plans with friends. I make more of an effort to chat with people in line at the market or at the dog park. Putting effort into connecting with others pays off, as even a small moment of delightful chit chat can make my day.
- Baking and cooking: Yes, I am starting and ending this list with food. I love to bake and cook, but don’t do so as much in the summer when it’s hot. In the winter, warming my house up with something in the oven or with a stew that’s simmering for hours seems like a much better idea. If you’re adventurous, make things from scratch. If not, buy a cake mix, some puff pastry dough, or a par-baked bread and throw it in the oven. (There’s nothing like warm buttered bread from the oven when it’s chilly out.)
I hope this helps spark some ideas for you to help get you through the winter months. And let me know what your winter joy activities are! I’m always looking to expand my list.