While we are most of the way through winter by the calendar, winter in the upper Midwest extends pretty much through the month of April. The calendar says that we have one month until the vernal equinox (March 19th!), but realistically, we’ve got about nine more weeks of wintry weather until the snow will be gone in Wisconsin. This is a time of the year that I start to get really stir crazy and mopey and I need some serious motivation to stay positive about the weather.
While I love Wisconsin’s mild summers, I really have not gotten used to the long winters. I grew up in the NYC metro area and spent many years in New Jersey. It’s not that much further South than Wisconsin, but I swear that by late March/early April the snow was usually all gone. My birthday is March 20th and I had never experienced snow after my birthday until I moved here. Anyway, I digress!
Here are some free / low cost ways I’m trying to power through a time of the year that can be very isolating and uncomfortable.
1. Embracing being warm and cozy inside the home. This is a no-brainer, but I’ve stocked up on teas, hot cocoa and have been making a ton of different soups and stews. Warm foods help me forget how chilly it is outside. I’ve really been embracing spending time under blankets reading (see all my blog posts on books here), planning, organizing and have some house projects I need to get around to while I’m still being a homebody. Namely, I need to organize our pantry and actually frame and hang all of our photos on the walls.
2. Getting outside for walks *whenever it’s above 20 degrees. I have to add that temperature disclaimer because I honestly just don’t enjoy being outside when it’s TOO far below freezing. We get some bitterly cold days deep in winter in the upper Midwest, so I need to take advantage of the days that aren’t frigid to get fresh air. We recently moved to a new neighborhood with a lovely park that features trails about ten minutes away from our house. I’ve walked the trails a handful of times this winter and really enjoy the peace, quiet and solitude of the park in winter. I have not yet taken my snowshoes out for a spin, but hope to soon as we actually have a decent amount of snowfall on the ground. Snowshoeing is one of my favorite activities I’ve tried since moving to the Midwest and it’s not only a great workout, it’s a fun way to embrace unpleasant weather.
3. Finding new indoor workouts to keep exercise interesting. I’m absolutely awful about sticking with exercising when I get bored. It’s almost like I’m looking for an excuse to not exercise (that’s exactly what it is). This is again, a no-brainer, but by trying new exercises I’m finding that I’m enjoying them more and am less apt to ditch a scheduled workout. I’ve been trying workouts I find on YouTube (like cardio and dance) and just discovered a free app called FitOn that features videos for workouts from weights to HIIT to dance and barre. I’ve also recruited a friend to try a new workout class with once each month. It’s a great way to see each other AND I’m not likely to bail if a friend is counting on me (accountability!). These new workouts keep me interested and keep working out indoors engaging during winter. I am still so excited for spring and summer to roll back around so I can get back to some of my favorites: hiking, walking and bicycling.
4. Spend downtime planning things you want to do in the warmer months. I read an article once that claimed that you actually glean just as much happiness from planning a trip as you do from going on one. I 100% believe that! I love making lists, researching things, making Pinterest boards and spreadsheets and pouring myself into the details of things I’d like to do/try/places I’d like to go. We don’t travel as much in winter because my husband works a lot during the first few months of the year, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t plan for the rest of the year. We’re planning a trip to Colorado in May, to adopt a dog in June (!) and an anniversary weekend celebrating in Wisconsin hosting our friends and family in July. I’ve been leaning into all three and have been planning hikes, making lists of things we need for a dog, and finalizing catering choices for our anniversary bash. I know once it’s warm outside the last thing I’m going to want to do is sit on my laptop, so I’m making plans now that I’ll enjoy later. We have some house projects we want to get done this year, too, including putting on new siding and starting a composting system.
5. Flex your creative muscle and learn a new skill. One thing I said I was going to do in 2019 (that I didn’t do) was learn how to play the ukelele. Well, I really need to get on that and sign up for a class or something because it has *STILL* not emerged from the case since I bought it. Oops. One thing I am trying to learn that is new to me is perfecting baking bread and making and maintaining a sourdough starter. I’ve been experimenting with bread baking techniques in our amazing new oven and my lovely ceramic coated Dutch oven (you need one, read this post to see why), but I’ve never attempted sourdough bread before. I’m perfectly content to labor next to a hot oven in February, whereas there’s no way I want to do that in June. I’m spending my energy not only on baking, but on trying some more labor intensive recipes that I wouldn’t want to do in the summer, when I lean toward a lot of grilling and fresh vegetable dishes that require minimal kitchen prep. Not into baking? You could learn a new instrument, tackle reading a series of books, learn a new craft or download a language app and try learning some phrases in a new language.