15 Ways to Survive a New England Winter Without Losing Your Mind

It’s January in New England.  Are you tired of the cold yet?

  My living room looked just like this

My living room looked just like this

A few winters ago, I went on a routine trip to Home Depot to pick up household things and ended up impulse purchasing a five foot potted palm tree.  This should give you a good idea of how desperate I was for summer by that point.  I metaphorically held onto that palm tree for dear life until well into May, when I finally started to feel like I’d come alive again.

Winter will do funny things to you this far north.  Leaving home before the sun rises and returning after it’s set is not only dreary, it can have significant effects on our mental and physical health.  Our brains need sunlight in order to regulate our body clocks and make the vitamin D that helps keep our moods stable.  Without sunlight, we slow down and our moods can plunge.

  It's beautiful.  Now I want it to go away, please.

It's beautiful.  Now I want it to go away, please.

On the one hand, we can embrace this and go into “hibernation mode,” focusing on cozy indoor activities and welcoming a quieter life for the season. This is where I am right now - savoring hot chocolate, fuzzy sweaters, and evenings with a good book.  

On the other hand, we’re just getting started - come February I’ll have a very different mindset!  Cabin fever is real, and it may come knocking at your door before we get to spring.  Before you start bringing home house plants the size of a small human, though, there are some other things you can try.

Below, you’ll find a list of some of my favorite ways to hang on for dear life when winter feels like it will never end:

  1. Get a potted plant and nurture it through the winter months
  2. Buy fresh flowers to keep in your home or office
  3. Visit a nursery or flower shop and breathe in the fresh, springy air
  4. Take a yoga class
  5. Join a cheap gym for the winter and go for a walk or run
  6. Dig out your bathing suit and head for your local indoor pool
  7. Hit the sauna (but check with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you)
  8. Pick up a new hobby
  9. Find an interesting class or meet up to attend
  10. Get a massage
  11. Get a pedicure - your hidden, perfect toes will be your little secret
  12. Use a full spectrum light in the mornings (check with your doctor or psychiatrist first, as these can induce manic episodes in people who are prone to them)
  13. Go outside at lunch, even just for 5 minutes and even if you have to bundle up like you’re heading for the Arctic.  Soak up the sun on the 8 square inches of your body that are exposed
  14. Put little paper umbrellas in all your drinks (+1 for anything tropical or fruity)
  15. If all else fails, buy a palm tree for your living room

Here’s the good news - we’ve passed the Winter Solstice, so the days are getting longer.  April isn’t that far away, so buckle up and pick a few things from the list to try.  You can do it!

  Someday...

Someday...