by Rochelle Riservato
Keeping a happy outlook during a long, cold winter can include sitting by the fire, snuggling up with a loved one, getting outdoors, or having a warm drink. There are so many ways that being warm and cozy elevates the spirit during winter. Of course, if you're a member of the Polar Bear Club, you can skip the idea of layering clothing, but we’ve supplied you with many more ideas to keep you happy and energized—from reading a book by a crackling fire with hot cocoa in hand to discovering a new hobby or even vacationing at home!
1. Stay Warm
When outside, make sure your clothing is layered for best insulation. Wear woolen long johns and thermal tops under flannel-lined pants—topped off with a sweater displaying a great pop of color against the white winter snow.
2. Learn a New Hobby
One way to be happy is to conquer a new achievement. Why not knit or crochet the winter blahs away by learning how to do either or both? You can kill two birds with one needle—by making hats, scarves, or socks for yourself or by crafting some thrifty homemade holiday gifts. Look in the classifieds of our local paper, or check out a local craft store that may have pros that give lessons. You could also google some "how-to" tutorials on the Web if you're a quick learner. And although the old myth about losing up to 80 percent of your body heat through your head has been debunked—it IS true that one loses body heat through every body part not warmly covered—so think about adding some homemade legwarmers and mittens to your winter fashions. These will certainly help to elevate your mood and body temp!
3. Get Some Fresh Air Exercise
Getting outdoors for winter sports is an exhilarating way to raise the spirits. The Hudson Valley is bursting with venues for downhill and cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding, and tobogganing. Why not make it a goal to visit the Mohonk Preserve for some fun winter activities!
4. Play Indoor Sports
Think about getting the family involved in indoor rock climbing, racquetball, bowling, and many other sporting ideas. There’s nothing better to warm the heart, soul, and body than some physical exercise. Of course, if you want some solitary time, there are many places to take yoga classes—or even kickboxing, zumba, or tae kwon do—to invigorate the mind and body.
5. Plan your Spring Garden
Browse through seed catalogs or contact local seed farms—or look up how to grow winter lettuce. You could even start some herb plants indoors under those same full-spectrum lights we mentioned that you should use to keep happy. The plants will be happy also! There is nothing quite as mood-lifting as thinking forward and having something to aspire to.
6. Get Plenty of Light
Winter arrives with short days and the lowest light of the year. And no one wants to be sad or "S.A.D." [Seasonal Affective Disorder] during this season. It’s a medical fact that the lack of light can affect one’s mood in a physiological way. So, if you’re not the outdoor type of person and, like a bear, cherish cold-weather hibernation, consider making sure you have plenty of natural light coming into your home so you can absorb that wonderful vitamin D. Or you can choose to put some all-spectrum bulbs, which simulate natural sunlight, into a few lamps in your home. Whatever you choose, if you’re a winter couch potato, make sure you bake yourself in a form of light to avoid being S.A.D.
7. Eat Properly
Folks tend to eat more in winter due to the holidays and the sheer fact that the body craves more energy. Whatever the reason, it’s important to cut back on sugars and starches and eat a balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, even if frozen or canned. It’s natural to crave carbs during cold months, but avoid them in processed foods. Eat foods containing vitamin B to ward off the blues. Also, increase food rich in tryptophan, as this amino acid manufactures serotonin, which transmits a "feeling good" message. Bananas, poultry, and peas are good sources of tryptophan.
8. Plan a "Stay-cation"
Think out-of-the-box and plan a weekend get away . . . even if you’re still in your home. Have a finished basement or playroom? Set it up as a campground with tents for the kids. Light a fire in the fireplace and roast marshmallows or make s’mores. If your BBQ is still on the deck or porch, fire it up, and cook some warm weather foods. Take out the board games, checkers, and chess for a family game night. Charades is always fun too! You can even invite the neighbors, both children and parents, to join in this at-home winter vacation.
9. Indulge in a Spa Treatment
There’s nothing more mood raising than a day at the spa. Body, foot and aromatherapy massages, facials, body masks, manicures, and so much more are available at many of our Hudson Valley resorts and spas. However, if the roads are a mess, why not a do-it-yourself at-home treatment? Light scented candles in the bathroom, and fill the tub with hot, bubbly water sprinkled with bath salts. Get your bath pillow ready to lay back and soak it all in. Put on a facial mask and a hair mask. You can also mix olive oil and kosher salt beforehand and use this as an overall body skin sloughing to be rinsed under an invigorating shower. The glow of candles infused with aromatherapeutic properties, coupled with soothing bath salts or oils, will have your mood rocketing to a happy place—even if that place is your own bathroom. And don’t forget an "after-bath" application of a soothing body lotion for a final spiritual lift.
10. Wear Brightly Colored Clothing
You think pink with orange or yellow with turquoise is only for summer? Not so. Be a winter fashionista and take out those lime green and neon yellow t-shirts, and pair them up with a sweater over leggings or jeans. Top it off with an infinity scarf in a contrasting color . . . voilà! Happy, happy—joy, joy as these bright hues will have a big impact on your mood. Who says you have to put away bright colors and white after Labor Day? Anything goes on today’s runways…so why not on you!