While the new year — and new decade — can bring a rush of optimism, a lot of us feel a huge crash in the middle of January. After several months of parties, celebrations, and spending time with family and friends, it feels like all there is to look forward to is slush and the drudgery of real life.
Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. Many of us have the “feeling like there’s nothing to look forward to at the moment when the weather is bad and gloomy,” says clinical social worker Elise Hall. “People feel less motivated to go out and do things that maybe they had planned to do or don’t really have to do. So certainly from even like a behavioral standpoint, people tend to do less when the weather is bad and that can lead to some depressed feelings or sad feelings.”
With your wreaths, twinkly lights, and candles tucked away until the next holiday season, what’s a whimsy lover supposed to do to keep themselves from sinking into the blues during winter? We can’t promise you won’t be down some days, but these strategies – planning a trip, tackling a new hobby, embracing coziness, and finding all the fireplaces in town – can really help.
Get outside when you can
Embrace the idea that every day over 40 degrees (or lower if you can bear it) is a gift and get outside for cold weather activities. “Just to get outside and do something or just to try something new,” said Hall. “Anything that sort of gets you going or doing something is always helpful with depression or sadness.” Try taking a walk at Blue Hills Reservation (www.mass.gov/locations/blue-hills-reservation), there are plenty of clear paths on days the snow has melted away, or grab your skates and head out to Boston Common Frog Pond, Community Ice Skating at Kendall Square, Kirrane Rink at Larz Anderson Park, or the Boston Seaport Skating Rink.
Embrace cozy season
If there’s one thing New England does well, it’s getting cozy. Invite a few friends over for a hot chocolate night, get the fire going, put your phones down, and spend time catching up. Don’t have a fireplace or room for a get-together? Publico in South Boston (publicoboston.com/) is transforming its heated courtyard into a “lodge” from Dec. 31 to March 31, with oversize flannel blankets and pillows, an artificial snow machine, and a roaring fire. Mare Oyster Bar (mareoysterbar.com/) in the North End also has a year-round patio with firepits and cozy throws, and Harvest (www.harvestcambridge.com) in Cambridge is serving fireside cocktails on its covered patio, including Bully Boy Eggnog.
Plan a trip
Take some time off for yourself. Whether you’re going for some fun in the sun on an island, or a cozy ski getaway, just planning something different can give you a major boost, according to a 2010 psychological study about the connection between anticipation and happiness that was published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2837207/). Hall agrees, saying it’s helpful when you “give someone something to look forward to and feel excited about.”
Learn something new
Taking a class or learning something new in a group will not only stimulate you socially in the winter, but picking up a new hobby can also lead to a brighter mood. What better time than the beginning of the year to start a book club, take up painting, or learn to ski? Meeting people outside of your normal social circles and developing new friendships helps you “stay connected overall” says Hall. Not sure where to start? The MFA offers adult studio art classes year round (www.mfa.org/programs/studio-art-classes/adult), the website Meetup lists local book clubs for different reading interests (www.meetup.com/cities/us/ma/boston/book-clubs/) or you can post your own, and ski or snowboarding lessons at Mount Wachusett are $94 – including rental skis or snowboard – if you book online (www.wachusett.com/Learning-Center/Lessons-for-Adults/Beginner-Packages.aspx).
Work on your overall fitness
Yes, everyone and their mother is signing up for a gym membership in January. But sometimes cliches exist for a reason, and in this case it’s a good one. Put aside weight-loss resolutions and focus on the happiness factor – people who work out even once a week or for as little as 10 minutes a day tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise, according to a 2018 study by researchers at the University of Michigan (link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-018-9976-0). The researchers concluded that you don’t have to be a daily Crossfitter to be happy, but something as simple as a short jog, or 30 minutes of yoga, could boost your overall happiness.
Tanya Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.