Ways To Dread Winter (Slightly) Less

I’ve never watched a single episode of Game of Thrones. But guess what, I still know that Winter is coming.

Years ago an extended family member was late in finalizing some items for a birthday. Despite the fact it wasn’t even my birthday, I was still a bit huffy about the whole situation. In my mind, there was no excuse. Birthdays are a set date – after it’s over one year, you have exactly 364 days to prepare for the next one.

But I’m no better. I know winter is coming – as it did in 2022 and will again in 2024 – and yet it always seems to catch me with my proverbial pants down.

And I need my pants – warm and fleece-lined, please and thank you – belted snugly and tucked into reliable winter boots if I’m going to come through the next few months with a smile on my face.

So when I was out for a walk (on an unseasonably warm November day), I voice memoed a list to myself titled: Ways to Dread Winter (Slightly) Less. Here’s what I came up with…

to offset the cold

So much of my discomfort over the winter months comes from being too cold. An ounce of prevention is worth ten pounds of cure because once I’m cold it is virtually impossible for me to warm up without an extremely hot shower.

  • Turn up the heat. The extra insulation we added to our house during renovations should help a lot, but I also need to turn up the heat. I won’t win any medals for being cold all the time. We limit energy outputs in many other ways, and I should just turn up the thermostat and not always think in dollar signs.
  • Invest in good winter boots. I still haven’t pulled the trigger on any of your suggestions…
  • Start the car sooner. I always leave this until the last minute. I know idling is not good for the environment, but for both my sanity and safety reasons (without a garage the windows can be frosted and cloudy)…I need to start the car with more buffer before having to leave the house.
  • Heat up Magic Bags constantly.
  • Use the space heater in the office. It really does help so much!
  • Wear heated socks and buy a second set. One of the reasons I didn’t wear heated socks every day is because I would ration them to offset the need to recharge the batteries…
  • Shower twice if I need to. This is a surefire way to get me warm.
  • Use the blow dryer on my body. I so rarely use this trick, but it works very well. If I close the door to our tiny ensuite bathroom and blow hot air all over my (clothed) body this is a great way to relieve bone-chilling cold.

to offset a mental slump

The winter is dark and cold and, well, it can feel long and exhausting and sad. So I plan to:

  • Make an effort to visit my parents every week at their rental house (bonus points if this visit involves a warm beverage).
  • Make more desserts. I really fell out of the routine of baking, but the warmth of the oven and the comfort of a sweet treat at the end of the day is a real mood boost.
  • Make the house as cozy as possible. Light candles, turn on lamps, simmer orange peels with cinnamon sticks on the stove. Basically, I need to channel all the Danish hygge wisdom I’ve picked up from my sister-in-law.
  • Take each day at a time. Yes, the winter is long, but each day is bearable. I don’t need to worry about the next snowstorm if it’s sunny outside today.
  • Have a plan for school snow days. These are inevitable! I should come up with a loose default schedule that includes work (clean rooms?), play (a round of our favourite game, a set time for movies) and movement (shoveling or a walk around the block).
  • Come up with a list of shows/movies to watch over the winter. As an added bonus, I might categorize: whole family, me with the kids, me with John, and solo. All screen time should involve Magic Bags, a robe, and a very fluffy blanket.
  • Save some great books for the winter months.
  • Try to get away somewhere warm. This has only happened once and it was incredible – I’d love to repeat this experience in 2023.

Your turn. Give me all your best suggestions of how I can dread winter (slightly) less. Once Christmas is over, I tend to hit a major slump in terms of energy and enthusiasm for doing anything other than hibernating (and complaining about the cold). I want to do better this year – help me out!!

Header photo by Alex Padurariu on Unsplash

53 thoughts on “Ways To Dread Winter (Slightly) Less”

  1. Oh, I love this, Elisabeth. Winters can feel long and relentless, but what can you do? You can do all these things that you mention. I wanted to say also that something you might like is to put your robe/ housecoat/ towel in the dryer for 20 minutes before you shower, then when you get out of the shower, use that warmed-up robe/ housecoat/ towel. I mean, I have never done this myself but it seems like it would be nice. Some people have heated towel racks and I’m not sure how they work but I feel like you would be a good candidate for something like that.

    I like having cute things to wear for winter, like legwarmers or bum warmers and so many layers. Having cute clothes is always a boost for me. Also, getting outside and moving! Sometimes it feels absolutely overwhelming, to have to layer up so much, but I find I’m usually feeling nice and toasty with a brisk walk and a zillion layers.

    Finally, Game of Thrones. As someone who HAS watched Game of Thrones, I cannot imagine a less-appropriate show for you. I’m trying to think of how you would feel even watching the opening scene of Episode One and…no. That is Very Much Not An Elisabeth Show.

    1. Well, hating winter hasn’t gotten me too far, so I guess I should start finding ways to embrace it?
      Yes! I have done the dryer trick a few times.
      We have recessed heat bulbs in both our bathrooms and they really do help warm up the room in the cold months, but a towel warmer sounds incredible!
      Yes to cute clothes; feeling put together can really help lift me out of a mental funk (and, cute clothes can also be warm!).

      I’m glad we walk the kids to school most days because it really helps to get outside FIRST thing. If not, I tend to dread the cold, but knowing it’s a good way to get exercise and get the kids to school, means I’ve successfully walked 5 km most days before 9 am. My biggest issue is I’ll sweat slightly while walking and then come hold and get really, really cold. I should shower or at least change my clothes after the walk.

      Yes, I have steered clear of Game of Thrones, which I will now start referring to as The Show That Is Very Much Not An Elisabeth Show. Hahaha.

  2. Keep some of your Christmas lights up! We’ve started to do this, and the neighbors followed. They kick on at 4 when it gets dark every day until March sometimes. It’s a total joy. I love your list. I love winter but these things will help me enjoy it even more.

    1. Great idea! We leave twinkle lights up on our mantle year round and I LOVE them. We don’t actually have outside lights up at our house, but neighbours across the street specifically leave up an exterior Christmas tree for our benefit <3

  3. I suddenly appreciate it even more living in California 😉. Where we are it never gets very cold. The only thing I regret about this is that knitting would feel more purposeful if it was colder as that is associated with coziness for me.

    1. Never getting cold sounds…wonderful.
      I think it’s hardest because of the duration. If winter was over in March, I think I wouldn’t mind so much. But sometimes it can feel quite cold until May?! And then it just really starts to get to me!

  4. I find winter so, so hard. I grew up in California and live in Scotland (and work in Northern Ireland) and it’s the dark that gets me.

    The things that help me:
    Outdoor time at midday
    All the warm weather wear – gilets, a very ugly Uniqlo teddy bear coat, multiple pairs of socks
    All the bike lights and reflectives so my son and I can do the school run in the dark

    1. Being outside in the sun is SO helpful. I’ve been doing a 1km outside walk daily since January 1st and it has really helped me get that dose of sunlight (or, on a cloudy day, at least some “light”). Warm weather gear is key!

      Nights the kids have extracurriculars that end after dark always feel exhausting to me; and it’s another chance to get cold. Having to go out in the cold after dark feels like a double sucker punch to the stomach. BUT, I do take the darker nights (when we don’t have to be) as a cue to snuggle up, put on lamps, turn on the fireplace and hunker down. And that does feel cozy…

  5. These are great ideas. Growing up in Illinois, winters were TERRIBLE. But my sister pointed out recently that we never were dressed appropriately- like we should at least have had long down coats, and we didn’t- we always wore short jackets. And, our house was always cold. Probably to save money, my mom kept it on the cool side. And getting up in the morning was BRUTAL- so, so cold. I think if we had done all these things you’re mentioning, it would have been much more tolerable. But instead I moved to Florida where I now complain about the heat- go figure.

    1. I’m cold just reading your comment!
      And your comment is reflective; I KNOW if I moved to Florida I would end up complaining about the heat all the live-long day. I’m just too easily dissatisfied, I suppose – sigh.

  6. What a great list. The reminders to look after your own comfort are so spot on. I think there are limits to stoicism during the winter.
    I try to plan activities or social gatherings at least two or three times a week during the winter… Cold weather can seem so isolating, and connecting with people gives me something to look forward to and usually cheers me up.
    I’ve never done it, but I’ve always wanted to have a soup party where everyone brings a soup and we taste them all and also swap containers. Maybe I will actually get around to doing that this January or February.

    1. A soup party is a wonderful idea; I knew someone who had done this before and it sounds both practical and downright fun/delicious.

  7. Space heater in the bathroom– I love stepping out of a hot shower into a hot room. Ugg slippers for inside. Hot water instead of cold– a hot drink is the best way to warm up.

    1. Smart about the space heater! We have heat lamp bulbs beside both showers and that really helps, but a space heater would elevate that even further.
      Last year I did warm up water in the microwave and drank that some days; even just holding a mug with warm water helps!

  8. I like the Christmas light idea because I think lights are key! Another thought is cozy candle light, maybe with an energizing scent like citrus? I know that many lifestyle trends have come and gone since hygge was big a few years ago, but I really think the Danes know how to make the long Winters a cozy experience rather than forlorn. I have no experience with SAD lights, but I have read good reviews.

    Also, vitamin D supplementation may be useful to consider. I love the Nordic Natural line because they are super high-quality and independently tested.

    1. Yes candles are great. I don’t maximize the comfort/light/joy they bring enough. And YES the Danes know how to do winter well. An obscene amount of candles, coffee and sugar are their secrets.
      And your comment reminds me: I need to get restocked with Vitamin D. Our family doctor isn’t a huge fan of vitamins, but the exception is Vitamin D. She wants EVERYONE to be taking it (even in the summer where I live because of the latitude, apparently we can’t get much Vitamin D from the sun). Thanks for the brand rec, too.

  9. We consider winter to be “TV Season” – it’s great to save up TV shows and movies for when it’s cold and dark.

    Saving books for winter is a great idea too – unfortunately I seemed to save a lot of summer themed books for winter. I’ll need to get a winter reading list going next year.

    I’ve never done a warm trip in the winter – sounds amazing!

  10. I don’t know if this will help, but my tactic is embrace it! Play in the snow, make snow people, shovel even if it’s silly/unnecessary, make piles for “sledding” down, go sledding, go skiing, eat bowls of snow, make snow maple candy, go ice skating. REVEL in the snow.

    And also: revel in being cozy!!! You have a good handle on this, but also pile yourself in blankets and read or watch movies just because it’s snowy.

    Also: twinkles lights everywhere.

    1. Great point. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?
      And I do…but it can just feel like forever. Like I want to go sledding once…not 15 times. But you’re right. You really are. I guess, too, I’m just not a big fan of those activities? I’d rather take a really long hike in the fall, than go ice-skating on a local pond. I think my favourite activities just tend to be things you don’t need winter gear for.
      But here I go…complaining…again.
      And yes to the cozy. Last night I got out our “fancy” candles for the table. I used to only use them occassionally which was so silly. They’ll be set up for months now, and I’ll light them most nights at supper. It feels so luxurious and really does elevate my mood and the whole coziness vibe.

  11. I live in California, in the Bay Area, and we don’t have to deal with the cold like you do. I lived in interior Alaska for 5 years when I was a little kid, and I kind of remember it, that the dark and cold felt like it lasted forever.

    We start burning candles when it gets dark early. That gets expensive, so I bought some that you fill with lamp oil. They weren’t cheap either, but a lot less than constantly buying new candles. I love them.

    1. Wow – Alaska would be winter on steroids. To be fair, where I live in Canada is about as mild as it gets outside of southern British Columbia. Still…I’m not a fan!

      I don’t actually burn that many candles over the run of a winter; but I have a series of warm-light lamps that I turn on…and twinkle lights on our mantle that stay up year-round. I’m very much looking forward to setting up our Christmas tree in the living room. That is the epitome of cozy to me…

  12. One thing that I have finally embraced this year (thanks to Nicole) is layers. Oh, and putting on warm socks BEFORE my feet get cold – once my toes are cold it’s all over. I adore my space heater. The Husband did add a heat vent to our bathroom and it helps…but is only really warm in one particular spot; a spot where I can’t put on my makeup or do my hair. We can’t run the space heater and the vent at the same time though or it trips the switch. I think tomorrow, I’ll skip the heat vent and bring in the space heater and see if that helps. I’m also planning to buy another space heater or two so I don’t have to keep moving this one around.

    1. Yes – once I’m cold, there is no going back.
      Space heaters for the win. I love that I can specify where I want the heat and can even direct it right at my body if I’m working at my desk for example.
      Getting up and moving around regularly really help me, too. That’s my biggest issue in the basement. When I’m in the office, I tend to park my butt and then when I realize I’m cold, mostly because I’ve been sitting too long, it takes forever to warm up.

  13. I am on board with all the things that make you warm – good winters boots and a heated vest have changed my mind about how “fun” walking the dog is in the winter. I also try to remember all the actual fun things we do outside in the winter – sledding, hiking alone in parks with no one else around, and going to see ice castles! I am also a big proponent of a SAD lamp, if anyone is suffering from seasonal depression (get your vitamin D levels checked!).

    1. Ice castles! Now that sounds fun. There are some famous ones in Quebec; maybe we’ll take a winter roadtrip?
      I know someone who has a clip-on SAD lamp; she raves about it. It fits onto the bill of a baseball cap and shines right down into her face. She wears it EVERY morning for about 30-40 minutes as she putters around the house and gets breakfast ready.

  14. I feel you on the discomfort of being cold. We hardly ever get “freezing temperatures” where I live in CA and we do get a fair amount of days with blue skies and sunshine (read, I really shouldn’t complain) but I still get cold and it’s … uncomfortable. I basically move around the house with my space heater during the winter months. We do run the heater, but our apartment is so poorly insulated that it’s a huge waste of money to keep running it day and night. So we use sweaters, blankets, fuzzy socks (mostly me) and … space heaters right in front of me.

    I couln’t agree more with your list though. I think a) preventing any feeling of being “cold” and b) making the home as cozy as possible helps to focus on the enjoyable parts of the cooler season.

    I don’t have much to add, other than maybe cooking hot soups/stews (they seem to always heat me up quickly) and have a pot of hot tea at the ready at all times.

    1. Another vote for space heaters! They are wonderful!
      And warm, filling, hearty food (carbs, right broth etc) is very comforting and also naturally warming.

  15. these are great ideas. I don’t have winter blues anymore since we moved to tropical country. But my office is like polar station, so I am seriously considering a space heater (idea from a colleague that has it). I always have a hot beverage in the office in yeti cup to keep it warm.
    for you, what about hosting friends/family once every a while? I love having my good friends over for dinner.

    1. What a great idea and point which I didn’t even mention – spending time with friends! A real boost…and I tend to make warm food, light candles etc when we have company, so it will put me in the right frame of mind to take the time to do things that will bring joy and comfort.

  16. We don’t have really cold winters here, but I feel like the most important thing is to make sure you have the right clothes.

    This year we went away at the start of winter, which I kind of thought was a mistake before we went. Usually, June has some pretty nice days, and then it gets miserable in July and especially August, but this year June down here was awful, and we missed it so yay! Since we could leave our kids home and we work remotely anyway we could go away for five weeks.

    1. No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices, right?
      This is almost 100% true, unless I manage to still get cold, and then it doesn’t matter what I wear – it will take some big intervention (like a long, hot shower) to feel any better.

  17. I am in Seattle now and until this year I was in Norway. Both are cold and wet/dark in the winter.
    -I love pine-scented candles and I burn these all year. Stock up at Christmas
    -plan some fun events in January/February to get you past the post-Xmas blues. Ballet, concerts, parties, etc.
    -I wear only wool sweaters and socks. No cotton or synthetics. It is worth the extra cost.
    -My warmest winter coat makes me look super fat but it is worth it.

    1. I only own a few pairs of wool socks; great reminder for me to invest some money in that gear.
      And January and February are when 1) the weather is the worst and 2) when the sparkle of Christmas has faded. So yes…looking to have something on my calendar every week or two over those months would be a big mental health boost!

      1. Also, try buying them in odd colors. It keeps me from accidentally ruining my wool socks in the washing machine/dryer if they are easily noticeable.

        1. Yes! I buy Darn Tough brand for my husband and they have a lifetime warranty. I always buy in bright colours/patterns, but we’ve had them wear through before – they replace them for free, but they tend to replace them a solid black or solid blue colour. This does NOT work well. I just sorted through laundry a few minutes ago and had to go back through everything I put in the dryer (before I turned it on) because I realized I had one navy blue wool sock, but not the mate.

  18. This is a great list! I have been meaning to get some cinnamon and orange on the stove – today is the day!
    For me the biggest shift was when I decided not to acknowledge winter until January. I know it’s cold but if I call it Late Fall and then The Holidays it breaks it up mentally into more manageable chunks. Even January kind of gets a separate category in my mind – it’s the month to wind down after the holidays and start or renew good routines. That leaves February and March as the two “slog” months and by then I can see the sky staying lighter at night. It’s a game really, but I find it helpful.

    1. Yay! Remind me to swing by your place when I need a dose of citrus and cinnamon. Yum.
      Ha – yes refusing to acknowledge it’s winter until January (which, technically, it pretty close to the truth according to our calendars), is a great approach. And game or not, these mental strategies can really help! Looking forward to slogging through February and March with you <3

    2. I love this! I have an unreasonably strong dislike for the month of March. Maybe I just need to reframe it somehow.

      1. March is hard to reframe; I’m so tired and worn out from the cold by this point and it seems like the worst of our storms happen late February and in to March.

        Getting out of the cold helps; the one time we did a warm destination we did it in March and it was wonderful! People who go away in January or February are coming back to the worst time of the winter!

  19. I think you have a ton of great ideas of managing the cold/darkness of winter! In the past few years, I’ve really tried to change my attitude about winter overall. I’m not a big winter outdoor sport person unless it’s above 20 degrees and sunny, but when it is, I do enjoy ice skating or taking walks etc. I more have simply been embracing the slower pace. November honestly has been such a relief after the craziness of summer and fall – just not having as much going on, not feeling an ounce of guilt about going to bed SUPER early (I’m talking like 8:30pm) and just generally being a sloth. I KNOW it will change – December is always hectic with holiday things, and then January feels like a break after that. I definitely struggle once we get to March and April when it is STILL COLD, and I’m 100% over doing anything outside in the cold. November-February I can tolerate pretty okay! So – no real solution, but just letting myself enjoy being SUPER lazy, knowing it will end and spring will eventually show up – it always does 🙂

    1. I think living like a “sloth” has a lot to recommend it…
      Yes, a cold March just feels almost impossible to get through. I’m jealous of people who truly love winter sports. My sister is practically giddy when the snow flies; she loves to skate, cross country ski, snowshoe. I just want to curl up in a ball and sleep until May.
      You’re right, of course – spring DOES always show up. And this year was an especially beautiful spring, summer, and fall.

  20. I’m going to try the hair dryer tip to see if it helps warm me up. I agree with everything that you said – make yourself as comfortable as you can and find fun things to do. On the flip side, summer is coming!!!

    1. Summer is coming! Though, technically – despite the fact there is already snow on the ground, sigh – it isn’t even winter yet.

  21. You have some great tips here and reading them almost (almost!) makes me miss winter. But one tip I didn’t see, that I swear by, is the old school hot water bottle, in a knit/soft cover. When I was a kid on cold days, one would be plopped under my covers before I got into bed, which was the best surprise– it’s like lying in sheets just out of the dryer. I could sleep with it too on chilly nights which was a real treat when falling asleep. I studied in the UK, where central heating is not so common, and had little money, so used to put one under my feet and one behind my back while writing/studying– it felt so warm but is so energy efficient (good for the environment and the pocket book!)… you just need to boil some water (which can be re-boiled, or used to water plants/mop floors). I hope your winter passes (relatively) quickly!

    1. I grew up with hot water bottles; in their place I use Magic Bags, which you can microwave again and again. I find they stay hot for a long time and I never have to worry about leaking (a few times I had hot water bottles give out on me).
      I can’t convince my mother to switch though; she still uses a hot water bottle each night at bedtime in the winter. I even gifted her Magic Bags, but she prefers her method.
      My kids are obsessed with them, too. We currently have 4, but it really isn’t enough. This last time Levi was sick, one time he ended up with THREE magic bags. He was so excited to have so many all warmed up for just him!

      1. A leaky hot water bottle sounds terrible. I have no idea what a magic bag is (i have clearly been living in tropical climates for too long) but am going to look it up– sounds like a genius alternative.

        1. It’s a bean/rice/grain-filled sack that can be microwaved. It is one of my favourite things in all the world. We own four, and this is not enough!

  22. For a winter read, I would recommend checking out “Winter Solstice” by Rosamund Pilcher. It is such a cozy, wonderful book! It’s long, but I think you’ll know early on if it’s the right book for you. It’s a perfect winter read!

    We also have long, bitterly cold winters here. This past weekend showed me that we need a better game plan for winter weekends. We need to find some other indoor activities we can do when it’s too cold to be outside. It was bitterly cold this past weekend and we were cooped up inside way too much. I know we can go to the zoo but that’s probably a once/month kind of thing. I need to check out some indoor playgrounds or something like that!

    1. It can be so hard to fill the hours over those long, cold winter months – especially if the weather is bad enough we can’t drive to somewhere and/or stay outside for long periods.
      I’ve put a hold on Winter Solstice!

  23. As you know I am all giddy that winter will finally come so all your things on the list are something I look forward to. So I am not having too many ideas but maybe – if you can stomach it – eat spicier food. That usually makes me sweat and hot.
    Also maybe use warmer colors in your surroundings/ clothings. The brain will make you. think it is warmer.

    Hope you find some joy in these cold months to come.

    1. One of my sisters is like you and anxious for winter; NOT ME! The spicy food suggestion is a good one, that would never have crossed my mind…but I’m a wimp with spices!
      Using warm colours is a great idea too. I love your outside-the-box thinking, Tobia!

  24. I think these are great options for helping you not dread these cold, dark months so much. In Florida, this is the time of year where we get to revel in the nice weather. But come April/May, the oppressive heat will be back. So I have the opposite problem as you do: trying to find ways to handle the HEAT, rather than the cold. One of my keys for getting through the summer months is that I run my air conditioner COLD. I don’t care that I have a higher-than-average electric bill in the summer months. I hate being hot in my home and I just won’t do it.

    1. Yes, I’d be no better with the heat. I have such a narrow range where I’m content with the temperature!!

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