Pandemic or not, it is common to feel sad or depressed come the winter season. Cold weather signifies the move indoors and for those of us who do not participate in winter sports (unless you consider the après ski hour an activity), it is the beginning of a long and arduous wait (preparation?) for summer (I'll be working on my #summerbody2021). That feeling, combined with COVID-19, it seems like there might not be enough hot toddies in the world to tide you over. Never fear - I have compiled a few things from personal experience and some advice from my Scandinavian ancestors that are game changers.
A typical winter previously consisted of indoor activities with friends and family. Whether that is game nights with groups of friends, going to holiday strolls downtown, or grabbing drinks at a local brewery, those options are somewhat unavailable to us at the moment. So, if we can't do that, what will we do to make it through?
My personal favorite winter activity is building a toasty fire in my wood-burning fireplace. Although bonfires are plentiful in the summer (when it is not fire season of course), there is nothing quite like a crackling fire in your living room. The last fire I had in here was early Spring and I made an entire evening out of it. The day before I prepped some Chashu (Japanese braised pork belly). The day of, I started some ramen broth early in the morning to simmer and get incredibly flavorful. I then sent my boyfriend to the store to buy a bottle of sake and when he arrived, sent him to the back yard to chop some wood for the fire while I prepped dinner. We then spent the entire evening next to the fire, eating ramen, and watching the snow fall.
While it gets a bit cabin-feverish in the winter here in Montana, times when you are able to embrace the weather are quite possibly the best. When it is blistering hot in the summer, the last thing you want to do is have a fire indoors. So I am always sure to take advantage of that while I can.
I also love cooking. This particular evening, and the days leading up, I was able to fully throw myself into an incredible meal. Again, at the height of summer, the last thing anyone wants to do is fire up the oven for hours on end. Now, I can fully utilize the stocked kitchen I am so thankful to have. I highly suggest finding those activities you do not typically have time for in the summer and immerse yourself in them during the winter. It would be advantageous to consciously focus on those activities and remember that they, just like summertime, are fleeting. Whether you choose to ruminate on getting up early to shovel your drive or whether you decide to bask in the glory of the early morning stars glinting off the newly fallen snow will wholly decide the outcome of your winter.
If the idea of spending time inside gives you anguish, try this angle from our Norwegian friends: friluftsliv or “open air life”. The concept is simple, even if the weather is below freezing and snowing, dress for the occasion and get outside. If the thought of that is otherworldly, the Norwegians can assure you that even on the worst of days, they feel some sense of dread. However, getting outside in the fresh air does wonders on the body. If you are able to dress appropriately for the weather, that is, make sure you are warm and comfortable, then going outside for even a short stroll will leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized. Research backs the concept that even menial amounts of time outdoors will vastly improve our mood and both physical and mental ability.
Long story short, whether you prefer to sit by the fire with some good food and better company or get outside for just 30 minutes to an hour, it is imperative that you make this winter special to you. In my mind, every winter can be special. But it is even more important this winter, being in the midst of a pandemic, because the fact of the matter is, this year had the potential to be just a bit harder with the added stress. So be safe, be smart, and most of all, make the most of winter 2020.