5 Ways to Mentally Survive Winter Even If You Really, Really Hate It

Brutally frigid winters can take a toll on your mood, but these little steps can help brighten your dreary days.

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Let me start with a confession: My name is Nataly, and I really, really hate winter. (Now you say, “Hi, Nataly!”)

I hate the way the frigid cold makes your bones hurt. I hate the freezing wind that leaves your face feeling like it was kissed by sandpaper. I hate the snow that makes walking and driving a battle. I hate the time it takes to get dressed in all the endless layers just to step outside! Did I mention the snow? And did I mention I’m from Boston?

I start dreading winter in October, as if preparing for hating winter earlier will help me deal with it better when it eventually arrives. (Which is a complete waste of time and a complete waste of the short-lived, beautiful autumn New England weather that I do love.)

And I hate that my hatred of winter forces me to spend several months every year stuck in an emotional state of total dread. I can’t change the weather here in Boston. While I like to joke about picking up and moving somewhere warm, my small but close-knit family is here, and so is my work. I won’t pretend that winter and I will ever become BFFs, but I’ve figured out a few ways to make some peace with it.

1. Invest in high-quality warm clothes and boots. It will make all the difference, believe me. I took way too long to do this, and suffered through frozen fingers, soaked socks, and taking a hot shower for 20 minutes just to warm up after being outside. For footwear, I’m a big fan of Pajar boots, which are warm, waterproof, and reasonably priced. During the winter months I never leave the house without wearing one of these thin and soft Uniqlo Heattech shirts. They keep me warm (but not too warm) without bulk. And while I never thought I’d pay $100 for a pair of mittens, these Marmot ones are the only ones that keep my fingers from being frozen when I’m outside for more than a few minutes.

2. Find a winter-only activity you really enjoy—and schedule a lot of it. Research shows that simply anticipating something you like makes you happier, so this is a practical way to put that into action. I love ice-skating, so this winter I’m making it a point to hit the rink with my daughter every other weekend. It’s something I can do only in the winter and I do find myself smiling when I put our bi-weekly skating sessions on the family calendar. Maybe you love skiing or making snowmen or ice fishing—whatever it is, find something (anything!) that you like and then commit to doing it.

3. Cook up some warm, comforting recipes. Slaving over a stew on a hot summer day is a terrible idea, but it’s a perfectly cozy way to spend a few hours in the winter. Plus, your kitchen will smell amazing and you can have delicious leftovers for lunch the next day. My top three favorite winter-warming recipes are Ina Garten’s Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes, Slow Cooker Braised Moroccan Lamb Chops, and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Burnt Eggplant Soup. (I know the name is a little off-putting, but this is really one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. You won’t regret making it. That’s a promise.)

4. Treat yourself to a few little seasonal luxuries. Stuff doesn’t make you happier. But having a few small winter-specific luxuries can help you feel warmer and cozier and make all the difference in finding that sweet spot between insufferable and tolerable. Fingerless gloves and scarves are two of my winter indulgences. This infinity scarf from Etsy is one I love and own in many colors. My other winter luxury is candles and in particular, Frasier Fir candles by Thymes.

5. Spend more time with someone who loves winter. There are tons of studies showing that the emotions of those around us affect us in good and bad ways. For example, if your friends are happier, you’re more likely to feel more optimistic and positive yourself. So if you know someone who loves winter, spend time with him or her—it can help you dread the season less. My 10-year-old daughter lights up when she sees snow and gets to play in it. I’ve been trying to get out there with her more, and when I do, her excitement is infectious. I’m not saying I don’t want to run inside every 10 minutes and warm up with hot chocolate afterward, but I’m making progress!

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest