New Englanders know all too well the long winter months that loom ahead before that glorious crocus pokes through.
And it can be hard.
But there’s good news: You don’t need to wait on Mother Nature to find your crocus!
Here are five easy ways to beat the winter blues and thrive this season.
1. Create Something
Ever looked up from a project and been surprised by how much time has passed? When absorbed in creating something, your brain and hands are a powerful team that can bring great satisfaction!
And winter is the perfect time for this.
Creating something with our hands “fosters a flow in the mind that leads to spontaneous joyful, creative thought,” cites one Psychology Today article.
So try this: Pick up a paintbrush, unwind some yarn, prepare a new recipe, push around some indoor garden dirt, arrange loose photographs in a scrapbook…
And while the end product may be a tasty meal, a soft beanie or a colorful still life, the true prize comes in the doing and discovery.
2. Identify One Goal Each Day
Working towards one tangible goal each day can bring direction and structure to long hours. And achieving a goal can feel so good, you’ll want to do it again and again!
“It can be something really simple,” says McLean Life Enrichment Director, Kathy Cookson. “But even just one goal every day can give purpose and elevate our mood.”
Try this: Write down a simple goal for the day. Cross it off when complete (it’s just so satisfying!), and celebrate your accomplishment!
Maybe it’s connecting with another, organizing paperwork, categorizing a collection or clearing off that desk. But whatever your goal, keep it simple and attainable for that day.
3. Connect with Others
Relationships are vital to our health!
This season, Cookson and her amazing McLean team have prioritized connecting residents, one by one, with loved ones online and through photographs for this very reason.
Maybe you’ve received a friendly, handwritten note in the good ‘ole snail mail or an unexpected phone call just to say “hello” and “thinking of you.” It feels good, right?
Ever been the one who sent the note or made the call? How did that feel?
Putting your focus and knowing you had an impact on someone else can also elevate our own mood.
Try this: Even if just a few times a week, find a creative way to connect with someone else. Handwrite a note, make a phone call, leave a treat in your neighbor’s mailbox, send an email, send a text, message by video…
You might just beat the winter blues on both ends!
4. Find the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
Claude Monet’s impressionist Haystacks series observes and celebrates the changing effect of light and color on ordinary objects at different times of day and season. Viewers stare in awe at these complex masterpieces.
What if noticing winter through this same lens changed what we saw and how we felt about our winter landscape?
Try this: Open ALL the shades. Every day. And find a sunny window to really notice patterns in your own environment.
Icicles that inch closer to the ground. Colors that reflect in the snow. Shadow shapes that change form and direction. Birds that bustle among the branches.
And what of those birds outside your window? Ever identified them or observed their habits? Your local Audubon Society can provide resources and activities to discover a whole world aflutter with your feathered friends.
When you change your lens, you might be surprised how quickly “just another blah day” can turn to awe!
5. Build a Habit of Gratitude
Did you know that a habit of gratitude is scientifically connected to your happiness?
According to research, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Try this: Start each day by jotting down 2-3 things you’re grateful for. Your brain is actually wired to notice and strengthen the experience of your thoughts, so expect to see more blessings pop up around you. You won’t be able to wait until morning to write them down!
No, we can’t fast-forward Mother Nature. But armed with simple strategies to beat the winter blues, you might just look down in surprise at the crocus peeking out one morning and say…
 Barron, Carrie, M.D. “Creativity, Happiness and Your Own Two Hands.” Psychology Today. May 3, 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-creativity-cure/201205/creativity-happiness-and-your-own-two-hands