Written by Jenny Miller at Stop NDD (nature deficit disorder)
Living in self-isolation and adjusting to the limitations imposed by the global pandemic can be daunting during the darker months of winter. For some, the darkness and extra time indoors are enough to cause feelings of depression or restlessness. However, there are ways to embrace winter and the unique challenges of life in lockdown so that you and your family can thrive during this unprecedented time. Here are some tips to help you all make it through the winter more comfortably.
To fend off boredom, plan ahead. Make a list of wintertime activities that you and your kids enjoy. Consider branching out to include some new hobbies you’ve been meaning to try. If you need more help in this department, reach out to friends and extended family for ideas. By video chatting with your friends and setting up dates for kids to virtually play, you can make your planned winter activities more fun and interesting.
Remember too that the library is your friend during the pandemic. Even if you can’t visit in person, most libraries have many e-books available. You can access these on a phone, tablet, computer, Kindle or other e-reading platforms. Not every parent knows what their child or teen will enjoy reading, and that’s fine. Contact your local public library to see if librarians are working remotely so you can still access all their bookish expertise and recommendations. Get the family together and read books about winter at the same time, like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Call of the Wild, or The Golden Compass. You can listen to many of them as books-on-tape, too! Some libraries are still offering programs, resources, and events online.
Although going outside may seem like the last thing you want to do on a cold or gloomy day, it can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Regardless of whether the sun is shining, spending some time outside can prevent cabin fever from taking hold and improve your mood. You don’t have to live near nature trails or wooded areas to enjoy these benefits. Even 20-minute walks around your neighborhood or experiencing nature in a nearby park will make a difference.
If this still seems like a bit much, take a page from the Norwegians’ book. Despite experiencing some of the darkest and longest winters on earth, research has shown that they have a strong sense of well-being during winter and lower-than-expected rates of depression. For these inhabitants of the far north, winter is something special. But you don’t have to live in the idyllic Norwegian town of Tromsø to experience some wintertime wellness.
Your attitude toward winter can be a powerful tool for coping with and preventing negative feelings during the darker months. Focus on aspects of winter that you find beautiful or fulfilling. Then bundle up, brave the weather, and don’t let the season keep you stuck indoors.
Don’t have winter boots or waterproof shoes? No worries, re-use grocery bags as shoe liners! Pull them over your socks, rubber band them to your ankles, slip your feet into sneakers, and your feet will stay cozy and dry. Don’t have warm mittens? Never fear, socks make great mittens, too, and you can pull bags over them to keep little hands dry while playing in the cold.
Comfort-eating and gravitating toward junk food during times of stress is very common, but a wholesome and balanced diet will keep you and your family feeling better in the long run. Healthy lean proteins – such as tuna, turkey, lentils, tofu, and green peas – can not only boost your mood by keeping your energy levels steady, they can prevent overeating by helping you feel full for longer. Consider creating a menu for the week and trying new recipes so that your household avoids falling into unhealthy eating habits.
Eating fruits and veggies undeniably leads to good physical health, but it can also increase feelings of happiness and mental well-being. You don’t have to become a vegan, vegetarian or health guru to enjoy this. As few as five to seven servings a day will make a difference. If you prefer to eat locally and are concerned about accessing fresh fruits and veggies during the winter months, know here are a variety of options that are in season during winter.
It’s only natural to have some apprehension about the looming winter months, but there are several ways you can create a reality that is different from what you fear. By planning out fun activities ahead of time, getting outside daily, and maintaining a nutritious diet, you’ll be well-prepared. You and your family will more likely to replace cabin fever with a sense of wintertime contentment.