10 ways to be friggin' happy when it's cold outside


Sometimes, winter makes us sad like ...

It's not just you; it's a thing. It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). Dr. Melina Jampolis, M.D., a physician nutrition specialist in Los Angeles (ohhh, California would be nice right now) says: 

“Mild changes in brain chemistry or the circadian rhythm — your body’s internal clock — related to the seasons can make you feel down. Winter blues, or feeling a bit less energetic on occasion during these months, is relatively common and may be related to a number of lifestyle factors — including decreased light exposure, decreased exercise due to colder temperatures and decreased socialization during the colder winter months.” 

(You can learn you some more things from Dr. Jampolis in this Refinery29 article.)

So it's cold. And here in Kansas City, it's snowy and slick. We have options: Wallow in our sadness, tough it up and pray for summer or find ways to be happy. The last option is probably our best choice.

CHOICE. It's all up to you. If you'd like to choose to be friggin' happy despite the cold, here is a list of 10 ideas that could give your mojo a little boost. 

1. Bundle up and get outside. 

I love running on the trail. It's the closest I ever feel to nature and it's a retreat from responsibilities and modern life. It's freeing, it's relieving and therapeutic. Getting a workout is the last on the list of reasons I do it. Because I love it so much, I bundle up and go despite the cold. Unless it's icy or covered in snow. I'm not THAT extreme. 

2. Meditate.

Meditation has become a vital part of my routine, and although this is my first winter to really have a solid meditation practice, I anticipate it will really help with those darn doldrums. 

3. HIIT.

OK, so sometimes I really do just want to workout. And the winter is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) season for me. I try to make a habit of going to the gym, but sometimes I sleep in or just can't muster the motivation to leave the house. I love to do the HIIT workouts at BodyRock.tv and most recently, Christine Salus' YouTube channel. They're quick and sweat-inducing, and they make me feel accomplished. Speaking of feeling accomplished ...

4. Tackle that garage/spare room/hellacious closet/wherever things go to die in your home.

There's something liberating about being organized. Winter is a great time to tackle those to-dos you've been putting off, since the desire to go play outside dwindles. We tackled our guest bedroom and are working on my new yoga room. (Eeeeee!) Basement, you're next. 

5. Read a real book.

You know, the kind you curl up with and read with your favorite blanket and a cup of coffee. Or hot cocoa. With marshmallows. 

6. Give hot yoga a try.

I especially love hot yoga in the winter months. When the temperatures get below freezing, it feels wonderful to be in a 104-degree room. Really. It does.

7. ... or just take a hot bath

104 degrees not your jam? Maybe a hot bath is more your speed. I'm a huge fan, and it becomes a ritual in the winter time. I light a couple of candles, turn on my favorite singer-songwriter playlist on Songza and melt into so-hot-it-almost-burns-your-skin-off water. Ahhhh ...

8. Start a gratitude journal. And keep it.  

Remember back in November when you thought it would be a great idea to start a gratitude journal? If you're feeling down, now's the best time to start it. My morning alarm on my phone says, "WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?" It's a reminder for me to start my day with gratitude. 

9. Cook a good meal.

It feels good to cook over a hot stove in the winter time. And if you see a theme here, it also feels good to accomplish something. A good meal is an accomplishment both you and your family can appreciate.

10. Get some light.

My friend Whitney loves her light therapy thingy-ma-jig. They seem pretty cool. I don't have one, but I have an alternative method that's kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. Can you keep a secret? I go tanning. About once/month in the winter time. I know it's not good for you but it's good for my mental health to soak up some rays and feel warm. There's also research about taking a Vitamin D supplement if you're into that, too.

Feeling warmer yet? If you have any ideas to add to this list, please share! Now let's all be friggin' happy. OK? OK.

Namastay warm.  

Cara McDonaldlist, winter, happiness