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8 ways to beat the winter blues
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A homeowner works to remove snow from in front of homes in Herriman as a winter storm hit the Wasatch Front on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. - photo by Tiffany Gee Lewis
Its that time of year again: the time of the midwinter blues. The lingering snow is tired and gritty. The winter coats have lost their off-the-rack sheen. The kids are down to one glove apiece. Noses are red and sniffly, nerves are raw and were all just plain sick of soup and hot chocolate.

Its around mid-February that I pull out my winter bag of tricks, carefully honed and polished over many years in an adverse climate. People ask all the time, How do you survive a Minnesota winter? Its not that hard it just takes a little foresight and elbow grease. Heres how:

1. Make a plan

This begins back in the fall, but even in February, its not too late to make a plan. Find what works for you and your family. For us, this always includes joining a gym with an indoor pool and basketball court. We need a space, a home away from home, where the kids can run and sweat and shout.

We also invest in museum passes so we have something to do on long winter weekends. Every year, we switch it up. Some years, it's the science museum or the zoo. Other years, it's the children's museum.

Christmas usually brings new snow gear: sleds or skis, something to get us outside, embracing the elements.

Our winter survival plan always includes one, preferably two, midwinter trips to someplace warm. This doesnt have to be some exotic location, but it helps to break up the long winter.

2. Get involved

It can be easy to hibernate in the winter, to come home from work, don the pajamas at 5 p.m., and veg in front of the television. But one thing Ive learned from living in the land of perpetual winter is that you need to get out early and get out often. Most Minnesotans will tell you that they jam pack their winter schedules as a means of survival. And it works! The days go by fast, and the involvement pulls us all through. For our family, that means doing a community play during these winter months. We meet new friends in the community, and it gets us out of the house on these cold winter nights.

3. Talk to people

This may sound obvious, but when the winter blues hit, it can be easy to crawl into bed and stop interacting with others. Its one of the first signs of depression. One way to combat this is to do just the opposite. Phone a friend and meet up for lunch. Find a new restaurant together. I check my schedule each week to make sure Ive got some social time worked in. Plan game nights with friends. Start a book club or a dessert club.

4. Keep moving

Find a way to stay physically fit even during winter. Join an indoor track or tennis club. Invest in good outdoor gear for snowshoeing or running. Dont let winter sideline your health. Plus, the exercise endorphins will be one added bonus on bleaker days.

5. Try something new

It can be easy to fall into a rut every winter, just as a coping mechanism. But that rut can bring you down fast if you arent careful. Try switching up the dinner menu if you find yourself making the same dishes every week. Bring home a fancy tropical fruit. Take a watercolor class or learn to operate your digital camera. Find a museum in town that youve never been to. Learn to sew or knit or operate a jigsaw. Pick up a winter sport like ice fishing. Buy season tickets to the orchestra.

6. Rearrange a space

We spend a lot of time in our houses in winter. February is a great time to start that spring cleaning. Move the couches. Shift the dining table. Paint a wall. Hang a curtain. Itll make everything feel fresh. Im always amazed how excited the entire family gets when I switch things up. I bought a new purse and my boys (my boys!), every single one, commented on it. It's such a silly trifle, but those small changes can feel good.

6. Ditch the black

Late winter is a great time to throw color into your life. Don that yellow scarf or red jacket. Sure, black is classy, but the landscape is already so drab. Throw an orange pillow on the couch. Cook a meal thats got a lot of color with things such as purple cabbage, red peppers or green lettuce. During one particularly dark winter, I bought myself flowers every week for a month just as a means of survival. And it worked. Putting live houseplants in every room not only does good things for you visually, it also helps clear out that drab winter air in your house.

7. Laugh

I make personal rules for myself in winter. One, Im not allowed to read or watch anything too depressing. The winter already feels like a Russian novel, so why would I read one? Save your Tolstoy and Dostoevsky for spring. Instead, stick to whimsy. Find books and movies that will make you laugh. Get with friends who like to uplift.

8. Take care of yourself

Seasonal affective disorder is a very real thing. Watch for symptoms and take the necessary steps to treat yourself well. Theres nothing selfish about caring for your mental well-being. Take vitamin D supplements. Drink a lot of water. Eat good food. Get rest, even if you think you don't need it. And if all else fails, hop in that car, point yourself due south and get out of Dodge. Spring will be here before you know it.
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