The holidays are long over and many of us are socked in with dark, cold, dreary weather and the threat of winter viruses lurking around every corner.  A week ago my husband even asked me what I thought our big fight this winter would be about.  Ummm…what?  Apparently, every year when I’m nearly at my wit’s end with forcing coats onto wriggly kids, searching for single mittens and hustling through wind-chilled parking lots with bundled babes in arms, I get a little cranky and start an argument.  (Sorry, dear.)  Surely I’m not the only one plagued by wintertime funk.  But this year I’m getting proactive and trying to head off that frosty grouchiness.  I’m sharing the strategies that are working for me so far and hope you find something helpful there as well.

Declutter a Space
I know, you think I’m crazy for saying you can clear out and organize anything with your littles floating around to “help”.  And maybe I am and you’ll have to tackle this during a nap.  Or, you could make a big game out of it and every half-melted spatula and elaborately shaped silicone pancake mold you could never get to work gets piled on the floor and played with while you focus on the necessary stuff getting straightened out and back in the drawer.  At the end of the day, it’s time to say goodbye to the trash, or donate items, and you can bask in the glow of at least one little slice of streamlined order.  The accomplishment that comes from a cleared space and the relief of unburdening yourself from clutter is a major happiness boost.  You may even be inspired to tackle more.

Plan Something to Look Forward To
A secluded Airbnb in Turks and Caicos?  Yes please.  And grandparents to come along and unobtrusively watch the kiddos?  Be still my heart.  If you can swing it, by all means do it.  Getting a change of scenery and a little warmth does wonders to shake off winter doldrums.  But know that you don’t have to drop major cash to benefit from looking forward to something.  Research shows that the planning and anticipation of an activity can have equally as positive effects on happiness as the actual act does.  So on Monday, plan a Friday evening date night to your favorite restaurant or schedule a Saturday morning coffee and pedicure.  You could even clear a Thursday evening for a binge of the show you’ve been meaning to watch complete with a bag of Swedish Fish.  The point is to get something on the calendar, grand or small in scale, that you can look forward to and celebrate once it’s there.

Move That Body
Elevating that heart rate, sweating, and using those muscles boosts serotonin and endorphins which in turn helps regulate mood.  If you belong to a gym, many offer a daycare where you can drop off your kiddo while you get in some treadmill time or a barre class.  It’s a win-win: you get some adult time to work out and your little gets a playdate with fresh toys, activities, and people.  Additionally, lots of community recreation buildings have indoor tracks or open turf fields and basketball courts.  While it’s not safe to let a toddler roam in the lanes of runners, let her snack in her stroller and get in a few laps (even 10 minutes will do wonders for mental and physical health).  I’ve found that going at times that avoid typical workout and team practice schedules can almost guarantee the place to yourselves.  Bring a few little balls or even some trucks to drive and your little one can play for a few while you get in some burpees, planks, and pushups.  And as a third option, you can always do a quick online search for a workout video to throw on a screen and follow along.  Anything to get moving!

Buy a Cheery Winter Accessory
You don’t need to drop a ton of money on something cute to perk up your winter ensembles, but knowing that it’s cold and snowy outside and your new boots have a cheeky little liner that makes you smile every time you see it can be just the lift you need.  It’s easy to find a cute pick-me-up accessory that ‘sparks joy’ as they say to bolster you against the weather.  I have a hat with a ridiculously large faux fur puff ball for just such days.  This is not the-leaves-are-changing-fall-tailgate hat.  This is a full-on-winter-is-here-in-my-face-so-bring-it hat.  (In the cutest way possible, of course.)   So find something you get excited about wearing and revel in the brief (but chilly) months that you can really rock it.

Bring a Houseplant into the Living Space
Bringing something green and fresh into your home serves as a reminder of what’s to come and literally adds life to a room.  (Look through magazines and catalogs and you’ll see most pictures have a plant, cut flowers, branches, or even fruit to invigorate a space.)  Added bonus - plants even help purify the air.  Keep in mind that this is not the time to try a finicky vine that will only thrive with a regimented watering and fertilizing schedule.  Witnessing the slow death of a houseplant while winter rages outside is not what we’re going for here.  We need a surefire win.  So go with something low maintenance and hard to kill.  My two faves are the snake plant and the pothos.  They do well in low light, are hardy, and you can often buy both for good prices in grocery store floral departments and large home improvement stores.  Add a sleek little pot for your green buddy for another way to perk up your mood during the grey days of winter.

Nothing here is earth shattering, but also none of it has to require major effort or cost.  And yet the impact of a small step like any of the above can be a major happiness boost and work wonders on your mood during those cold and dreary months.  So whether it’s a tropical vacay or a pair of wool socks with a saucy message, find a way to bolster yourself up for the next few cold weeks.  Spring will be here before we know it!