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8 Simple Ways to Cope with Shorter Days

8 Simple Ways to Cope with Shorter Days

We live in New England; we’re a hearty bunch — but that doesn’t mean that we’re impervious to the effects of shorter, darker days and plummeting temperatures that chill us to the bone. Even as I write, snow is presently falling outside, and though I love skiing just as much as the next person, I don’t necessarily look outside and think, “Yay, the season of ceaseless shoveling and never feeling truly warm again until Springtime is upon us! How wonderful!” 

But I’d argue that us New Englanders deal with our long winters not simply due to acclimatization, but because of the simple little things we’ve learned to integrate into our routines or wardrobes that help improve our experiences, so that we don’t just feel like every day is a matter of simply trying to survive.

Some of the items on this list may seem obvious, but it’s always nice to have a refresher as we get reacquainted with the cold. So, here we go:

1. Warm Sweaters

Well-made, cozy warm sweaters are an absolutely crucial tool in the New England winter survival kit. Not only are they trendy, cute, and comfortable, they provide vital warmth and help keep us insulated during cold days and dark nights. There’s something a bit magical about pulling on a favorite sweater that is difficult to pin down, but I can tell you this: sweaters are more than just an item of clothing. They’re like old friends, and it’s nice to see them again!  

2. Cozy Candles

I love candles and the unbeatable, unique ambiance that they create. Somehow, they feel even more magical in the winter, their dancing flames serving as tiny little beacons of light in the darkness of impending winter. Homey, warming scents that include things like cinnamon, vanilla, pumpkin spice and cedar are good bets for these late Fall evenings when the soul needs a soothing pick-me up. If you’re more of a jump-right-into-the-holidays kind of person, then you might find solace or cheer in notes of chestnut, almond, balsam fir or peppermint. 

3. Good Socks

I can’t stress enough the importance of adding good, sturdy socks to the cold weather wardrobe. Thin cotton socks might cut it for summer months, but your entire body — not just your feet — will benefit immensely from wrapping your toes in thick wool socks designed specifically for life and adventure in a challenging New England climate. One of my most effective coping methods for dealing with cold or wet weather is ensuring that I always have dry, warm socks that I can slide my feet into.  

4. Hot Chocolate 

Hot chocolate is of course the iconic beverage for these colder, darker days, and for good reason: plenty of research shows that chocolate has notable benefits when it comes to boosting serotonin levels (which is especially important during these dark times when the lack of daylight has us low on this particular neurotransmitter, which plays an important role in regulating mood.) In fact, the ancient Mayans revered chocolate and considered it to be magical and divine. I personally recommend upping your cocoa game and trying this spicy “Aztec” hot chocolate recipe. If you don’t have time to get too creative, a personal simpler favorite of mine is to simply add a splash of orange juice and a *very* small pinch of cayenne pepper to your regular hot chocolate. That’ll warm you up! Of course, spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg are always safe bets too (peppermint Schnapps, anyone?) 

5. Long Underwear and Leggings 

I don’t know about you, but I positively LIVE in long underwear all winter long. I find that without the extra insulation, I just get too cold (sometimes even at home I can’t seem to fight that chilled-to-the-bone feeling that can sometimes take us into its grips.) So although long underwear may not seem super glamorous, a good pair will enjoy a long career of keeping you warm over the course of many New England winters, especially if you’re apt to spend a lot of time outside or if your body just tends to run cold in general (those of you with persistently cold hands and feet know what I’m talking about!)

6. Walks Outside 

I often find that the people who hate winter the most are the ones that haven’t found an enjoyable outdoor activity that they can do in the cold or the snow. If skiing, snowshoeing or ice skating don’t seem accessible or appealing to you for whatever reason (i.,e you don’t have time, you don’t really enjoy them or you don’t have the gear for it), a simple walk outside can easily suffice. Fresh air and getting out into nature in the scarce daylight (as cliche as it may sound) are so beneficial when it comes to coping with winter. If you tend to opt out of walking during the snowy months because you’re worried about ice (which is completely understandable) you might consider looking into winter traction that you can attach to your boots, such as Yaktrax or other type of microspike. That way, you can attend to your physical and emotional health without worrying about walking on potentially slippery or dangerous surfaces. 

7. Neck gaiters

What is a neck gaiter, exactly? You may have heard them referred to as “buffs,” (Buff is a brand) “neckies” or neckwarmers — possibly, you already own a fleece neck warmer that you use for downhill skiing. But these days, there are so many different styles, materials, and thicknesses that neck gaiters (or buffs) can serve useful for a variety of climates and for many different activities far beyond skiing. I wear my buff around my neck almost every day of the winter, inside and outdoors — it sort of makes me feel the comfort of a nice warm turtle neck but has immense versatility at the same time. And although I may still choose an infinity scarf (or regular scarf) if I’m going out on the town, buffs really help keep stray draughts of wind from nipping at any exposed skin at my neck, even if I’m just walking to the car. What’s more, they come in many different colors and designs, and I can honestly say that neck gaiters have greatly improved my winter experience!  

8. Soup, crockpots and chili 

There is nothing quite like getting home from a long cold day and being greeted with the warm, wholesome scents of chili emanating from the crockpot, seemingly invigorating the entire house with its spicy, bone-warming aura. In the winter, crockpots are a wonderful tool to have. Soups, stews and chili in general are vital components of my winter diet, not only for the dense nutrients that they can provide during these cold times when we need extra nourishing meals, but also for the very simple fact that hot soup is just that: hot. I’ll leave you with one delightful recipe recommendation that I adore: Soul-soothing African peanut stew. This recipe has become somewhat of a staple for us during the winter months. Enjoy!

This too, shall pass 

Not everyone loves winter, and that’s totally okay. Just remember not to underestimate the simple things that can help bolster your health, mood and thermoregulation over the next few months. Taking care of ourselves right now is extra important, and it may mean shifting around our typical routines in order to accommodate new needs such as increased sleep, denser meals, more hot drinks, more chocolate (yay!) and intentional exercise outside to maintain one’s sanity (even if at first glance, going out there might seem insane!) 

So, get out your favorite chili recipes, pull on your sweaters, and light some candles! It’s going to be a long but beautiful ride.  


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