Please don't take my sunshine away...
September 9, 2011 11:21 AM   Subscribe

What small rituals or activities prepare you mentally for the onset of fall and winter and then help you get through the bleak, grey cold?

I suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder-- it's not very bad as the scale of these things goes, but since I have no other experience with depression or depressive episodes I find it very frustrating and unnerving. I think it might help to start mentally and spiritually preparing myself for fall and winter, a sort of comforting reminder to myself that this is natural and I always get through it. This year, I'm trying to focus on the positive, celebrating the seasonal changes rather than dreading them.

So, do you have any small rituals, activities, art projects, anything of that nature, that help you transition into the 'dying and dead' time of fall and winter? They can be holiday-related (Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, Christmas) or just simple seasonal things that you enjoy most in the colder months, and that you find mentally helpful in combating the winter blues. For instance, one of my own was buying a new, fuzzy, super-warm blanket that I can be sure to huddle under in my favorite chair.

Thanks in advance, Mefites! I look forward to a smoother winter with fewer random crying jags!
posted by WidgetAlley to Grab Bag (53 answers total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever considered a light box?
posted by Splunge at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2011

I like to switch fragrances, both perfume-wise and house candle-wise. In the summer, I like clean citrusy, herby smells and in the fall/winter, I like spicy, woody smells.

I also like to make some small adjustments to my living space, because winter means being inside more and nothing's worse than being trapped in a room that doesn't make you feel good. Make sure that the lighting, textures, and wall art are all things you really like, and keep everything clean and tidy.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:28 AM on September 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

So, I have pretty bad SAD. Hell, once it starts getting dark before I get out of work, I slowly succumb to miserable-ness. I got tired of being so sad between October and April and I bought this lamp-style lightbox (based on a MeFi recommendation I can't find) two years ago and damn if it doesn't make a world of difference.

Also: replace all your lightbulbs with full-spectrum lightbulbs. It's an aesthetic thing rather than a therapeutic thing, but it really does make you feel like there's more daylight in your life.
posted by griphus at 11:31 AM on September 9, 2011 [7 favorites]

I sleep in old cashmere sweaters. And I like cashmere socks. I am thinking of investing in cashmere sweatpants. And I am now about to go and Google cashmere underwear.
posted by peagood at 11:36 AM on September 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

n'thing full spectrum bulbs, huggles for the lightbox.
swim bag gets the mirrored goggles exchanged for ones with bright orange lenses.
reinvigorated sleep hygiene resolutions
scheduled daytime outdoor exercise
puts away coffee press enforcing a quick walk down the street for the fix
posted by mce at 11:37 AM on September 9, 2011

YESSSSSS! (and, local to me!)
posted by peagood at 11:38 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

In a previous question of the same ilk, it seemed that one of the most commented on suggestions was the physical and deliberate observation of dusk falling.

I also talked about making sure I feed myself right and with regularity and care, and making sure I pace myself through the darkest months with lots of gatherings and holiday celebrations to give me something to measure it all by.

I'm also going to suggest candles. Since I've moved to Seattle I've gotten more and more of them and use them when dusk starts to happen around 4pm. It feels happier, even a combination of electric and fire, or it sort of... gives me more control over when I have light, I don't know how to explain it. The act of lighting and snuffing candles makes me feel comforted and powerful, in a way.
posted by Mizu at 11:39 AM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

Lots of people have mentioned light, and I agree.

One way to make the light seem more cheery was to make sure I was using lots of localized light sources (i.e. lamps) instead of depending on one overhead light. The aesthetic is much homier, and less institutional feeling.
posted by reverend cuttle at 11:47 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Apples. Fall to me means apples. My family has made it a tradition to go apple picking every year. We always end up picking a ridiculous amount, more than we can eat, because it's too fun! It gives us an excuse to give them out, and make apple crisp, and try new appley recipes. Plus it gets us out in the crisp fall air, and is so invigorating! It's something that's unique and special to autumn, so maybe this is a tradition you can start too.
posted by yawper at 11:57 AM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

I came back to say, along with the light suggestions, clean windows help me. Dirty ones are sooooo depressing.
posted by peagood at 11:58 AM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I put together rigorous exercise schedules and then follow them. It gets me out of the house on a regular basis, the exercise itself makes me feel better, and meeting concrete goals gives me a little boost, too. (It helps that I live in Texas, where winter is the outdoor-sports season and I can jog or hike, whereas summer is when I lock myself in my climate-controlled house and never see the sun.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have the same problem, and I'm really glad you posted this question! So much great advice above that I'm totally going to try!

What has been helping me for the past two falls is food and drink. There's a definite shift in what's available and what sounds divine between August and mid-September, and I've found myself actively looking forward to it this summer. For instance, I'm finding myself about tired of my usual summer strawberry-wheat microbrew and was really wishing for the Pumpkin Spice version. I actually posted an AskMe about this just about a year ago to find some delightful fall/winter beverages and got some fabulous responses!

If you are not a drinker, the same still applies to food and non-alcoholic beverages too. Think more satisfying, comfort-type foods (I've never been much for, like, steaks and chops and whatnot when it's hot out). Savor the smells, notice how a good, healthy, hot meal can chase away the icky chilly sleepy feeling.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

For me, (and admittedly, I live in Canada, so YMMV) the autumn is all about two things: squeezing the most out of being outdoors before winter sets in, and doing the "house cleaning" prep-work to get ready for snow.

Get outside and pick apples! Go for walks when the leaves are in full change of colour! Have one last bonfire on a chilly night! Pick up fall leaves with your kids and do the ironing thing with wax paper so the leaves stay nice. Make plans for your Halloween costume/house decorations. Put out the christmas lights before it gets miserable and you don't want to do it.

Around the house, switch the screens to windows. Do some pickling or freezing - lay in some food for the winter. Put away summer clothes, have the winter coats dry-cleaned and give the winter boots the once-over with spray-guard. Mulch the garden and put away the garden hose and other accoutrements. Bring in the patio set. Like peagood says, having everything clean and ready for the change in season really helps me.

Then, make arrangements with your SO or with friends to have a get-together, and give the old season a good send-off and the new one a welcome! Be with people.

Then again, I'm at my least depressed when I'm doing things. YMMV.
posted by LN at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

Learn to make bread. Not only do you get a workout (especially if you mix by hand), but you also get that lovely, comforting smell as well as something to eat and/or share.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:06 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're a gardener, read seed catalogues. Nothing is as exciting to me to peruse what I'm going to start plating in Spring. Plus, it gets me thinking about the nice weather to come.
posted by Solomon at 12:07 PM on September 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Baking is a hobby that seems ridiculous in the hot summer months when it's light outside, the a/c is on, and everyone's trying to stay skinny for their pool parties. But as soon as I feel that crisp in the air, I get excited to turn on the oven and bust out some cookies or pound cake. In fact, we just had our first "fallish" night recently, and I whipped up some chocolate chip cookies to celebrate.

My point: find activities you enjoy that you wouldn't normally do in the summer, and do them! I hate the early sunset and the cold of winter, but having something to do instead of lolling around all depressed makes a big difference. Baking really is great because it makes your house warm and delicious-smelling (go for that cozy feeling)! But even just savoring a good book or tv show on dvd/streaming that I hadn't gotten around to all summer (along with a hot cup of cocoa or tea) does the trick.

Now that I think about it, most of my SAD remedies revolve around food...which could be an illness in itself, hah! But I think it's a great way to look forward to the changing seasons. Out with the grilling, cold soups, wheat beers, and white wines. In with the hearty stews, chunky casseroles, red wine, and thick, dark beers.
posted by angab at 12:08 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I used to always go to the winter solstice celebration at the local Unitarian Universalist church, but I've also found that it's helpful to take a moment to notice that it's that day, even if I can't go to the service. In case you aren't aware, the solstice is when the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer again, so it's worth celebrating! And it happens in December, which to my brain seems way earlier than I expect. It's really nice knowing that everything is better from there on out (at least it feels that way, because yay more sunshine!).

Here in MN where the misery of cold lasts longer than the misery of darkness, I like to take at least one day during the winter to turn on all the lights, turn up the heat for the afternoon, eat ice cream, and listen to the Beach Boys.

Hiding from the cold in awesome comfy sweaters and blankets and drinking delicious cocoa is also nice.

The thing that really helps me the most, though, is to get outside and do something I can't do during the summer. Snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing are personal favorites, because I can rent the equipment for cheap at local parks. Downhill skiing would be good if we had better hills around here! Sledding is fun even as an adult. Going for a "nighttime" walk during a full moon without having to stay up late is also nice. Find activities to remind yourself that winter is a season of opportunity for fun and wonder, not just a time when you can't do all the stuff you like during summer. Ooh, cooking something that takes all day in the oven is another good one -- nobody wants to make cookies or braised beef in July's heat!
posted by vytae at 12:09 PM on September 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Been thinking about this more. I don’t suffer from SAD, but I do love autumn and these are the reasons why. Maybe something in here will help you:

Cool, crisp air. Autumn air feels so FRESH. I am not an outdoorsy person, but in fall I try to get out more. Hiking, picnics, raking leaves, the aforementioned apple picking are all things I enjoy doing in fall.

New fall clothes! I much prefer layers to shorts and dresses. I bring out my fall/winter clothes and put away my summer clothes. Also I like updating my wardrobe with a few new pieces to get me through the upcoming months. It helps that the stores have tons of sales on at this time.

Holidays. They just make me happy.

Fall colours. Probably my favourite part of fall, and why I love living where I do. Not only are the colours beautiful, they are their own little miracle. Nature putting on a glorious show for all to see, right before settling down for a nice rest. The fall colours, because they so sharply delineate summer from fall and fall from winter, remind me to appreciate the seasons.

Good luck!
posted by yawper at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2011

Listen to Fleet Foxes.
posted by JimmyJames at 12:13 PM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

The onset of winter means it's time for tea, whiskey, wool socks at night, and running the oven. In particular, carbonnade à la flamande is a special winter thing for me -- it's very simple (minimal ingredients, easy preparation), but it takes all day and provides such wonderful warmth when it's done.
posted by vorfeed at 12:17 PM on September 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

As a seamstress, I put away all my lightweight cottons and linens and get out the wools. Now is the time for coats and trousers and warm snuggly things.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:22 PM on September 9, 2011

I'm the opposite with candles....I like to burn the summer scents all winter long so I can be reminded that summer will be back soon, so I stock up on them before all the autumn scents come out.
posted by NoraCharles at 12:24 PM on September 9, 2011

In the last couple years, I've become a huge proponent of Glögg, which is warm and happy.

If you're musically inclined, try and find a singing group or other small ensemble to join. To me, there's nothing that warms my spirit more than playing music with people I like.
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:25 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing the suggestion about light.

It's more than light though. Maintain an air of activity, freshness, lightness and cleanliness.

I try to lighten up our living spaces, clear clutter, and pick artwork and accessories that are bright and colourful. Pick a day in October and switch up some artwork.

Also: Routine, routine, routine. Get up and have a shower right away, or do some exercise. Languishing in bed clothes adds to depression. Get doing stuff right away. Wash clothes, towels, linens etc often. Clean bedsheets really help.

Exercise. I really enjoy getting out in the rain here on the west coast and running in the rain. I play happy music when I run. Exercise literally creates positive brain chemistry.

Get out and do things in warm, well-lit spaces. Take an indoor exercise class in the evening. Go to the gym where it's bright and you can work out in shorts and a t-shirt. Meet friends at the pool and sit in the hot tub after some exercise.

Make plans. Mark each week with an event, plan for it and look forward to it. Plan on spoiling yourself a bit each time.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:33 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing baking! Up until the last couple of weeks it was too hot in my apartment to even consider turning the oven on, but now that it's cool and damp the oven is awesome. I like to get autumn fruits (tomatoes! pears! apples! the very last of the peaches!) and bake them into tasty things to celebrate the fall.

This is a really good crumble recipe—substitute in whatever fruit you feel like using and whatever spices you think will compliment it most tastily. This is an outstanding spiced peach upside-down cake. Apple butter is delicious.

I tend to feel very isolated and uninspired in fall/winter, so this year a thing I am trying is setting up standing coffee/lunch/baking/movie dates with various friends, so that fun out-of-the-house activities are scheduled for the next few months without my having to think about it or do much organizing.
posted by bewilderbeast at 12:51 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Doing highly seasonal activities both helps me transition and helps me see the good in the darker seasons. In September I like to go to agricultural fairs - it's harvest time and you can commune with animals, fruits, and veg and be outside. Hiking is particularly great in fall, and at least in my part of the country, outdoor festivals abound. Apple picking. Cooking soups and stews with autumnal produce like butternut squash, acorn squash, potatoes, lentils, etc.

In winter I highly recommend cross-country skiing. It's fun, invigorating, great exercise and a good way to soak up some extra bright winter sun. Ice skating is great too - at a rink or at a pond outside. I was surprised how many little 'town ponds' and places like that there were when I went looking.

I get really into Thanksgiving and then the winter holidays which follow - the holiday activities provide plenty of variety, art and music, socializing, and help pass the time.

I remind myself that basically after Dec. 20 each day gets longer.

Watch birds - they change before the seasons do. Maybe set up a bird feeder, and tending it daily will help you stay in touch with outdoor life too.

Winter is great for getting things done indoors. It's the time when you can seriously get into going through your music or book collection, doing something with the old shoebox full of photos, making a quilt, or whatever. These things are really in tune with the winter season.

Be social.
posted by Miko at 12:51 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Summer is the scattered season: there is so much going on outside and so much to do. I used to work seasonally, and as much as I loved it, summer used to be the straight-up busy season: waking up at 6 am and going to bed at midnight for three months in a row, living out of duffel bags or a dry bag or a backpack, and always, always being around people--working with them, learning from them, fixing them, helping them--with the only exception being the long empty drives through the desert at dusk on my way to another contract.

Even though I don't do that anymore, fall still feels like a relief to me, like a blessing. You get to stand still and be alone for more than a few moments every day, and nobody wakes you up at 3 am, crying, because an ant just crawled in their ear and it's your sleep-blurred responsibility to figure out how to get it out. The weather gives you permission to stay put, to hunker down and start working on the personal projects that have been banging around in your head for months, and the cooler weather makes it easier to concentrate than the long, logy days of August do where everything is always so sticky and sluggish.
posted by colfax at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2011

LLLLIIIIGGGGHHHHTTTTTT. Ott-Lite fluorescents work, and I''ll be trying Solux halogen builbs as well this time around.

Winter sports. Sitting in a hot tub looking up at the blackness, jogging along paths in the wooded hills with your breath in puffs behind you.

Cooking and being together. Light candles. Read books.

And most of all, LET IT BE. It is darkness, it is there, and it becomes much easier to savor if you let go of it. The pushing-against is one of the hard parts.
posted by krilli at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2011

I'm in the same boat, even though I live someplace without snow. It's the dark! I get up in the dark and it's again dark before I get out of work at 5. Ack! Also, the dread of it, is a huge thing, so I am trying to live in the present as much as possible. For me, it doesn't hit that badly til January. I think it's a cumulative.

The lightboxes, while cheery, have not helped, despite my optimism after having spent what seems like a huge amount of money on a gadget. I have given mine to my roommate. Taking 5-HTP has helped quite a bit. I try to step up my exercise, though I rarely manage it.

Pretty much I try not to do anything in the summer that I can do in the winter, including going out dancing, painting, sewing, writing letters, baking, watching DVDs, skiing, and even cleaning the house, which by wintertime is pretty awful. My boyfriend has a woodstove with a window in it, and reading in front of it with the cat is a pretty awesome way to spend an evening. I definitely celebrate the solstice!

In general, I lower my expectations for myself. For instance, I don't overschedule. I know that it will not be a pro-active time for me- but I can re-act just fine. I try to set up projects in the summertime that I can work on in the winter. I will not have the brainpower/energy to set anything up in the winter, but I can trudge through boring stuff just fine.

When I'm lucky enough to have funds and vacation time, I go someplace nearer the equator for a week. A half hour of Hawaii sun is worth all 8 hours (and then some) of sun here.

And on the rare days that it's sunny in the winter, I drive with the heat on full blast, in shorts and a T-shirt, drinking ice tea and pretending it's a terribly hot summer day.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:03 PM on September 9, 2011

And St. John's Wort. It's a quite mild natural depressant, essentially the leaves of a plant. You can buy capsules with crushed powder. And I swear, I swear it works.

1) I'm aware of the placebo effect
2) I have taken llllots of drugs

St. John's Wort works.
posted by krilli at 1:04 PM on September 9, 2011

did you mean anti-depressant?

Not that this needs saying, probably, but bear in mind that St. John's Wort interacts with a lot of other drugs, both legal and illegal.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is my very favorite time of year! Fall always appealed to me much more than spring - the holidays are better, the air is cleaner and fresher, there are apples and pumpkins, and on the off chance that it snows, it's snowing for the first time that year!!! rather than for the bazillionth time, piling up on already huge and gross piles of snow.

I grew up in New Hampshire. By the time I was walking to school in September, mornings were cold enough that probably, I would need to wear a coat and maybe even a scarf (at least according to my mom). Now, I really love the seasonal change in clothing and I just bought myself two new fallish scarves. We always went apple picking, came home with apple cider and then made really fallish food - corn chowder (recipe below), biscuits, apple crisp (recipe below), and warm apple cider. These are extra fallish to me, but the corn chowder is also a really nice easy warm soup to make in the middle of winter when you hate everything.

Now that I'm on my own pretty far away from my folks, I make a point of keeping up those rituals and making my own awesome ones. I'm planning on making corn chowder and biscuits for dinner tonight because the leaves are changing here in Ohio. I get really excited about having little kids come through for Trick Or Treating and always have a mini-gathering of costumed friends to greet them, and try to at least semi-decorate my front porch. Last year, Chanukah fell at the end of finals - right in the middle of the shortest days in the year. So I had a Chanukah party with friends and made latkes and matzoh ball soup and lit candles and celebrated light and friends and fun in the middle of dark and snowy winter.

My corn chowder recipe is wicked easy:

* First, chop up some potatoes. I usually do two big potatos or a bunch of the teeny tiny russet potatoes, plus about half a sweet potato. If you do this first, it's easier. Then chop up a big onion, or two small ones.
* Sautee the onions and some garlic in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a 3qt pot for about 10 minutes.
* After 10 minutes, toss in the potatoes and enough milk to get to maybe an inch from the top of the pot. Stir enough to get all the onions off of the bottom, and then let it sit for 20 minutes (you can stir it occasionally, and add salt. I like it really salty, so I always add too much, but there's enough flavor that it doesn't need to be SUPER salty).
*Take whatever you're using to stir the soup and squish some of the potatoes. If you're feeling fancy, you can use a potato masher. Then pour in a can of corn kernels and, if you want, a can of green pees. Let that sit for another maybe 5 minutes, and then it's ready!

Apple crisp is even easier:

*First, chop up enough apples to fill your pan. I usually skin the apples first and cut them into smallish chunks. My mother doesn't skin and cuts them into thin slices. YMMV. You can make this easily in a 9/13 baking dish, or a 9/8 baking dish. I've even made it with pretty much-success in a brownie tin.
*Pour a tablespoon or so of lemon juice on the apples while they're in your pan to keep them from browning while you're making the crisp, and also to add a little to the tartness. You can make apple crisp with pretty much any kind of apple, but my favorite is galas.
* In a separate bowl, mix up about 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of oats, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (or a little more), a 1/2 teaspoon of cloves (or a little more), 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, and a little bit of salt. Melt 1/2 to 1/3 a stick of butter (or margarine) and mix it all together.
* Pour the crisp over the apples. You can sprinkle some walnuts on top, too, if you want.
*Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes
posted by ChuraChura at 1:43 PM on September 9, 2011 [15 favorites]

Winter blows big snowy chunks. The best thing you can do is start the self-care (or professional care, if needed) that's recommended for people with non-seasonal depression. Start it now, while it's easy, so you can get in the habit. Exercise, eating vegetables, avoiding alcohol, talking to a therapist, taking a class, whatever.

And if you do think you could benefit from therapy - I'm not saying you need to go, just throwing it out as an option - it is totally okay to go now and say "I'm feeling fine now, but I get depressed every winter, and I'm looking for a little bit of help and professional advice while I make my way through that." Don't wait until you're too miserable to get out of bed.

Other things:

Light always helps; millionthing that. Fresh air, too. Don't underestimate the power of bright happy colors, which will be in short supply. Sky blues, grassy greens, lemony yellows and orangey oranges. Send yourself flowers every now and then, or buy a houseplant. Buy flip flops in some insanely cheery color and wear them around the house.

If you sleep in on the weekends, set an alarm for an early-but-not-crazy time, 8 am or so. You can always turn it off and go back to bed, but you're just as likely to notice that the sun's out and take advantage of that precious precious daylight.

The blanket is a good move. If you've got a favorite hoodie, bust that out too. If you don't, go find one. If you grew up in the 90s, maybe opt for a flannel instead. If you knit, or have ever wanted to learn, making a new hat or a gigantic cozy scarf with superthick yarn and oversized needles can be a nice fall ritual. (This year, I'm going to try to create a scarf-sized version of this glorious thing.)

If you like smelling good, get a dedicated fall fragrance. I like Shalimar and Kiehl's Musk, which are warm without being too cloying. Get a huge bottle of really good lotion and keep it by your bed. Stock up on bubble bath and get some fun novels for tub reading.

If you have any good back-to-school memories, revisit those. New shoes, going to football games, whatever music you were playing on repeat at the start of tenth grade.

Fall is the season for new prime-time TV shows and the return of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. Both are comforting treats, although you don't want to overindulge.

Finally, since watching Game of Thrones, I've been melodramatically declaring "Winter is coming" in response to everything. It cracks me up and lifts my spirits a little bit (and will probably annoy everyone else in about two weeks).
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:53 PM on September 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

I came back to say you've already got it right with the cosy blanket for your favourite chair, but what about bedding! In the summer, we just have white sheer curtains on the windows, crisp smooth sheets, a light cotton blanket, chenille or matelassé spread, and no rugs. In the winter, I add velvet curtains, a feather bed on top of the mattress, flannel sheets, a down duvet and throw rugs on either side where we step off the bed (plus, you know - SLIPPERS!). I used to use lightbulbs with a pink hue to them, but I haven't found them in a while.*

I decided on Operation Awesome Bed a few years ago, mainly because it's one of the best things I can do to be nice to my husband, who loves going to bed as much as he loves, well, anything. I try to always have a good book to look forward to. I try to keep the room really clean and decluttered, and I change the bedding frequently. We switch to the Fall bed on the first day that there's that scent in the air in the neighbourhood. You know, the crisp one, maybe with a little fireplace to it?

It also helps that our room's paint colour changes with the light. Our window is North-facing, so that's a boon - but in some lights it looks more pink, at midday it's a true lavender, and at night it's quite grayish - but it's always soothing. Our bedding is in dusty deep violet shades, sometimes a warm gray, and the curtains a deep purple. Everyone has their own colour preferences, but if you get the colour right, it really does affect your mood.

*note to self - find some and hoard them

The other thing - invest in good footwear for crap weather, a decent coat and find a cosy hat and scarf that makes you feel great. My life changed when I stopped wearing fashionable but cold and leaky boots and switched to boots that are warm and dry and comfortable, and not entirely hideous. I live in Toronto, and grew up in Buffalo, so I do completely get your crap weather ills. I am a much nicer person when I am not uncomfortable.
posted by peagood at 1:58 PM on September 9, 2011

(St. John's Wort: Anti-depressant, yes. Thanks small_ruminant! Especially for mentioning the interactions! I'm not taking anything else so I wasn't mindful of it. You're right! Thank you thank you.)
posted by krilli at 2:01 PM on September 9, 2011

Oh, just thought of something else that no one has mentioned yet: at least where I live, the air gets very very very miserably dry during the winter. And the heat running in my house makes it even worse. This is one of those things that until you notice it, you can't figure out what's bothering you, but then once you realize the air is super dry, you're miserable until it's fixed.

Humidify, people! And make sure the humidifier on your furnace is working correctly.
posted by angab at 3:03 PM on September 9, 2011

Canning. Even if you have to go to farmers market nd buy lots of things. The process of canning is a pleasant ritual. Then you have the joy of opening a jar of summer anytime you want. It can also be uplifting to gaze on the bounty in your pantry.
posted by yesster at 3:21 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of the things I look forward to is the grocery having a big rack of apples of all different kinds that you can choose for the same price. I get a bag and pick out one of each that looks/smells good. I go home and put them in the bottom drawer of the fridge and each day pick out one kind of apple. It's fun because you're not quite sure if it will be tart, sweet, crisp or some combination of each. There's usually a little sticker on the apple that says what kind it is so I can buy it again if I really like it. You never realize just how many kinds of apples there are out there until you do this.
posted by stray thoughts at 4:35 PM on September 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

3000-5000iu vitamin D3, liquid capsules with the day's fattiest meal.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:00 PM on September 9, 2011

I hear you. Here's what helps me:

Good winter clothes. Warm, expensive, cozy.
Take up winter sports. Ski, skate, snowshoe as much as possible.
Save up TV. I don't watch it at all between April & November so that I look forward to gorging on shows during the winter (& in particular the horrible month of February. Oh lord I hate February).
Buy and consume Grand Marnier. Drink a bit night, warmed. Also good in tea.
Breeding. Now I have to act like I like winter & play outside all the time for the good of my sprogs.

Admittedly that last one might be a bit much to take on.
posted by Cuke at 5:47 PM on September 9, 2011

I agree that switching your bedding (flannel sheets!) and having good winter clothing (a nice, flattering sweater, a wool coat, thick socks, a real hat) will make a huge difference.

And now that you have warm, high quality, fashionable winter apparel, go outside!!

A short walk will make a world of difference.

Also, nth the suggestion to participate in winter sports and winter holidays. Cross-country ski-ing is fun to do, and hockey is a very exciting sport to watch. Is there a curling outfit in your area?

Winter is the time to make those day-long braises and enjoy the pickles and sauces that you put up in the fall.

And snowfall hushes the world. It's an absolutely wonderful gift.

I guess what I'm saying is, celebrate the season and find things about it to enjoy.

I apologize if this is grating. I found that these things made a michigan winter kind-of fun, and more bearable than the objectively not-as-bad winter in missouri, where folks just kind of ride it out and hate 25% of their life because it's cold outside.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 6:37 PM on September 9, 2011

Things I do....
Swap to yellow- or orange-tinted sunglasses. I once trained for a 60 mile walk from January through May in New England. It was brutal walking 3-10 miles a day, seven days a week, but I swear tinted sunglasses were a miracle-cure.

Get some hanging or standing houseplants that do well in the shade: spider plants, ferns, some ficus. They just trick your brain into thinking it's warmer than it is.

Fire up an "Aero" type indoor garden. Cherry tomatoes and fresh basil do wonders for winter blahs.

Pick up some Yaktrax before they all sell out. It's tiring enough jiggy-jagging your way through poorly-shoveled walks and mountain-sized snow banks, without adding all that micro-muscle soreness from tensing up over fear of slipping. They just make it much easier for me to walk out the door.

Set up an area near the entry with some cold-weather skin treats like hand, lip, and cheek protectants (this one by Mustela is the bomb).
posted by cocoagirl at 6:54 PM on September 9, 2011

I am starting to infuse vodkas now for holiday gifts/parties. Last year was blackberry/vanilla and jalapeno/lemongrass. This year I'm going full out and doing a nocino from fresh walnuts. Also, baking my own bread, cooking soups of all varieties (albeit mostly improvised), and other culinary projects that just aren't doable when it's 90 degrees outside.

Most importantly, I may look like a crazy person when I get up in the early morning in the cold months, but running outside in 3 layers of proper winter running gear keeps me sane. It's literally the only time I am warm without an artificial heat source for several months up here in Chicago.
posted by shrimpsmalls at 7:01 PM on September 9, 2011

A little off the wall but have you considered moving to California?
posted by snowjoe at 10:35 PM on September 9, 2011

I bake stuff and give the goodies to my family/friends/neighbors. Lightbox. I take walks outdoors, preferably in a nature-y place. Lightbox. I hang a new picture or buy new throw pillows, something that makes my house space feel refreshed and gives me something else to focus my attention on. Lightbox. I buy or make a new happy-looking piece of winter wear, donate the previous faves to Goodwill.
posted by mcbeth at 11:01 PM on September 9, 2011

Winter sports! I look forward to winter now that I'm a nouveau-sporty-outdoorsy type.
posted by whalebreath at 7:42 AM on September 10, 2011

A little off the wall but have you considered moving to California?
Ok, I live in northern California, and it's DARK here in the winter. It's not "cold" but then because it's not "cold" the buildings aren't insulated and there is no accommodation for the weather. People don't generally dress correctly for the weather- the clothes here are either for autumn or skiiing. Not so much for waiting for the bus in the months of sideways rain. I feel like I'm colder here than when I lived in Indiana.

I'm not saying it's Seattle or North Dakota. It's beyond me how those folks live through the winter. But if you're going to move, move south. The difference in the length of the day is very noticable.

That said... if you do find some good outdoor clothes, I have found it helps to find someone who will do outdoors things with me. If it's just me, I won't stir outdoors but once I've broken through the enertia and fear of the cold and wet, I have a good time. And getting home to a hot bath is an even bigger treat.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2011

I've lived in the northeast of the US my whole life, and I just love the weather here. No, I really do. Doing things to mark the changing seasons is something I've always loved.

Here are a bunch of fall and winter things I like to do: pick late-summer flowers, pick apples and pears, eat my favorite fall vegetables (squashes!) and kale and Brussels sprounts and the other great stuff that's just coming in to season, making mulled cider, apple pies, apple sauce, apple jelly, canning vegetables from the garden, making pesto and freezing it, hiking in crisp autumn air, leaving all the windows open at night and sleeping under super warm covers with cool air on my face, wearing cozy flannels, lighting lots of candles, making hot chocolate, hot ginger tea, and bread, doing holiday foods like elaborately-decorated Christmas cookies, latkes, caramels, peppermints, and angel food cake, not to mention full holiday meals, inviting friends and family over for the dark evenings, playing music (I play in instrument, but listening is nice too), listening to radio programs in the dark, cross-country skiing, ALWAYS running outside the minute the first snowfall begins, making sugar-on-snow, going on walks to look for animal tracks, going owling (listening for owls) at night, taking a lantern and a thermos of hot chocolate to a frozen pond, skating on rural ponds (only when it's REALLY frozen!), thinking about my intentions for the new year, watching sunrises and sunsets...

To me, fall feels alert and exciting and wild, and fall fades in to winter, which feels cozy, quiet, and a time for everything to be lit from within, which to me feels hopeful.
posted by Cygnet at 8:32 AM on September 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

I take pictures of pretty places on campus with lots of trees and sunshine, then take more in fall, then winter, as the scenery continues to change.

Also, i love shopping for knee-high socks, boots, and leggings for the colder months.
posted by cp311 at 11:37 AM on September 10, 2011

my family used to always go to a farm on the outskirts of town on saturday morning and get apples, fresh hot frycakes, and real apple cider. i also nth an outdoor regimen at a time of day you can enjoy the sky--dusk or dawn--and smell of leaves, and ritualistic domestic prep, whether that's cleaning windows, getting your immediately accessible wardrobe switched over (yay pajamas and legwarmers and boots and scarves!), getting out the tea set or crock pot, ordering mexican hot cocoa tablets and rum, the indoor board game stash, finding new baked good recipes to make. and lamps/localized lighting i agree with too. stuff that makes you feel like a squirrel or a fox getting the nest/den ready.
posted by ifjuly at 11:39 AM on September 10, 2011

What gets me through winter is soups, stews and casseroles. They're so warm and hearty they make me feel like everything will be ok. So fire up the crock pot and get stewin'!
posted by peppermintfreddo at 7:16 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

if you like pumpkin, people go nuts over the starbucks pumpkin latte. it seems like a fun thing to get excited about. fun colors and fragrances are always stimulating too. i'm not a fan of red and green for christmas, so i like silvers and baby blues. mix up your decorations and get baking! bonfires and fireplaces are always fun too. make it your own and start little traditions that you can be excited about. try out new recipes that your friends can get excited about and they'll know to start asking for it when the leaves start falling!
posted by AlliSchnur at 9:16 PM on September 11, 2011

I bought a hydroponic setup to grow plants. I grow lettuce, basil, and other greens during the months where nothing grows outside. I get odd looks when the folks at the hydro store realize I'm spending $200 or so on lights... and not growing weed.

I spend a good bit of time in the same room as the setup when it's on. It makes the winter better.

It costs about the same as a good light box... but I get fresh vegetables out of the deal as well.
posted by talldean at 11:12 AM on September 12, 2011

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