[As published in May/June BayBuzz magazine.]

I need to have serious words with you about your attitude. I know you’ve been thinking some negative thoughts about the weather and winter and dragging out the woolies from above the wardrobe, but it’s time. There’s no turning back, we’re going there: Winter is coming, ready or not.

Now we’re not bears so we can’t just hibernate and wait for spring. We’ll get SAD and we’ll have to take vitamins D, B6, zinc, omega-3 and iron just to stay alive. Worse than that we’ll get really really boring going on about how much we hate winter and people won’t want to spend time with us and we’ll get lonely and just fade away due to lack of interest.

Instead, we must reset our thinking and become chionophiles, frost-fans, winter-winners not whiners. We need to embrace winter with the verve of a Viking, and get our hygge on. 

Cosiness is quintessential to a satisfying winter. But whether you’re seeking Norwegian koselig or Dutch gezellig or German gemütlich it’s all about getting cozy with company. Loneliness is a quick way to feel inner despair when it’s miserable outside. 

In Hungary, winter is celebrated with rowdy roaring and men in monster masks for a carnival called Busojaras designed to scare off the cold. Now I’m not suggesting we get too rambunctious, we are Kiwis after all but perhaps we could strum a uke and have a bit of a sing-song. Carousing – or social connectedness as shrinks like to call it – is a viable panacea to the winter blues. Even just having a natter is a legitimate nostrum. And rather than an ad-hoc pop-in, plan to party. Research says having things to look forward to – as well as the things themselves – is helpful when it comes to surviving winter.

Let’s band together to bring back Sunday Lunch. Let’s roast a slab of meat, do some complex carbs in duck fat and call up the crew. Having ten round the table, with all the trimmings and fruit crumble with homemade ice-cream, will certainly fill your weekend. And by the time you’ve finished a game of Articulate, packed them off with doggie-bags and cleaned up, you’ll be so zonked you’ll be catching zees by 8.

Another beneficial facet of mid-winter revelry is exercise. Whether it’s kachina dancing or zumba, shaking your booty is a good way to feel good. The very thing you should not do in winter, is stop doing things. In fact, getting up early is important to absorb as much light as possible and get that serotonin flowing, because it’s dark again at 5pm. You don’t want to cut yourself short by lazing about too long in bed.

That’s why sourdough and old dogs were invented.

If we didn’t have sourdough starters to feed at sparrow’s fart (or scobies or kefir grains) – or old dogs to walk around the block – we wouldn’t get up at all. We’d languish. And languishing is not healthy for anyone, especially in the depths of winter.

Once we’ve given a kick start to our winter days we have to keep going, and keep making as much out of every nippy moment as possible.

Every day is full of ways to get sunlight and movement into our frozen bodies. Simply put, that’s the highest priority when it comes to staying sane ‘til Spring arrives. If you can take your bike rather than driving, do so. If you can take the stairs rather than the lift, do. If there’s a choice between scrolling and strolling, do the walk. If you can fit in a swim before work or after, or on a drizzly Saturday, do it. Don’t look at the rain and see it as an excuse to slouch on the couch watching Taskmaster

I’m all talk. Obviously. I welcome winter solely because of hibernation. I count a grey sky and sub-18 degrees as gluggavedur: weather best experienced through a window. If the sun goes behind a cloud for longer than ten minutes I’m up and prepping mise en place for mulligatawny. Seasonal affective disorder is my addiction not my affliction. I practise the art of tsundoku specifically so I have a reason not to move a muscle or speak to anyone between May and September. I will even use a February sun shower as a bonafide reason to take to my bed and read all day. 

Experts say, “Soak up sunlight, eat healthy, keep active, stay connected, take this, do that”. But to truly survive the dark days we all need to give ourselves a bit of a break. Minimise stress, avoid guilt, dismiss angst of any kind. Relax.

Winter is wonderful whether you get-up-and-go, or go-with-the-flow. Just make sure you winter your way, on your terms and you’ll get through. You’ll have to. It’s annual, inevitable and non-negotiable. That is unless you book a July jaunt to Italy … (now there’s an idea!) 


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