Ways to beat the winter blues

Tips for beating the Winter Blues
September 27, 2008
By Kay Bjork

You open the scenic calendar (the one that was free at the grocery store) to jot down upcoming events and realize they are all the dreaded, delayed tasks and appointments you put off until “next year.” 
Call it a case of post-holiday blues or the winter doldrums – the long nights and short days and the challenges of living in a cold, northern climate can dim even a Pollyanna’s smile.
How to brighten the upcoming months? If you are going to live in the north, the best antidote to the winter blahs is to go outside and play.  
Looking for a less technical winter sport? How about building a snowman or having a snowball fight. Have you ever noticed the rosy, sparkly faces of your children after playing in the snow?
Form a friendly relationship with snow and cold so that winter will mean more than horrific road conditions and feeling perpetually cold. 
Winter can mean the heavenly sensation of floating through powder on your skis or snowboard; making snow angels in a feathery snow blanket as your children look at you with new respect; or maybe it will mean hanging out on a frozen lake with friends and a steaming cup of coffee while you wait for the fish to bite.
Go outside and play or invite the party to your house. Visit another Montana community during a special event or just check out local color by staying downtown or at a bed and breakfast. 
Even if you can’t become a winter disciple, there are lots of good reasons to look forward to the coming months. Following are just a few ways that you won’t just pass the winter months – you will make them memorable. 

Winterize your favorite summer activity.
Maybe its volleyball, or softball or having a barbecue. Why not try it in the snow? It will add a zany element that will boost your spirit. 
Try a new sport
Remember that flash of inspiration you felt while watching the Winter Olympics? Reignite the vow to try a new winter sport by actually doing it. Montana ski resorts offer lessons and winter ski/board programs. Call your local ski area for details. Nordic skiing and skating clubs and your local parks and recreation department also offer lessons or clinics. 
If you are the solitary type, try snowshoeing or buy a “how to” video to get you started in Nordic skiing.
Take a winter nature walk.
Listen to the sound of your own footsteps. Stand quietly and listen to hear winter’s symphony – the snap, crackle and pop of ice, the muffled swoosh of falling snow or the dull roar of wind through leafless trees. Study the fabric of winter and the intricate patterns of ice – lace doilies, dangling shimmering crystals, graceful ice tassels that flutter from twigs, and feathery frost. Look for animal tracks – and identify them and their activity. Was it a deer casually browsing in the brush or fleeing, marked by wide-spaced tracks?

Have a bonfire
Winter traditions in our family include a Christmas tree bonfire and a skating outing at our home on Swan Lake. After the fire has died down to glowing embers we roast hot dogs or sausage. 
If you live in town, maybe a friend who lives in a rural setting would be up for a bonfire. Or skip the tree burning and just barbecue in your yard or at a local park while the kids play in the snow. Keep food simple – finger food translates to mitten food in the winter. Eat hot dogs right off the stick and save the side dishes and dessert for home.
Have a snow sculpture contest.
Break out of the snowman rut. Pick a theme - like favorite cartoon characters, animals or how about your favorite car. Keep it in the family or invite the neighbors to join in. Watch for that perfect sticky snowmaking weather that occurs when winter gets wishy-washy and the temperatures hover at around 32 degrees.  

Throw a wine and beer tasting party
Have friends bring their favorite wine or micro-brew and furnish food that is complementary to the beverages. Give it a Montana theme and serve Montana-made beverages, cheeses, meats, sauces and pastries.
Form a Montana author book exchange
Swap books with friends or visit a bookstore or library for books by Montana authors. Set a personal goal and learn a little more about your state and the character of its people.

Host a “Made in Montana” film club
Sink into comfortable chairs with family and friends to watch a film made in Montana. Make it a game to identify the Montana scenery that sometimes appears briefly in movies such as “Forrest Gump.” Here’s are a few Montana choices:
1997 “The Horse Whisperer” (shot in the Big Timber and Livingston area)
1997 “The Patriot” (Ennis area)
1997 “What Dreams May Come” (Glacier National Park and Blackfeet Reservation)
1993 “Iron Will” (West Yellowstone area)
1993 “The River Wild” (Libby, Flathead areas)
1991 “A River Runs Through It” (Livingston, Bozeman areas)
1990 “True Colors” (Big Sky Resort/Bozeman)
1989 “Always” (Libby)
1979 “Heavens Gate” (Kalispell/Glacier Park/Butte)
1970 “Little Big Man” (Virginia City, Billings) less commonly available but this classic with Dustin Hoffman is worth the search.
Other movie themes you might explore are musicals, Hitchcock, or John Wayne movies.
Add a little class
Check your local community college or college for adult education courses – photography, computers, and art are just a few topics commonly covered. Local restaurants and clubs also offer classes and workshops.
Do a project
Not as exciting as learning a new sport or throwing a dinner party, but the sense of accomplishment you feel might free you to enjoy something more fun. Here’s one that is the perfect post-holiday task: Clean out your closets using the replacement method as incentive. If you received a new sweater for Christmas, give one away. Check the yellow pages for thrift stores in your area, which are often operated by charitable organizations.
Experience “spring” through children
Soak up the enthusiasm, hope and passion of youth at a local school sport, music or drama event. Enjoy observing the blossoming of talent and young lives.

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