If you’ve ever had to spend a day snowed in, you’re likely familiar with the restless, helpless feeling that comes with being at the mercy of very cold weather. The polar vortex currently sweeping the Midwest and parts of the East Coast of the United States has caused school and business closings, thousands of flight cancellations, emergency state declarations, and even tragic deaths.
As temperatures continue to plummet, more and more people are stuck inside, unable to continue with their regular routines — and the conditions are, for, many, distressing.
Even those fortunate enough to be able to stay out of the freezing cold can still find these weather conditions less than ideal. At the very least, being forced inside, and out of our ordinary routines, can activate feelings of latent stress or boredom. “A lot of us have trouble with inactivity,” Michael Aanavi, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist based in Anchorage, Alaska (where he is, needless to say, acutely familiar with very cold weather), tells Thrive. “Our whole culture revolves around doing. For people who intensely identify with that, having forced periods of inactivity can be really hard.” The extreme weather conditions can naturally make us feel anxious, and even if you don’t struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Aanavi says general emotions of isolation and sadness can still arise.
Instead of harping on what you’re unable to do, it helps to see the seasonal changes as an opportunity presenting itself — allowing you to be still, reflect, and find warmth in spending time with others, Aanavi notes. So if you’re stuck inside today, here are four ways to find joy even as you’re forced to spend another day inside.
Reframe your mindset
“See this time as an opportunity instead of an imposition,” Aanavi suggests. A small shift in mindset can go a long way, so it’s important to stay as positive as you can, even when the brutal conditions feel unsettling, or news stories about it are upsetting. Rewatch your favorite movie, or resurface that book you started but never got the chance to finish. “We often get so locked into the tasks that need to happen,” Aanavi adds. “Think instead about how this can be your chance to do the things you simply haven’t had the time to do.”
Get cozy by adopting elements of “Hygge”
Hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” is a Danish concept that encourages people to adopt an ambiance of coziness and internal warmth. Aanavi says embracing Hygge could be key for finding happiness in the winter, and there’s no “right way” to master the cultural concept. “It’s a way of being with the season,” Aanavi explains. “Whether that means journaling on your own, or cooking meals with friends and family — it’s about creating a feeling of warmth and connection.”
Make time for self-care
Having a few days indoors can allow you to get to that project you’ve been meaning to get to, or finally picking meditation back up. We often talk about the importance of slowing down and making time for ourselves — so being stuck inside might be the perfect time to finally indulge in your favorite self-care rituals, whether that’s brewing a cup of tea, applying a face mask, or listening to nostalgic music that brings you happiness. “Think of it as a retreat with yourself,” Aanavi recommends.
Keep lights bright indoors
“Changing weather can be a humbling experience,” adds Stephen Parker, Ph.D., a psychologist who has spent the past 40 years in Fairbanks, Alaska. “It’s easy to feel humbled when we realize nature is so much stronger than us, but there’s also beauty in it.” He suggests that by simply changing the way we think about nature, we can feel less anxious about coping with the extreme conditions. Also, as you’re staying inside, keep your lights bright. “Many people feel distressed not only by the cold, but by the prolonged darkness that comes along with it,” he points out. Bright lights can help you stave off those feelings.
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