Lift Yourself Out of the Winter Doldrums


It’s gray, cold and gloomy outside, or it was for much of January, February and the beginning of March. Our mood at times has sunk lower than the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. We hunker indoors and walk less outdoors, frustrated by the cascading effects of climate change—the undulating temperatures, the wet pavements, constant drizzle of rain or snow, floods and the lack of blue sky. On a few days when the temperature has climbed and clouds disappeared, we feel uplifted that good weather is coming…soon. 

How we wish these were our main problems. But we know they aren’t.   

We’re down because of the world’s surfeit of precarious conditions and situations: viruses, the war in Ukraine and Putin’s tightening aggression, challenges with China, the Mid-East war and the loss of human lives, the out-of-control U.S. Southern border issue, information overload and much of it fake and an upcoming dramatic and volatile U.S. Presidential election that could change the course of history. One of us recently attended a lecture on fascism, which could happen here. We could go on and on. There’s a reason so many people are escaping by tuning into the Hallmark channel where the plots are simple, a romance thrives, someone usually is a cook in a picturesque setting that seems set in Vermont. And always there’s a happy ending in a bucolic location. 

We need sun, surf, fun, (maybe some romance), farmers’ markets brimming with produce and the idea of walking with sunscreen slathered on, hats and glasses in place to protect us from strong sunlight. It’s coming sooner than usual, according to the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, who didn’t see his shadow Friday, Feb. 2, which means there will be an early spring, the 21st time. 

There’s other good news that all is not gloom and doom. We’re here to offer some ideas to perk us all up. You may have your own remedies but here are 12 of ours that help get us out of the doldrums. Everyone periodically needs new ways we think, and we’re open to yours. 


Get a squeeze of delight. I love anything made with lemon. Pound cake. Lemonade made from scratch. Lemon meringue pie. Lemon chicken. Sole with lemon, butter and parsley. Lemon anything. It smells so clean and refreshing. Reminds me of spring to come. I love Margaret’s lemon square bars recipe. 

Sweet-Tart Lemon Bars


1 C. Butter (melted)

2 C. Flour

1 C. Powdered Sugar

4 Eggs

2 C. Sugar

1/4th C. Flour

1 Tsp. Baking Powder

 6 T. Lemon Juice


Preheat oven to 350. Combine the butter, flour and powdered sugar. Put into a greased 8X12-inch Pyrex plate or pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Beat the remaining ingredients. Pour onto the top of the first baked mixture and bake again for 30 to 35 minutes, again at 350 degrees. Cool and cut into squares. When cool, sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

Get down with classic rock music. I love this kind of music when I’m in a bad mood. It picks me up, boosts my energy level and good brain chemicals and sends me back in time when the world was in a different and (I think) better safer place. I often play it while I’m cooking or writing, good background music. 

Ring up an empathic and funny friend. When I’m feeling blue, I want to connect with a good friend who knows me well, has similar values and sense of humor. When we chat, we can make each other giggle and laugh.  One is so funny when she says in a certain slow way about something funny, “Shut up.” We both roar. But important also to ring up regularly all good friends so we’re there for one another, and our ups and downs.

Take a good long walk. I have wonderful places to walk in my little picture-postcard village, past the oldest inn in America, past a favorite church, alongside streets with houses from the 18th century, past shops where I know the shopkeepers. I put away my phone, open my eyes, am thankful for landing in such a bucolic small village. And I was lucky recently to get away to a very walkable historic city with my daughters, and we all walked TONS.

Go to a painting class. I’m extra fortunate to have one within walking distance of my house with a sweet, talented teacher and group of classmates who are all eager to learn, share artworks, offer positive criticism and schmooze a bit, but mostly stay silent so we can concentrate. I feel blessed to have this passion. In this case, squeezes of red, blue, green and yellow watercolor paints perk up my mood. 

Find a compelling book or TV show. It’s hard for me to sit and do nothing but give me a good new series or book and I’m quite happy to put up my feet and unwind. Recent show favorite was “A Million Little Things” with flawed but interesting characters and my read was Emily of New Moon by Maud Montgomery, a sweet book Margaret recommended. Now, I’m rewatching “Brothers & Sisters” for the beau who never saw it and a dysfunctional family and characters I’m not fond of, and rereading about the slave trade in our country, a very dark period but important to understand better why it occurred.  


Happy place. I have a special chair near a window that gets good light where I go to decompress and read, whether catching up with New Yorker or Vanity Fair magazines or reading an eBook on my iPad. When you’re in a bad place, we advise staying away from Holocaust and slavery books and concentrate on lighter literature and essays by humorists. 

Place and show. If I’m feeling a bit down, I’ll go to a concert. I prefer classical music or a comedic opera, but a play or dance can also pump up my mood. Give me tickets to a live performance of Billy Joel, Melissa Ethridge or Elton John. Sometimes a funny or romance movie or comedic off-Broadway show will help shift my mood.

Use your noodle. I try to think about learning a new skill. Try something technical like how to use AI or load a new program and use the new OMNI metro card in NYC. Learn how to make puff pastry or bagels. Recently, I took on the challenge of re-learning the Mozart Requiem—challenging music and words in Latin--which I am singing (first soprano) with a group in a neighborhood church. Last winter a group of us got together once a week to learn how to play pool and refresh our ping pong skills. Some people I know play Bridge or Canasta. It’s social, clears their heads and requires focus on something other than the gloomy weather and the world’s state of affairs. And those who win experience a temporary high. 

Furry therapy. What could be better than our best friend, our pets, with their unconditional love. If I need a furry friend fix (I do not have a pet), I’ll go to my son’s apartment to see my grandcat. She will greet me at the door, give me little baby cat kisses and when she warms up to me will sit next to me and sometimes on my lap. We listen to music, I’ll brush her coat and we play with her toys. 

Group gab. Get together with a group of friends and chat about inane topics, anything but politics and the state of the world. Smile. Laugh. Share good positive stories. And maybe eat some French fries.  

Bright spots. Repaint a room in yellow. Open all the shades, scatter colored pillows, add good lighting or a lamp or two. This can give the illusion of sunlight. Throw in a few plants and you might just trick your brain into thinking spring has arrived. I haven’t done this in my rented apartment, but I have a plant I adore and have named, Stanley, who’s growing and knows me better than most.   

All of these suggestions, in their own way, have possibilities. Try them or come up with your own, and before you know it, you’ll be donning cotton pants, sleeveless tops and sunglasses. Bring on spring, just days away.



  • Marty

    Volunteer! At a local museum, or school, or hospice…or at all three.

  • Audrey Steuer

    Very refreshing and encouraging! How sad it is that this is what the world has come to!

    I also love everything lemon!!

  • Rena

    I don’t wear sleeveless…
    What should I do?

  • Steven

    Great suggestions!
    If I get the winter blues, I sometimes get fresh cut flowers. They have a great fragrance and are a welcome sight when I arrive at home.

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