Although the days are slowly getting longer, we’ve still got a long stretch of wintertime ahead of us. When sunlight is scarce and rain is abundant, it’s tempting to hibernate — but staying busy and connected is the best way to keep your spirits up.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to brighten your outlook without spending much money. In fact, some of the most effective mood enhancers don’t cost a dime. Getting out of the house, maintaining social connections and relishing the season in small ways can all help you ward off the winter blues.
Here are eight things you can do on a budget to make your winter a little brighter this year:
1. Crank up the tunes
Upbeat music has been scientifically proven to improve your mood. One study found that listening to positive tunes each day for two weeks can actually make you feel happier. Music can also help relieve stress, enhance your brainpower and suppress your appetite. Put together a winter playlist that makes you feel energized and see for yourself if music can lift your spirits.
2. Help someone out
Volunteering is another mood booster backed by science. People who donate their time feel more connected, which helps ward off feelings of loneliness and depression. Volunteering also helps keep you active, which can improve your physical health during the long winter months. Lend a hand at a food bank, shelter, school, library or other organization to brighten your own day by brightening someone else’s.
3. Host a hot cocoa party
On a cold winter’s night, nothing beats a steaming mug of hot cocoa. Why not make it a party? All you need are your comfiest PJs, a few friends and some inexpensive toppings like miniature marshmallows, peppermint candies and chocolate chips. Queue up your favorite winter movie and pass around the blankets.
4. Catch up on some reading
A good book can transport you anywhere and winter is a great time to tackle that pile of books you’ve been meaning to read. Put together a reading list or browse the library shelves for titles that will uplift you or teach you something new. Add another boost by opening the curtains and reading by the window for some much-needed sunlight.
5. Give an old piece a makeover
Bring some color to your living space by upcycling a tired old piece of furniture. Choose an item in your home that could use a makeover or comb a thrift store for an inexpensive gem you can turn into something new. It’s amazing how much mileage you can get from an inexpensive coat of paint or a few new knobs — plus having a project will help you stay busy.
6. Check the community calendar
Even in winter there are free events happening all around your community, from craft fairs to winter festivals to live music. Local colleges often host free lectures and performances and most towns maintain a calendar of community events. You just might need to do a little legwork to find them.
7. Plan a cookie exchange
Baking is one of the coziest activities you can engage in. It warms you up both inside and out and it makes your home smell amazing. With a cookie exchange party, you get the extra benefit of sharing your baked goods with others. Add in a recipe swap and enjoy trying out some new recipes this winter.
8. Bring back game night
How long has it been since you’ve shuffled a deck of cards or dusted off your favorite board game? It might be time to plan a family game night or assemble the gang for some tabletop role-playing.
With a little creativity and intent, you can brighten up even the dreariest winter days — and before you know it, spring will be here again.