Tips for Beating the Winter Blues in NYC

It starts to hit right around the time I have to take out the heavy winter coat: the dread. November and December are usually okay because the city is in holiday mode, festive and colorful and full of life. Once January rolls around, feeling energized becomes a struggle, especially with the realization that spring won’t be here for four months, if not later. Last year, it was 55 degrees and raining on my birthday, in late May. I wanted to cry. The weather almost made me cry on my birthday. Asshole.

Here are a few of my tips for getting a head-start on outsmarting the season.

[Note: Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognized medical condition with seasonal symptoms that mimic traditional depression. Prescribed treatments can include light therapy and talk therapy, so it’s important to see your doctor if symptoms are affecting your quality of life. The below is purely anecdotal and is no way intended to be read as medical advice.]

Get Outside. Even if only for 30-minute increments. In New York City, it usually just so happens if you’re out, you’re out for a while. Instead of planning an entire day outdoors, which, when it’s cold and gloomy, might drain your energy, walk to the cute local sandwich place for lunch, or, do a perimeter walk around the park. Come home. Recharge. Then, a few hours later, walk to the local bookstore, boutique, whatever. It should be a place that gets you excited. Winter is the time to really get to know your ‘hood.

Dress Warmly. This might sound totally obvious, but there is little worse than feeling uncomfortable and underdressed for the weather. It makes you want to run home immediately, lock the doors, close the blinds and not emerge until early June. When it’s cold-cold, this means: heavy coat (preferably of the puffy variety), hat, scarf, gloves (depending on whether your coat has conveniently placed pockets), boots. You’ll probably look like the Michelin man on a ski holiday, but you know what? See that girl over there in the chic cropped wool coat? She’s hating life right now. When you’re properly dressed, you can handle those bone-chilling wind gusts and cruel, sloshy March snowstorms. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that the lowest temperature at which you can possibly be comfortable outdoors is 35 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s below that for the high, you unfortunately have to limit your time outside.

Revel in Snow. We don’t usually get slammed in New York City the way they do in, say, Minnesota, which means snow is rarely a burden and is instead a welcome respite from our usual freezing rain and soul-crushing darkness. A nice, not-too-large snowfall is a great excuse to go outside and enjoy snow-specific activities with your fellow New Yorkers–sledding, snowshoeing, snowball fighting, etc. A clear day post nighttime snowfall is especially exciting. Since snow reflects the sun, a sunny snow-covered day is exceptionally bright and mood-enhancing. Get out there quickly because you have about one-to-two days of enjoyment before the whole thing turns into a brown, slushy mess.

Cook Something. Enjoying your indoor time is crucial. If it’s gross out and all you’re doing is restlessly pacing around the apartment with nothing to do, or splaying yourself on the couch in front of a Shahs of Sunset marathon, these months are going to feel interminable. The easiest kinds of projects involve cooking. This can range from the simple–buying cocoa powder and milk and making hot cocoa from scratch–to the more advanced–a homemade bolognese left to simmer for 3 hours. Bonus points if the recipes, like the ones mentioned, are seasonal. Also, though it may sound stodgy, tea time at around 4 p.m. is a great way to add structure to a lazy day. Have nice teas on hand and maybe some of these and use your fanciest cup and saucer.

Plan Events. Lots of Them. Once the excitement of the holidays has worn off, it’s important to plan get-togethers with loved ones, if only for the very obvious reason of having something to look forward to during these dreary months. Many people are in town, which usually means less scrambling for a date that’ll work for everyone. Oscar viewing party, potluck dinner, whatever, just get in on the calendar. People need motivation to go out in winter, especially after a long workday. Plan in advance so last-minute dinner plans don’t dwindle to just you due to collective lethargy.

Museums Are Your Best Friend. For two reasons. One, there is a coat check, which is absolutely worth the few bucks to feel comfortable and unburdened. Two, there is probably a restaurant, which means you don’t have to travel from place to place when the weather sucks. Make a day of it–lunch or dinner and an exhibit. You’ll feel accomplished without having to traipse all over the city. One of my husband’s and my favorite activities is brunch at Neue Galerie’s Café Sabarsky, a wood-clad Viennese cafe that serves delectable cold-weather-friendly food like goulash as well as exquisite desserts, followed by a visit to whatever special exhibit is currently on display.

Escape to a Warm Climate. If you’ve got the funds, that is. This one’s pretty self explanatory. Alternatively, you can venture to a local spot where you can wear your bathing suit. This usually means a bathhouse of some kind. Now, you can go the fancy bathhouse route with Aire Ancient Baths, a beautiful (and expensive) indoor Roman-esque spa in Tribeca, with a salt water pool, cold plunge pools and a peppermint and eucalyptus-infused steam room among its attractions. Alternatively, you can try a schlepppier Russian-style bathhouse, of which there are a few in the city. The Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village are popular as is the Wall Street Bath & Spa. I had a great experience at Korean spa King Spa Fitness in New Jersey and heard raves about Spa Castle in Queens..

One of my favorite days of 2013 was a sunny, snow-covered Saturday in the city. My husband and I had a quick, hearty breakfast, bundled up and went to Prospect Park to traipse around in the snow, shopped for and made a fancy lunch of open-faced smoked salmon sandwiches with soft boiled eggs, took naps, made hot cocoa from scratch, read in the living room, then went to a local ramen place for dinner. We utilized four out of the seven tips. So yes, these really do work! Check out the documentation below.

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