Finding Joy in the Cold, Dark of Winter

I recently read this article on the “bad season” aka the few months every year (winter, summer, doesn’t matter) where everything just feels BLAH and self care becomes critical. For many people, THIS is the bad season. The part of winter where it’s been dark and cold and rainy/snowy for weeks. When the cheer of the holiday season has worn off. When we can’t be bothered to care about our yearly goals and resolutions. I personally have two bad seasons — one, right now, for 2 months or so and another in June-July when the heat is heavy and oppressive and I have to shower 3 times a day to feel clean. (We’ll dig in to the summer blues later this year. )

Right now, let’s discuss self care for the winter months. For me, the post-holiday-winter “bad season” manifests as lethargy, overeating, and general wallowing. But over the past few years, I’ve found ways to really lean into this time of year and make the best of it.

(First off, before we get in to the more lighthearted stuff — if you think you have depression or seasonal affective disorder, talk to your doctor or therapist. After getting diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder a few years ago and starting medication, my seasonal mood dips also drastically decreased. Ultimately, if what you feel is beyond a “bad season” thing — get help.)

Here are my tips:

Daily outdoor walks. I have 3 dogs making this a bit of non-negotiable. But even if you don’t have a furry companion, get outside every day (weather permitting). Bonus points if your walk takes you along a path with nature. Every morning, my husband and I bundle up and take our dogs on a 2 mile walk through our neighborhood and the adjacent nature preserve. I like to think of this as similar to the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” (which is supposed to do wonders for your health). If you are able, really try and get out in nature… even if it’s just walking under a few trees.

A 10 minute workout. If you’re already feeling lethargic, don’t try and get crazy and do a one hour HIIT session. Just try and do 10 minutes of activity everyday. I have a playlist with 10 minute floor workouts that I pull up every morning.

Aromatherapy. Procure a diffuser and experiment with different essential oil blends that fit in with the season. I love using blends with pine, bergamot, peppermint, and cinnamon this time of year.

Tea. Something about the process of making and drinking tea is incredibly comforting (especially when you are doing it the zero waste way with loose leaf tea). It’s a mindfulness practice in itself. Make yourself a cup, sit quietly, breathe in the steam, enjoy.

Socks. Cold feet suck. They make you not want to get up and do anything. Just wear the socks. Preferably the warmest ones you can find. I haven’t been sock-less in months now. As a whole, wear warm, cozy, and comfortable things.

Twinkle lights. These are not just for Christmas. I put up twinkle lights on my tv stand in November and don’t take them down until April. They make me happy and add a hint of magic to the everyday. So string up a strand in a visible spot in your home. Turn it on as soon as it gets dark out.

Puzzles. Find yourself some good 1,000 piece puzzles (Half Price Books usually has a bunch of pre-loved ones) and always have one going (ours is on the dining table). Any time you are feeling bored or uninspired, give yourself a goal of fitting 5 more pieces in. Whenever I do this, I inevitably end up spending at least an hour trying to get “just one more piece.” Bonus: it’s a bit of a brain workout.

Finding joy and self care in the cold, dark winter pinterest pin image.
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Winter Zero Waste Swaps

Brrrrrr… we’re in the thick of winter and it’s cold even here in Dallas. While you’re cozying up at home and getting your hygge on, here are a few things you can do to make sure you aren’t putting too much of a burden on the environment.

Sweaters: This is the time of year when I live in thick, oversized sweaters. And my number one place for finding them? The thrift store. I’ve said it before and will say it again. While secondhand t-shirts can sometimes feel worn out or faded… I’ve had a lot of luck finding excellent quality sweaters for under $5. This past weekend, I picked up the softest Loft sweater for a whopping $4. So before you decide to order that amazing sweater online, hit up the thrift store or Poshmark or ThredUp to find a piece that’s already out in the world.

Socks: Despite being a generally warm person, my feet are always freezing in the winter time. During the winter, I almost exclusively wear wool hiking socks. While most socks usually have some elastic and/or nylon in them for stretch (and, therefore, not compostable); I’ve found that I’ve never had to toss a pair of my wool hiking socks due to the extreme durability of them. My oldest pair is about 5 years old and has absolutely zero holes. I wear them with boots and around the house (in place of slippers) and then use them while hiking the rest of the year. This is one of those “buy quality over quantity” situations that lead to overall less waste.

Books: With all the indoor time the winter season offers (plus all the New Year’s resolutions to read more), a lot of people take to reading this time of year. Get your books from the library as much as possible! There is seldom a book I haven’t been able to request from our local library (both ebooks and physical ones). Or do a book swap with friends. Or borrow. At the very least, try and find the book used (Amazon is great for this if you look at the used options listed or “More Buying Choices”).

Soups: If you’re cooking up soups to warm up this winter, there are a few easy swaps you can make to produce the least amount of waste. First, make your own veggie or chicken stock using food waste. At the very least, find broth in cans (I’ve definitely seen these at Sam’s and Costco) since aluminum cans are widely considered one of the best items to recycle. Get any and all veggies without any packaging or bags (but you knew that already, right?). Buy lentils from the bulk section.

Moisturizers: Dry skin? Yeah, me too. Ditch the lotions in plastic containers with pumps and switch over to a bar lotion (like this one from Lush) or coconut oil bought in bulk or in a glass jar.

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The Less is Meera Holiday Gift Guide

First off — as much as I love minimalism and zero/low waste… I’m not going to tell you to forego gift giving. This is the one time of year that I enjoy giving (and receiving!) mindful gifts. But that’s the key word… mindful. Don’t go overboard with items and focus on high-quality items people will use, use up, or, at the very least, be able to keep for a very long time. Find items by small businesses on Etsy, items created sustainably/ethically/with recycled materials, and items that can nudge someone towards creating less waste. And don’t forget about experiences (concerts and sports) and non physical items (subscriptions). Happy holidays and happy (mindful) gift giving!

For the book/movie/music lover
Kindle Paperwhite
Audible subscription
Netflix, Hulu, or HBO subscription (given with bulk popcorn kernels and an earthenware popcorn bowl)
Cinemark Annual Cup and Tub Refill (given with a Cinemark gift card and stainless steel straw)
Beats by Dr. Dre Wireless Headphones

For the foodie/chef/eater
Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen
Plaid cloth napkins or these adorable candy cane striped ones!
Rose gold stainless steel straws
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Bee’s Wrap Reusable Food Wraps
Bodum Glass Tea Pot (given with a favorite loose leaf tea bought in bulk)

For the homebody/lover of cozy
Homebody by Joanna Gaines
milk + honey Home Fragrance
The Hygge Game
Recover Upcycled Socks (maybe given with the game above!)
Beeswax Candle Making Kit (perhaps with thrifted brass candlestick holders; I always see a ton of these at every thrift store I go to)
Holiday Tin Candle (I love the milk and cookies one! And the remaining tin is adorable for reuse.)
Five Year Keepsake Journals

For the beauty/skincare/bath lover
Lush Joy to the World Gift Set
Kristin Ess Silk Pillowcase Gift Set
Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask
bkr Water Bottle (because what’s better for your skin than water?)
Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

For the world traveler
The Away Carry-On (my hands down favorite suitcase that I’m sure will last a lifetime)
Travel Adapter
Leather Travel Wallet
Everlane ReNew Fleece Sweatshirt (for him and her; great for cold flights!)
Airbnb gift card
Rifle Paper Co. Wanderlust Keds (I always travel with Keds! And these are adorable for the travel lover.)

For your four legged friends
West Paw Dog Toys
Bulk dog treats
DIY t-shirt dog toy
Recycled rope leash
A trip to the dog park or some place new!

For your two legged little ones
Hearth and Hand Modern Farmhouse Gifting Collection (love this wooden map puzzle!)
Membership to your local zoo, science museum, etc.
Candy Cane Stripe Jammies

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Holiday Bucket List

“I’m sorry I ruined your lives and crammed 11 cookies into the VCR.” – Elf

Happy post-Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas aka my favorite time of the year! The tree is up, the house decorated, and Hallmark movies are playing on the tv. I love creating these seasonal lists of things to do. It allows me to stay present in the season and maximize all the holiday cheer. Here’s the 20 things I want to do this season:

1. Get festive drinks at HIDE for their Miracle Christmas Popup Bar.
2. Get a hot beverage at Deck the Hall Street, Fiction Coffee’s Christmas popup coffee shop!
3. Go to a basketball game.
4. Re-watch my favorite Christmas movies (Love Actually, The Holiday, It’s A Wonderful Life, Best Man Holiday, The Family Stone, Elf, Home Alone, The Chronicles of Narnia, Grand Budapest Hotel, The Polar Express).
5. Take the dogs (and some hot drinks) to the Deerfield neighborhood to check out the amazing Christmas lights.
6. Go to a Christmas themed Dallas Symphony performance (we’re going to A John Williams Christmas!).
7. Watch the Nutcracker ballet.
8. Decorate a gingerbread house.
9. Send out Christmas cards.
10. Bake a Christmas cake.
11. Decorate Christmas cookies.
12. Take pictures of the dogs in their Christmas bandanas.
13. Check out Vitruvian Lights in Addison.
14. Find family Christmas jammies (my current favorite!).
15. Find the perfect yearly ornament for the tree.
16. Make a hot cocoa bar and drink excessive quantities of it.
17. Binge watch season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
18. Listen to my favorite Spotify Christmas playlists as much as possible all month long.
19. Donate any Christmas ornaments/decor that went unused this year.
20. Go to our city’s tree lighting ceremony.

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The Little Things

On this election day, I’m inspired by A Cup of Jo’s post on simple pleasures. After the 2016 election (a night I spent crying in my bathtub with a panic attack), I find it important to balance my hunger for change on a large scale with gratitude for the simple things on a personal level. I vote, I volunteer in my city, I donate to candidates/organizations that represent my values, I work a job that aligns with making the world a better place. I read fluffy novels, cuddle with puppies, spend too long figuring out what color to paint my nails, decorate my house to look like a Christmas elf threw up on it. Today is one of those days when I’ve done what I can for the big things (for this tiny moment in time). And now I wait. And focus on the little things. The small pleasures in life that bring joy and gratitude and remind me that life goes on. That both the big things and the little joys can coexist. Here are my simple pleasures:

When the stars align and I make the perfect cup of David Rio iced chai to taste just like the coffee shop version.
Kissing my dogs behind the ears.
The woods near our home on a cold, misty morning.
Scout carrying a too large stick in her mouth on her morning walk.
Shadow sleeping on my stomach while I watch tv.
Jetlag that causes me to wake up at 5 AM and enjoy dawn.
Finally getting a notification that a much wanted book is available at the library.
Reading about first love.
Finding sweatpants that hide dog fur.
Seeing Lord of the Rings come up on the tv guide.
The smell of cold air after a long, hot summer.
Finding something I thought I lost.
Crossing off items on my to do list (in a journal I bought in London).
Watching videos on Youtube on a lazy Sunday morning.
A truly excellent glazed donut.