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Smile, It’s Cold! 10 Ways To Stay Happy This Winter

By F+

Illustration by Zach Cooper

Illustration by Zach Cooper.

It’s November and the weather is glorious. The crackling of leaves is underfoot and the crisp promise of colder weather is on the horizon. But if you suffer like I do from Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as SAD, winter can feel a little threatening.

Whether you’re severely prone to a case of the blues with the change of seasons, or just slightly glum when the sun disappears and frigid weather takes over, finding joy and keeping that internal sun shining is important. As tempting as it sounds to curl up at home and hibernate for the next six months, there are plenty of fun activities that will help you see the beauty in the cold and get to know this unique city a little better. Here are just a few suggestions to keep you busy and vital this winter.

  1. There are a couple bathhouses and saunas in Chicago that are affordable, unique, and will really warm you up. Check out the Korean-style Paradise Sauna on West Montrose Avenue. (Try the loofah rub!) Or, for a traditional Russian-style spa experience, go to Red Square in Wicker Park.
  2. Research delicious, warming recipes that will be fun to make after returning home from class in the evenings. Try a pumpkin soup with a crusty loaf of bread. Drink a hot chocolate made from scratch while you’re working at your desk. Hearty foods taste the best this time of year, so embrace your inner hot grilled cheese and tomato soup!
  3. Invest in warm weather gear you really like so you actually enjoy wearing it. Your mittens don’t have to be expensive, just lovely to wear and look at. (It’s also good if they keep you warm.) That chilly walk to the train station won’t feel so rough when you’re admiring your red scarf with cats all over them. (Same concept applies to hats, coats, earmuffs, etc).
  4. Snow is beautiful and can inspire a meditative mood. There’s something hopeful about a blank sheet of fresh snow covering the ground: Suddenly, there’s a new world for you to explore! Dress appropriately and venture into your new neighborhood after the first snowfall. Winter is a great time to nurture your inner child and pretend you’re an explorer discovering uncharted territories.
  5. Colder weather means ice skating season is here! Downtown Chicago is home to the Skating Ribbon in Maggie Daley Park — a skating trail twice the length of a regular lap around a skating rink. You can slide through the park and feel a part of the trees themselves, while enjoying a view of the city’s skyline. There’s also the McCormick-Tribune rink just up the street from school (basically under the Bean in Millennium Park).
  6. When it really is too frigid to venture outdoors, you’re provided the perfect opportunity to tackle that indoor project that you’ve been meaning to get to. Perhaps it’s painting your bedroom bright green or working on that quilt made from the your grandmother’s handkerchiefs. Whatever it is, you have full permission to spend time on it, cozy and warm indoors.
  7. Let’s talk about books — glorious books! Reading in bed, curled up like a cat while the wind howls outside is probably one of the greatest pleasures in life. Do it!
  8. Use your student discount to go to The Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium, both indoors. Learning new things and visiting with animals who spend all their lives inside is thought-provoking and helps to put things in perspective.  
  9. Hang colorful lights all around your house or bedroom. Put flannel sheets on your bed and revel in the extra heat (footy pajamas also good).
  10. Winter is a romantic season. Hold someone’s hand for added warmth while walking through the cold. Snuggle more. Hug more. And whether or not you’ve got someone nearby to hug, it’s the time of year to remember to feel grateful for all the good things in our lives. Tell people you love them. Make a card for someone you care about.

These are only a few of the delicious things we can do to prepare for winter  in Chicago. Yes, there are going to be days when we are really, really cold, but let’s try to remember that we can keep the joy inside, no matter what the temperature reads.

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