8 Ways To Make Spending a Long Winter Indoors More Bearable, According to Someone Who Lives in Minnesota

published Dec 20, 2020
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Snow covered Play Ground in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada on a cold winter day and with snow covered trees and lawn

Even if you have limited knowledge about Minnesota, you probably know one thing about the Land of 10,000 Lakes: The winter can be brutal. I’m talking massive blizzards, icy highways, -30 degree wind chills, and so much more. This is the kind of weather that basically forces you indoors for three months out of the year; there’s really nothing less pleasant than stinging icy snow bits pelting you in the face, and nothing better than the cozy comforts of your home sweet home.

I’ve officially called Minnesota my home for 14 years and know more than my fair share about how to make the much-dreaded winter more bearable. Whatever the weather where you are, you’re probably spending more time at home this winter. So how do you adapt to reality and plan how to, ahem, weather—and even enjoy!—winter, even when cooped up inside? Allow a seasoned pro to show you the way.

Credit: Clea Shearer

Be prepared for the season

You know what makes all that time inside less painful, stressful, and sometimes scary? Being prepared! This means planning ahead and stocking up on essential supplies, be it toilet paper and toothpaste, healthy snacks, craft supplies, or pet food. If you have the essentials close at hand, you’re likely to feel more confident about what’s to come.

Make your home as cozy as possible

Heating bills aside, making your home feel like a warm and friendly place is key. You can call it “hygge” or you can call it “making a blanket fort” if you so desire. For some, this means candles that evoke a crackling fire in a log cabin. For others, it’s daily hot baths or weekly spa nights. Whatever your version of cozy is, channel it with decor and home accessories to make your dwelling feel like a place you’d want to visit. 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Find new hobbies and set challenges for yourself

From home projects to learning to weave or play guitar, finding a new hobby is a wonderful way to pass the time on days spent entirely inside. If you’re stuck inside, you might as well find something productive to do so you can show off your new skills later. Take it from my husband, who has recently developed a passion for birdwatching from our kitchen window. 

If you’re feeling particularly motivated, use the winter to get stuff DONE! Make a dent in your “to be read” pile. Clean and organize closets before spring cleaning sets in! Try to work your way up to a two-minute plank. Give yourself a task—especially if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do or have been putting off—and use the endless winter days to accomplish it.

Get outside for as long as you can

Yes, this is about how to spend all winter inside, but fresh air is key, especially since 2020 has probably given you a major case of cabin fever. As social connection is essential for mental and emotional health, many people are opting outdoors to see their friends and family. In Minnesota, that means layering up and potentially investing in outdoor warmers or a bonfire pit for much-needed social time, or embarking on outdoor adventures like cross-country skiing.

Suiting up to face the elements can be stylish, I swear. Blundstone Chelsea boots will keep your feet dry on slushy days and look cute with any winter outfit, especially with a pair of wool socks. Uniqlo’s HEATTECH line was basically made for Minnesotans, and no winter ensemble is complete without HotHands’ near-miraculous hand warmers. (Keep a few extra in your car or bag to hand out to people in need.) Chilly temps mean dry skin, so keep a thick, emollient lip balm on hand at all times—I love Malin & Goetz, which is loaded with fatty acids. 

Prioritize connection

You wouldn’t be wrong to feel Zoomed out, but connection with the people you love is so important, especially now. Pick up the phone and call a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile, or set up a 15-minute “happy hour” with a coworker and don’t talk about work at all. You can also send people handwritten notes or consider becoming pen pals with an older person who lives in a care facility. Even though many people are isolated, we can still find ways to be there for each other and brighten the days.

Move your body

When the weather is temperate (for Minnesotans, that means a balmy 30 degrees), walk around the neighborhood or take a jaunt around the park. Harvard Health Publishing says it’s perfectly safe to run, walk, and bike in 30-40 degree temps, as long as you’re properly dressed for the weather. If you’d rather stay indoors, consider YouTube videos, hit the treadmill, or—you guessed it!—spin on that shiny new Peloton bike. If you need help getting motivated, start a group with a few friends for encouragement or join an online community. Even deep-cleaning the house counts! 

Try light therapy

Seasonal Affective Disorder is more likely to impact women and those living in the northern states than anyone else. If you’re struggling with the winter blues, it may be worth looking into light therapy. We’ve rounded up some great options to choose from; all you need is about 20-30 minutes per day to help reduce the effects of SAD and get some much-needed UV light, even when it’s dreary outside.

Give yourself something to look forward to

Many Minnesotans take a vacation or two during the winter months, but COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in such plans. Since warming up on the beach is out of the question this year, find something else to look forward to. Given the limits of our current climate, maybe that’s getting takeout from a different local restaurant every weekend, or themed virtual Netflix party nights with friends. It could be replacing the sofa, redecorating your bedroom, or splurging on a fancy bottle of champagne for New Year’s Eve. However you can incorporate cheer and fun into your winter plans, do it.