If you’re feeling a bit 'off' this month, you’re not alone. Many people experience the “winter blues” towards the end of the winter. The science tells us that the lower level of natural sunlight we are exposed to in the fall and winter can cause dips in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, disruptions in circadian rhythms which is your body’s internal clock, as well as alterations in melatonin, a hormone associated with both mood and sleep.
Parenting is exhausting in every season; Getting kids ready for school, helping them find their lost shoe, making sure they don’t miss the bus, convincing them to eat their peas, making sure their karate uniform is clean, switching car seats, schlepping them around from one activity to the next. It sure is a lot! Throw some wintry cold, snowy or grey weather into the mix and well, that just complicates things. By February or March, the excitement of the holidays have passed and it is so easy to get lost in routine. These blustery days may seem to all start looking the same, and fresh Spring air and sunny Summer weather looks so far off at this point.
Good thing there are SO many things you can do to get over this mundane time of year! Here are some fun ideas that the whole family can do together to beat those winter blues:
Play Dates - For the Parents AND the Kids! - Kids aren’t the only ones that need play dates! Adults need to laugh and be playful too. Invite a couple of families with kids over -- and don't stress if your house isn't picture perfect -- your friends won't care. They'll just be happy to spend some time with you. The kids can play while the adults hangout. It doesn’t have to be a fancy dinner party. Heck, you don’t even have to serve any food. Or your guests may even insist on bringing the food. Just simply having company over for a chat or a game night will be enough to brighten your mood. Cultivating and spending time with your "tribe", whoever that may be -- is one of the most powerful ways to lift each other up.
Get Outside - It may still be frigid in some parts of the country, but if the sun is shining, consider taking the family outside for a hike, some sledding, or even just a walk around the block. It doesn't matter what activity, just simply getting outside into the fresh air is sure to help clear your head. Disconnect from technology and take in your surroundings. Grab your boots, pack up the kids and zip on over to the nearest state or town park. Blaze a trail and stomp through the fresh snow, taking turns as to who gets to lead the pack. Not only will it get everyone out of the house, but it will get your heart rates up too!
Create a Bucket List - Making a collective “Bucket List” of activities or goals each family member would like to do or accomplish is a great way to bond. It is also a great tool to use to look forward to the future. You’d be surprised at the power of positive thinking! As humans, we always enjoy having something to look forward to. It is fun to dream about future accomplishments, visits to new places, new things to try, and the prospect of meeting new people. Bucket lists are also a great way to help each other become comfortable with the idea of doing an activity they may be apprehensive about. Tack the bucket list up on the fridge and put a plan into action of how each point will be accomplished. You may not get to all of them right away, but simply working towards those goals will build confidence and improve morale.
Plan Regular Family Game Nights - Board games are not only fun, but they encourage the family to come together, literally - to the table. What family doesn’t like a little friendly competition? Or maybe your family could benefit from working together at a cooperative game. Set aside one day a week or a month, for an unplugged family game night. Rotate on who gets to choose what to play. The kids will especially love having a turn to choose the game. Of course HABA makes some of the best games for families of any age or skill level to enjoy together. Check them out!
Schedule Regular Date Nights - Play dates with friends, game nights with the kids, they’re all GREAT. But seriously, nothing is better for your mood than a good old fashioned date night with your significant other or close adult friend(s). Without. The. Kids! Call up the Grandparents or a trusted sitter or family friend, they're likely to be thrilled to take the kids for the night. Many people enjoy 'spoiling' other people's children. Somehow they think it’s their duty to do so, and who are we to stop them? After you’ve figured out the "sitter" situation, make a reservation at your favorite spot, get fancy and step out of your parent roles for the night. If staying in is more your speed, queue up Netflix and launch your take-out app of choice, because date night should never involve any sort of cooking (unless that’s your thing, then more power to ya!). Some adult conversation and anyone but you doing the cooking and the dishes is sure to get you out of that winter funk!