10 different activities to help you embrace the winter season

During the winter, when it’s cold outside and we’re spending more time indoors, it can be challenging to come up with new ways to pass the time. However there are plenty of ways you can embrace this frosty season, and keep yourself entertained both inside and outdoors.

From perfecting your chilli con carne recipe, through to going on a winter hike, here are 10 ways to beat the boredom over the next few months.

1. Complete a jigsaw puzzle

What better way to spend a warm, wintry evening, then snuggled up with a hot drink and a jigsaw puzzle?

If you’re looking for a way to keep your hands busy, stay mindful, and gain a sense of achievement, then a jigsaw puzzle is a great place to start. Puzzles require a lot of patience, thought, and focus – making them the perfect activity to really immerse yourself in for several hours at a time. Plus, everytime we slot two pieces of the puzzle together, our brains release dopamine (a “happy hormone”) which is why we have such a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as we complete them.

Jigsaw puzzles also require us to spend time scanning the pieces to find different shades of colour, and different shapes – the details of which get stored in our short-term memory. Not only does this reinforce existing pathways between brain cells, but it also helps to create new ones – giving our short-term memory a boost, and helping to speed up the pace at which we process our thoughts. This makes little things like remembering what we need from the supermarket, or where we left our car keys, much easier.

If you’re looking to get stuck into a good jigsaw puzzle, then Amazon has a huge range to choose from. If you’re new to puzzling, then why not try one that has 1000 pieces? This creates enough of a challenge that you can spend a few hours or evenings completing it – but not so difficult that you’re likely to get bored, or give up. If 1000 piece jigsaws become too easy, or aren’t challenging enough, then why not really push yourself and aim to complete one with 2000+ pieces?

2. Go on a winter walk or hike

Many of us don’t find the idea of going out for a long walk or hike appealing during the Winter – but with the right planning and preparation, it can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Sometimes, it’s the simple thought of walking around shivering in the cold that prevents us from wanting to get out there – but most times once we do, we adjust and adapt. Feeling the crisp winter air on our skin and getting our blood pumping when it’s cold out can be invigorating, and can leave you feeling better mentally and physically when you return home.

Often, the best way to make the most of a walk when it’s cold (and sometimes wet!) outside, is to really embrace it. This means making sure to layer up, and wear clothing that’s suitable for the elements; such as a good quality waterproof jacket, and some walking boots. You could also consider packing a hot drink – or even some hot food like soup or chilli – in a flask, to keep it warm, and taking it along with you. A good playlist can also help you relax during a chilly walk or hike, and take your mind off the elements. A free basic Spotify account will give you access to thousands of songs, and allow you to create your own playlists.

It can also help to plan your walk or hike in advance – as this will allow you to get a better idea about what kind of conditions to expect. Consider using All Trails (available on desktop or as an app) – a site which allows you to find walking and hiking trails near you. With a free basic account you get start exploring right away – or if you want to go premium, you’ll get access to some additional benefits, such as the ability to download maps to use when you’re in an area with no smartphone signal.

If you’re finding it difficult to motivate yourself to get out for a walk at the moment, then you might want to have a read of our article; 11 fitness motivation ideas for winter.

3. Try a new beauty routine

Many of us take extra steps in the winter to look after our hair and skin, which can be drier as a result of the cold weather. Sometimes finding what works for yours after many months of glorious sunshine can take some trial and error. However, not all of us have the money to buy and try endless moisturisers and hair care products each time the seasons change. Luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can keep your skin and hair hydrated without breaking the bank.

To start with, it can be helpful to read up on how best to treat your skin and hair during the winter. For hair, this can include tips such as keeping hair-washing to a minimum, using a hydrating hair mask once a week, and having regular trims. This guide from Hello! magazine includes these tips and more.

When it comes to skincare, tips can include things like using moisturising face oils, or hand creams, and making sure that we’re eating a diet rich in nutrients. Have a read of this article from Glamour magazine to find out more.

If you want to save some money and have a go at making some of your own moisturizing skin care and hair products this winter, then check out these 7 DIY face masks from Good Housekeeping (which includes ingredients such as honey, coconut oil and avocado), or these 5 soothing winter skincare recipes from Hello Glow (which uses ingredients such as almond oil, orange and lavender). We’d love to hear if any of these particularly work for you – please let us know in the comments below!

4. Try stargazing

The amazing thing about stargazing is that it’s completely free – yet it offers an ever-changing show, a chance to connect with nature, and the opportunity to practice some deep reflection. No matter where we happen to be in life, or what’s going on, the night sky can act as an anchor point that we can return to time and time again when we feel the need to connect to something greater, or when we need some quiet space to contemplate our past, present and future.

The winter may be cold, but it also offers us shorter days – which means there’s plenty more time to get outside and take in the wonders of the night sky. Once you’ve wrapped up warm, grabbed a hot drink and made your way out to your garden, or to sit in a local park, there are plenty of things to look out for. Sunsets, constellations and shooting stars are just a few examples. To find out more about what to look out for when stargazing, check out this guide from the National Trust.

There are also a number of free apps you can download to help you identify what you see, such as SkyView Lite (iOS/Android) and NASA (iOS/Android). For a roundup of some of the best astronomy apps of 2020, you might want to have a read of this article from Tom’s Guide.

5. Tackle your inbox

It doesn’t take long for an email inbox to get out of control! Perhaps you watched your unread email number tick from double figures, to treble to quadruple over the course of the year – but you still haven’t gotten round to sorting through them. Or maybe your inbox is being flooded with spam emails, and you’ve been meaning to mark them as ‘Junk’ or unsubscribe altogether, but haven’t gotten around to that either. We’ve all been there, and often the more swamped our inbox gets, the harder it is to motivate ourselves to sort through it.

However, while in the summer months, you might have avoided organising your inbox because you’d much rather be enjoying the sunshine, the winter can be a great time to knuckle down and sort through any outstanding admin tasks that have been weighing you down. Although managing your inbox might not be the most thrilling activity out there, it can be incredibly therapeutic – and many say that they often feel lighter, and can think more clearly afterwards.

If any of this sounds familiar and you feel ready to tackle that inbox, then you might want to have a read of our article; 8 easy ways to manage your inbox.

6. Volunteer your time to those who need it most

Even though the weather has dipped and we’re still keeping a social distance from one another, there are plenty of ways that you can volunteer your time to the greater good without leaving your sofa. From befriending an elderly person over the phone with charities such as Age UK and Re-engage, through to volunteering for a 24-hour crisis text service like Shout – there are so many different ways that you could make a difference from the comfort of your own home.

Alternatively, if you’re comfortable with the idea of volunteering away from your home, then it’s worth keeping in mind that homeless charities such as Crisis, who work hard to provide food and shelter for those who need it, will often need extra help during the winter months.

Many local food banks will also be relying on the kindness of volunteers to keep them running for individuals families who need them over the Christmas period – it’s worth contacting yours directly to see whether they need any additional help over the coming weeks.

If you have a few spare hours and each week, and a strong desire to make a difference, then you might want to check out our online volunteering guide, or our wider volunteering section, for more ideas and inspiration.

7. Try some different winter warmers

For many of us, one of the big perks of winter is that we get to indulge in lots of delicious winter warmers, such as mulled wine and hot chocolate!

If you usually drink the same winter warmers every year, then this year could be the time to mix things up a bit. Perhaps you could try a different take on a classic hot chocolate, by making a blackberry, cookies and cream, or red velvet version. Country Living’s article; 30 of the best hot chocolate recipes, will hopefully offer you some inspiration.

You could also make your own mulled wine or cider. This is a great way to get creative in the kitchen and will also give you the opportunity to explore different flavours – and make a winter warmer that’s exactly to your liking! For mulled wine, you can check out our own recipe here, or for mulled cider, try this one from Delicious Magazine.

If you’re a tea drinker, then winter is also a great time to try some different flavours! From chai, to apple and cinnamon, through to hibiscus, there are so many to choose from. The Wiltshire Tea Company has a huge selection of teas, as do Twinings.

8. Consider bird watching

If you’re an animal lover, a nature enthusiast, or you’re just looking for a way to relax and unwind, then you might want to consider doing a spot of birdwatching. Birds are everywhere if you really look for them – on top of houses, waddling along the pavements, nesting in trees and buses, and soaring through our skies, either alone or in groups. It’s easy to take them for granted, because they’re always there, but it’s amazing how, just by looking a little closer, we can unlock an entirely new world.

Winter is a great time to bird watch because there’s an influx of new birds, such as fieldfares and redwings, who migrate from colder regions like Russia and Scandinavia to the UK for winter. Across all species, birds will also be looking to keep warm by roosting and stocking up on food, and for many species, this will mean frequent trips to bird boxes, and bird feeders in people’s gardens. Plus, it’s also much easier to see bird activity during the winter when there are less leaves on the trees for them to be concealed by!

Whether you have any knowledge of different bird species or not, they’re still fascinating to watch. They fiercely protect their young – just as we humans do, and they also have squabbles, and daily routines when it comes to things like feeding and bathing. If you do decide to read up on any birds that you come across, then things will just get even more interesting, as you begin to understand the habits and life cycles of specific breeds and discover more about why they behave the way that they do.

If you’ve never tried birdwatching before, then you have a read of our introductory guide, which will show you how to get started.

9. Enjoy a hearty bowl of soup or a spicy chilli con carne

When the temperature drops, many of us steer away from salads, and start thinking about what we can eat that’s healthy, but will leave us feeling warm. This presents us with a great opportunity to practice some cooking skills – by trying out some new recipes or perfecting those that we already like.

Hearty winter dishes like soups or a spicy chilli con carne are great go-to dinners for a cold weather, as they’re packed full of nutrition and flavour – and there are plenty of meat and veggie options available. When it comes to soup, the possibilities are endless – from carrot and coriander to cider and onion, through to chicken and sweetcorn. Have a look at these BBC Good Food soup recipes to get inspired.

A chili con carne recipe also comes with a lot of flexibility because you can make it as mild or spicy or sweet or smokey as you like. Plus, you can add a range of different vegetables – such as peppers, leeks, sweet potatoes and spring onions – and choose whether to serve it with rice, tortillas, quinoa, bread, guacamole, sour cream…and the list goes on. For a classic chili recipe, check out this version from Hairy Bikers, or to mix it up a little and try some interesting variations – for example, meatball chilli con carne or slow cooked bean chilli – have a look at this list of inspiring chilli recipes from Olive magazine.

10. Cosy up with a good book

If you’re looking for some escapism, inspiration or adventure (or all three!), then getting lost in a good book while you’re all cosy at home is a great way to do this. Reading can allow you to venture anywhere – to a sunny beach full of holiday romance, to a futuristic world set thousands of years ahead, or into the past to relive some of the most notable historic events of all time. Books can also offer us a different perspective on the world, by helping us to explore the different ways that we could live our lives. The possibilities of what we can discover every time we open the cover of a new book are endless!

If you’re wondering what to start reading next, and you’re in need of a little inspiration, then consider checking out some of our articles; 17 books for your winter reading list, 15 inspiring self-development books, or 27 of the best must-read novels. There’s sure to be something here for every type of reader.

A final note…

Winter can be a tough time for us all, but there are also plenty of ways that we can embrace and make the most of the shorter, darker days – both indoors and outdoors. By switching up your routine, and trying a few new activities, your days will hopefully seem a lot brighter.

It’s only a matter of time before we’ll be hanging up our winter coats, and welcoming in the spring once more – so we might as well make the most of mulled wine, starry nights and cosy evenings in, while we can!

Are you particularly fond of any of the winter activities above? Do you have any additional winter activities that you’d like to share? Join the conversation on the community forum or leave a comment below.

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