Fun Ways to Survive Winter and Even Thrive

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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I love the enchanted world after a fresh snowfall: the rounded shapes and smooth lines, roofs, car, bushes and trees blanketed in white, no sharp edges left.

Everything is softened, made new again.

I still feel like a young girl when I go sledding, shrieking my fool head off as I laugh my way down the slopes, inevitably falling off the sled. The last time I went sledding with my 22-year-old sister, we broke the sled and lay there on the slopes howling with laughter, in parkas, hats and wet jeans, as the busted sled skittered down the slope past us.

I like skiing, the cold air turning my cheeks pink, zooming down the slopes as fast as this novice skier can go. I still love a good snowball fight, the unabashed silliness of it.

Warm Me Up!
And yet – snow means cold. I enjoy the cold – in small doses.

After too much time in the cold, my body wants to warm up again. I love temperate climates.

So, according to my body thermometer, 2010 is off to a great start. I’m spending it in warm places, escaping the cold… at least for now.

In a week, I’ll be back in New York. But much of December was spent in sunny Argentina, enjoying 80+ degree weather. Now, I’m on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

In a few days, I’ll be in San Diego.

I have to say, life is good. I have always wanted to live a flexible life that includes a lot of travel, fun times with family and friends, and a healthy balance of life and work.

I have achieved this.

Many Dreams Yet To Live…
Of course, I am only just getting started on living other dreams – such as writing and publishing my first book. I got out of the rhythm of my writing schedule during the holiday season, and am just now getting back on track.

I still have a long way to go to transform my first 65 pages into a complete manuscript. I plan to write 8-10 pages a week to be sure to meet my February deadline of 100 pages completed.

Keeping Spirits Up During Dark Days!
And I’ll find ways to keep my spirit up in the winter cold and darkness back in New York. For me this year, that will include dancing more, meditation and yoga, spending time with good friends, and being sure to sometimes escape!

I realize that I’m lucky and that flying away is not always an option for everyone. Yet I do feel that there are always ways to focus on the joy, no matter where we are, and to do things that make us feel better.

Doing anything that makes you laugh – watching a funny movie, spending time with a hilarious friend, reading some David Sedaris – can be a great cure for winter blues. So can a glass of wine in front of a warm fireplace, snuggling with your sweetie, curling up under a blanket with a favorite book on a cold night.

What strategies do you use to keep your spirits up during the cold season? What brightens your spirits when the days are long and dark?

And, as we get started on the New Year, another very important question to ask ourselves is – How do you measure success?

What Does Success Mean to You?
Success to me includes a life full of travel, adventures, family and friends, and fulfilling work, and I’m living that. It means different things to different people, however. What does it mean to you?

I love this quote from Albert Camus and leave you with this: “In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”

Here’s to thriving all year round!


Lisa_avatar(Lisa has launched her dream by signing up for Ellen Sussman’s “Memoir-in-a-Year” class, speaking her story out loud at a Take Back the Night rally, and committing to a regular writing schedule – 50 pages completed by December 5th, when she also turned in her first book chapter! Being invited to join was a dream come true, and she looks forward to chronicling her writing process. Lisa is currently bi-coastal with her home in historic Troy, New York and her heart in San Francisco.  Lisa’s post day is Tuesday).


  • Rachel

    Heh, Catherine, when I lived in Wisconsin a lot of us left our Christmas lights up a long time. It was obvious we needed them to light up the darkness, and I loved that. Even though it’s a good 100 miles north of here, I think their winters were in some ways easier. People just more laid back or something.

  • Hey Rachel, I studied with a few different meditation teachers and also read books on it… Eventually incorporated several different styles into what is now a daily practice for me.

    But it took me a LONG time to build up to having a daily practice… Several years. Now it is like brushing my teeth – something I wouldn’t miss, just part of my self-care ritual daily. But I started really slowing, with just a few minutes at a time, here and there…

    Rewarded myself when I did it, and just kept at it… Over time it became easier and I started to feel the benefits more and more in my life.

    Now I’m just hooked ;) and will be doing this for a lifetime!

    Cath and Kim – stay warm! Hope the sun is shining out there! I am back in NY (brrrrr)… Wish me luck!!!


  • Kim

    I wish it would snow here instead of this constant gray fog and gloom. We need some sun or rain…something!!

  • Catherine, Site Admin

    Wow, how did I miss not commenting here? Damn cold. I leave up one set of outdoor Christmas lights until March to help get me through the winter months with a little extra enchanted lighting in the evenings.

  • Wendy

    Growing up in Sonoma county gave me few chances to play in the snow. I did live for a short time in Brooklyn New York. I remember how the city was so loud and alive. One evening I went to the movies with a friend and when it was over we came out to a white world. The transformation of the city was magical. The sounds disappeared under the white blanket and everything was so still.
    As for defining success, I could not agree with you more.

  • Rachel

    So Lisa, do you think the main thing is practice, and a person could just learn it from a book, and… keeping on trying? Or is it important to have some sort of classes or coaching?

    I remember when I was young, giving up and deciding meditation was something I just couldn’t do. It was not for me, or something. Since then, even the relaxation exercises I used to practice pretty regularly don’t really work any more (although I guess the replacements I’ve found are good enough for that purpose.) OTH I have learned that I shouldn’t give up as easily as I used to. I can do almost anything as long as I follow through and work on it hard enough.

  • Remy G

    Lisa – I always love the “success” definition question cause it shows me that everyone lives it so differently. I’ve given myself a few weeks to make goals for the year..and as that unfolds, spending time meditating is always important. Thanks for the reminder. Welcome home, travel safely!

  • Julita, I love this: “How do I define success in life? to be able to do what one wishes up to the moment we say good bye to this beautiful world.”

    I’m so glad you’ve had such fun skiing with your girls – sounds like a blast! And sorry that your friend is not around this year… She sounds amazing! Hope you can find a way to keep her in your life from a distance… A good friendship like that with someone with such wisdom and kindness is worth so much… Glad she was able to be such a big part of your life, and to inspire you to move forward with your dreams!

    And I love your ways of surviving the cold :-) I am wishing you all the best with the possible new job sweetheart and cheering you on! Hope to see you soon!

    Rachel – I love your ways of surviving the winter season too and making it fun… And LOVE it that you are journaling regularly with your son now! That is so awesome!

    Re: meditation… Happy to share more on that here or elsewhere… I have some books I can recommend to you (my yoga teacher’s favorite is “Being No One, Going Nowhere” by Ayya Khema). I will say that is the single thing that has most transformed my life – and I am someone who has suffered from depression, been very self-critical, and others things in the past… lots of neurosis of many kinds!!!

    Meditation has helped me to retrain my mind so that I can switch away from any negative thoughts and just to be more peaceful, happy, grounded and in the flow of life in general. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

    It took me quite a while to get to the point of having a daily practice (which I now have)- and I suggest just starting with five minutes a day a few times a week with some basic meditation or breathing exercises and buliding from there. Even a few minutes of focused deep breathing a few times a week can do wonders for calming us and bringing joy…

    Let me know if you’d like more links or thoughts on this! Good luck! :-)


  • Rachel

    Re success: To me, success means the ability to see that my family (me included, and if possible that extended network of special friends) all get what we need to be happy.

  • Rachel

    Thanks for the reminder to follow my own rule. Every day, I’d like to have a short lunchtime workout in front of the glass wall, eat lunch in front of the glass wall in the kitchen, and get at least a few minutes of real outdoor light. I don’t actually have time to do all 3 most days, but try for at least 2 consistently. I skipped the weight room today, but after reading your post, I headed out for a real outside walk today… and boy was I glad I did. It warmed up to 20+ degrees this afternoon, and after snowing most of the morning, the sky turned out to be white (with even a little blue) rather than its usual gray today. I actually made it to the riverside plaze (where there’s more space between buildings, hence more light), and it was a beautiful walk.

    I also make sure to go out dancing once/week, do something cozy with my husband at least once/week, insist on a couple of family dinners each week (sometime getting everyone to stay home at dinner time seems like a lot of trouble, but it’s usually worth it), and lately, the journaling with my son has mostly been a joy.

    Lisa, you’ve mentioned meditation, well, practically every week. How did you learn to do it — what worked for you? I’ve tried that a couple times, and couldn’t get the hang of it. But I need to (and am) drastically reducing my ibuprofen, PLUS having a painful surgery soon, and most of the stuff you read about pain management suggests meditation. Also, as much as the Zoloft has helped me, it’s not without side effects, and I’d like to get off that if at all reasonable. So I was thinking about giving meditation a new try…

  • Julita C


    sending you my best wishes for a Happy 2010! thank you so much for your help yesterday. you are such a good friend!!

    my tricks for the winter season, lots of skiing with my girls. I can hardly keep up with them on the slopes. we went New Year’s eve and I was expecting no lines, and yes we had a wonderful day, but I learned that now I find it hard to keep up with my double black diamond ski bunnies. We had such so much fun skiing, what a wonderful way to start a new year!!!!!!

    How do I define success in life? to be able to do what one wishes up to the moment we say good bye to this beautiful world.

    this is the first year that I have not spent the holidays and new years with my 90 year old neighbor next door. you see, she had to sell the house she loved, the house where she raised her 3 children to move to Alabama. It was not her wish to do so, and she was so upset, she could not even speak about it. her house sold in 2 weeks, and she is gone! so very sad as we have lived next door for over 16 years. she was the voice of wisdom who talked me into staying home to raise my girls, she was the one who told me that I would make a wonderful nurse, and that I am not too old to follow my dreams. I miss her so much! so very sad that she is gone from my life, but I am happy for having her in my life.

    how to stay happy in winter? go to bed early and get up early, spend time with people who love you, drink hot chocolate and keep happy thoughts in your head, smile and look at the sunny skies, best wishes my friend. Julita.

  • Sending lots of New Year love to everyone… Hoping that the year is off to a beautiful start already! Love to hear how you define success and what your big dreams are for the year… As well as your tricks for thriving in the winter season (how to stay happy/cozy in the cold!).

    Love to all!