Winter is on its way with shorter, colder days. And while many of us end up spending more time indoors than during the warm weather, there are still plenty of ways to stay active, healthy and happy this winter season. Read on for tips on how to stay connected with family and friends, enjoy time at home, help those in need and make a difference in your community, keep your pets happy, and much more.
We’ve gathered a list of activities, ideas, and resources to stay active, healthy, and happy at home this winter season:
- How to Stay Healthy, Active, & Busy this Winter
- How to Keep Kids Busy this Winter
- How to Enjoy Your Home More Than Ever this Winter
- How to Help Older Relatives, Neighbors, & Friends this Winter
- How to Help Your Community this Winter
- How to Keep Pets Happy & Healthy this Winter
How to Stay Healthy, Active, & Busy this Winter
Here are a few ideas and resources to help you stay active, try new activities, take care, and keep busy during the winter season:
- Get outside (even if it's cold) – Even as the temperature changes from chilly to cold, make sure you get out of the house at least once a day. Instead of going for a walk after work, take advantage of the mid-day sun and head out for a walk around the block at lunch time. Take in the fresh air, enjoy the vitamin D, and stretch your legs before sitting down at your desk for the afternoon.
- Avoid S.A.D. – Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., is a type of depression that directly relates to changes in the seasons, typically starting in the fall and continuing through the end of winter. To help combat S.A.D. feelings while spending the majority of your time indoors, it's important to get time out in the sun as much as you can. In addition to taking walks or spending time on a porch or rooftop terrace, consider a S.A.D. LED light to keep near your desk while you’re working. These ‘ light therapy’ lamps can help keep those feelings at bay, especially on days where the weather doesn’t permit outdoor activities.
- Walk to pick up food from local restaurants – If you order food, consider choosing pick up instead of delivery. This can help you get outside for the day, while also supporting a local business nearby. Consider switching up your orders from your usual go-to options and try other local spots for something new.
- Reevaluate and set goals for the season – While the New Year and back-to-school seasons bring a natural timeline for setting new goals, take the time to do so now if you haven’t. You can make your own timeline and set both long-term and short-term goals. Is your goal to cook more often? Winter recipes can be a great place to get started. Do you hope to exercise more often? Set a time every day that you can dedicate to moving your body. Whether that’s an online exercise class, going for a run, or even just getting up from your desk and stretching for a few minutes, these movements get you one step closer to your goals.
- Cooking at home – Winter recipes are full of comfort, warmth, and flavor. Check out these seasonal recipe ideas and consider challenging yourself to try at least one new recipe every week.
- Take your culinary skills to the next level – Did you know you can do virtual cooking classes? You can take lessons from professional chefs from the comfort of home - and so can your kids. There are many different levels, options, and cuisines to choose from. Here is a list of choices to get you started.
- Schedule time for exercise – As the temperatures drop, it can be harder to get motivated to exercise. Putting this time on your calendar can help to keep you motivated, build this time for yourself into your routine, and stay committed. Treat it like a meeting and don’t allow yourself to skip it.
- Virtual exercise classes – If you’re a runner or enjoy exercising outdoors, have you tried taking virtual exercise classes during winter? There are seemingly infinite resources now where you can take fitness classes online, often with little to no equipment necessary. Some are live and others are pre-recorded so you can participate at a time that makes the most sense for you. Here are a couple lists of resources to get you started:
- Enjoy the season –Take advantage of all that winter has to offer. Have fun ice skating, hit the slopes, or enjoy outdoor holiday markets.
- Date night - Get creative with your date nights whether at home or getting cozy outside.
- Create a theme night - Choose a theme for your date night, whether that be a romantic getaway location like Italy or Paris, recreating a favorite movie, or based on an activity like game night or camping at home. Go all out with food, drinks, and decor to create an immersive experience. For example, if your night is Italy themed, order pasta from your favorite local Italian restaurant, listen to an Andrea Bocelli playlist, and have an Italian wine tasting before you watch "Roman Holiday."
- Go to a drive-in movie - Are there any outdoor drive-in movies playing in your city or town? Cities across the country are going back to this classic vehicle (pun intended) for nights out. See what's playing near you and make a night of it, popcorn and all.
- Take a virtual cooking or mixology class
- Outdoor movie night - Set up a sheet and a projector, grab your coziest blankets, get your snacks ready and enjoy a movie night under the stars in your backyard or up on your rooftop terrace.
- Stay connected to your people – Being around friends and family typically brings laughter, fun and happiness. Whether meeting up in person or virtually for those far away, here are a few ideas to stay connected this winter:
- Friend dates - Meet at happy hour with your best buds or a friend you haven't seen in a while. For those far away, choose a TV show or movie to watch at the same time and text throughout. Do you like the same mindless reality shows? Are you interested in the same new Netflix original movie? Plan to watch at the same time and text during and if you’re up to it, call or hop on Zoom to chat, maybe even with the same drink or snack in hand.
- Host a game night - Have friends over for an evening of good fun and laughter with game night. Pick your favorite game, such as Pictionary or a poker tournament, get some great snacks and drinks and you are sure to enjoy the evening. Or stay home and partake in a virtual game night. Here are a few fun options to try:
- Start a book club - Grab your fellow book lover friends and start a monthly book club. Stop by your neighborhood bookstore to pick up your reads and support a local business.
- Utilize your lunch break - Use your daily lunch break to call your mom, FaceTime your nephews and nieces or catch up with long-distance friends.
- Create a collaborative playlist on Spotify with friends to stay connected in a new way.
- Additional Ideas to Stay Busy While at Home -
- Learn something new – From dusting off your old guitar to learning how to code for the first time, there are endless online tutorials you can take advantage of to learn a new skill. Get started with these resources:
- Enjoy a comedy special or streaming concert performance
- Try a new podcast - If you've caught up on all your favorite podcasts, peruse this list for new ones to try - or even start your own!
- Additional Ways to Stay Healthy & Happy -
- Helping others - Sometimes it's a simple relief to focus your attention on helping neighbors, friends, and the community
- Play with your pets - Pets are known to help reduce stress and make you happier so make sure to take some time to reconnect with your furry friends each day
- Practice meditation and tune out the noise - Best Free Meditation Apps
- Get zen with an at-home yoga class
- Pick up a relaxing new hobby - Avoid options that may cause stress or make you feel overwhelmed, as they should bring out positive feelings of accomplishment and contentment rather than negatives ones. Take up knitting, try a book in a new genre, order a couple new adult coloring books, take a class on video editing, or learn the art of scrapbooking.
- Listen to calming playlists
- Take more baths - Did you know taking a hot bath can scientifically release and reduce stress?
- Get some fresh air - Open your windows to let in some crisp fresh air, bundle up and sit out on your porch or rooftop terrace, go on a run, or take your dog for a walk
- Don't give up on your workout routine - There are hundreds of options for free at-home workouts for all types of workouts. Here are a few resources to find the right workout for you:
How to Keep Kids Busy this Winter
Here are a few resources, ideas, and ways to keep kids entertained, active, and busy while at home:
- Create an “I’m Bored” list – Take back the power of the “I’m Bored” exclamation. Have each kid create a list of 10 activities they can do when they’re bored and keep it in a prominent spot like on the fridge to refer back to any time they utter the phrase.
- Take an online photography class for kids – Keep the kids both active and creative with an online photography course.
- Build a Lego masterpiece – Legos aren’t just for kids anymore. From Star Wars and Harry Potter to Disney and Marvel characters, there are thousands of choices for all skill levels and ages. Get a project for yourself and one for your kids and work on them together. Here are some of the top choices by age range.
- Stay active and exercise - Competing with screen time may be a challenge, but it's important to keep kids active. If you can get outside, find local kid-friendly trails and hikes to try out on weekends. Find virtual exercise classes that the kids can join in on. Have a mid-day dance party every day before lunch. Take advantage of local park areas to play catch or soccer. Go on a family bike ride. No matter the activity, get creative with it and have fun.
- Donate toys, books, & clothes – If the kids are looking for something to do, have them do good for someone else. Go through their rooms, closets, and bookshelves and choose items to donate or give away to those in need.
- Put together care packages – Whether it’s for local animal rescues, food banks, relatives who they haven’t seen in a while, or even via Support Our Troops, put together homemade care packages to brighten someone’s day. Where appropriate, include hand drawn cards, homemade crafts, and help them pick out items they’d like to include. Then, either take a walk together to drop it off or take a field trip to the post office.
- At-home camping – Do you have a backyard or rooftop terrace where you can set up a tent? Turn your home into a campsite for the night. Cook s’mores, read spooky stories by flashlight, cuddle under piles of blankets, and spend the night under the stars. Set up outdoor speakers and play ambient sounds like crickets in the distance, crackling bonfire, or ruffling trees. If able, set up an outdoor projector and have a movie night before bedtime.
- Set up a creative playdate with their friends – Get creative this winter and organize a fun playdate with friends. Here are 18 Winter Playdate Ideas to get you started. For cousins, family and friends far away, set up an online playdate. Plan an activity or two for the kids to do together from the list above like creating the same craft and let them take over.
How to Enjoy Your Home More Than Ever this Winter
From tackling those long-awaited organization projects to getting cozy and redecorating your favorite space, here are a few ideas on how to refresh and enjoy your home this winter:
- Spend a cold winter day tackling an organization project you've been putting off. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Redesign, reorganize, and repurpose your home decor - If you're starting to get tired of your home set up, check out these tips for how to redesign your home with what you already have.
- Refresh your walls with a new paint color - Painting is an inexpensive way to really change up the look of a room. If your walls are looking a little drab or outdated, add a fresh coat of paint! Check out the trending colors for 2024:
- Create a space for doing something you love - It doesn't need to be a big space, but make room for doing something that brings you happiness. Ideas include:
- If you love reading, create a small reading nook by the window with a comfy chair, bookshelf featuring your favorite reads, soft blanket in a nearby basket and reading lamp.
- If you love working on creative projects, make room for a small desk and drawers to store your favorite craft supplies.
- Yoga enthusiasts, clear a small space you can dedicate to your yoga practice. In addition to space for your yoga mat, add a few small plants and other calming elements.
- For home cooks wanting to spend more time in the kitchen, treat yourself to a new cookbook or tool (such as that mixer you've had your eye on) and organize your kitchen shelves and pantry to maximize space and function.
- If you love watching sports, splurge on a comfy chair or sofa or that new big screen you've been dreaming of. Winter is all about being comfy and cozy so create your ideal space to cheer on your favorite team.
- Turn your home into a cozy oasis with these 11 easy tips.
- Entertain family & friends at home - Nothing makes a house feel more like "home" than when family and friends are in it. Invite loved ones over for a special evening or fun game night. Here are a few ideas for entertaining at home during winter.
How to Help Older Relatives, Neighbors, & Friends this Winter
Here are a few ways to provide help, care, and kindness to your older neighbors and relatives:
- Check in – As the temperatures drop, older relatives and friends may be staying indoors more often. If you haven’t in a few weeks or months, make sure to check in. This simple gesture can have a big impact on those who haven’t been able to venture out for days or weeks at a time. Make a phone call, leave a card, or drop off a favorite treat to let your neighbors know you're there and thinking of them.
- Drop off groceries – If you are able, check in with older neighbors before your next trip to the grocery store to see if they need you to pick up anything for them. Alternately, if you get groceries delivered, see if you can help set them up with the same service you use, especially if they struggle with new technology.
- Pick up their prescriptions – Many grocery stores double as a pharmacy. If you are able to take your next grocery trip where they get their prescriptions dropped off, see if you can save them a trip.
- Offer to walk their dog, deliver food, or water their plants – Offer to help out with their pet care. Pet food is notoriously heavy and difficult to transport, especially during trips to the store where you’re already stocking up as much as possible. See if you can either pick some up for them or help set up a subscription for delivery. If they need some help giving their dog the type of exercise they’re used to, offer to take Rover on a long walk.
- Drop off books or take a trip to the library – If you have any extra reading material around your house, consider dropping off a package during your next walk through the neighborhood. Or if they have a library card, offer to take a trip with them to the local library to stock up on reading materials (and to return the books when they are finished).
- Care package – Sometimes just the reminder that someone is thinking about you is more than enough. Consider putting together a care package you can drop off. If you have kids, let them get creative with what goes in the box, as well as decorating the outside. Fill it with their favorite snacks, a few self-care items you can find at the grocery store like hand lotion or scented candles, and maybe some homemade cookies. Make sure to include a handwritten note or homemade card to top it off and make their day.
- For out of town relatives – Make use of the technology available and check in as much as you can. If you have kids, you can set them up on a video chat playdate. They can perform their latest feat on the piano, share their most recent artistic masterpieces, or just tell their grandparents about their day. Send snail mail if you can with any groceries they might not be able to find in their area, homemade cards, and more.
- Help them stay connected to their community – Whether they’re your next door neighbor or your aunt living across the country, share resources you find to help them stay connected to their community. This could be anything from local book groups to senior exercise classes. Do some research and see what you can find in their area.
- Help with digital set-up – While they may have embraced the basics, there are more online resources than ever for entertainment, classes, and connecting with their families and friends.
- TV & movies – If they’re having trouble connecting their devices to access online catalogs of books and movies through the many streaming services available, set up a video or phone call to help them through the process.
- Books & music & podcasts – Many services offer free audio books, TV shows, and more. A few digital content channels they can explore could be setting them up with a free Spotify account or teaching them how to download podcasts that would interest them the most.
- How to video chat with their families & friends – They might not have ever had the need for video calls and may be new to the technology. Help them set up their account and practice their video capabilities so they can get comfortable contacting their friends and family on their own.
- Online games – From card games to board games to group games, there are seemingly infinite online options for playing games with family and friends virtually. Here are a few resources to check out:
- Online classes – Teach them how to access TED Talks, help them enroll in an online poetry class, or choose from a wide variety of free educational courses.
How to Help Your Community this Winter
From shopping local this holiday season to volunteering, here are ideas and resources for how you can support and help your community:
- Volunteer & offer support within your community – There are infinite ways to help and support your community through offering time, resources, and knowledge. We've gathered a few resources to help you find the ideal opportunity for how you can help. Keep in mind that during the colder months, as we get closer to the holidays, organizations will be looking for volunteers.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
- Shop local this holiday season - As the holiday season approaches, shop local. Whether it be picking up local produce for a big family dinner, gift cards from your favorite local restaurants, or unique gifts from local retailers, shopping small this holiday season can help keep your local favorites in business.
- Offer to babysit – Help out your neighbors with kids who deserve a break from childcare. Choose a time where parents can get some work done during the day or give them some relief in the evening so they can relax on their own. Here are a few ideas for ways to entertain the kids during your babysitting session:
- Support local nonprofits - Whether you’re donating your time, clothes, food, or services, both local and national organizations are working to provide relief, help, and support to those who need it most.
How to Keep Pets Happy & Healthy this Winter
Here are a few ways you can provide support and assistance to your community's local pets, pet stores, and animal shelters, in addition to keeping your own pets happy and healthy:
- Dog park visits - Instead of just a quick walk around the block, bundle up and take your best friend to a local dog park where they roam free for a bit. Bring a book along or simply enjoy the fresh air as they get some extra time outdoors.
- Keep your dog happy - Here are a few ways to keep your dog engaged, happy, healthy, and energized during a cold winter day:
- Support local pet shops - From treats and toys to food and litter, see if you can pick up your pet supplies from a local pet store or have them delivered to your front doorstep. Rather than pick these up at a grocery store chain, take a look at how you can support local pet stores instead.
- Offer to help neighbors with their pet care - If you are able, see if you can help out your neighbors with their pet care, especially those who are unable to go on long walks with their dogs or go to the store to pick up supplies.
- Donate & support - There are many ways in which you can support your community’s animal shelters, including virtual adoptions and new foster programs. If fostering or adopting isn’t an option for you, consider donating supplies, offering to help transport foster animals, or even coming up with a fundraising idea to help them stay afloat. Nonprofits like The Humane Society and ASPCA are also working to make it as easy as possible to provide help and support to animals in need.
- Foster and/or adopt - If you are ready to welcome a furry friend into your home, consider fostering or adopting a new pet. They are sure to offer lots of love and affection and will definitely keep you busy year round. Find a shelter in your community
We hope this sparks some ideas on how to stay active, busy, healthy and happy during the cold days ahead and make a difference in your community this winter season.
Originally published 11/4/20. Updated 11/28/23.