Learning to Love Winter

I grew up loving winter, and especially snow

However, a few years after discovering the harsh realities of cold weather in the mountains, I became disenchanted with the season. Many people are in the same boat – they dread winter. But this year is different: my goal is to not only survive winter, but to re-embrace it. Luckily, our libraries have plenty of beautiful and fascinating books which cover every aspect of winter. So let’s explore all things warm, cozy and luminary to brighten these dark months.

Set the Tone

Hygge is an appropriate guiding principle to start with, since this Danish philosophy centers on creating a setting and mindset suited for enjoying winter’s elements. Simplicity is the heart of hygge, which makes it very easy to incorporate into our lives! Many hygge books emphasize the notion of “going back to the basics”, where a comfortable setting, gentle lighting, nourishing home-cooked food and intimate company are fundamental to contentment. In fact, lighting is one of, if not the most important element to creating a hygge atmosphere, and there is a particular emphasis on the use of candles to create a soft, diffused light. 

As I prepped my home for the season, I tried to keep these concepts in mind. One objective was to eliminate the need for use of the overhead lights in our dining room, living room, and bedroom; instead, we collected a series of lamps from Goodwill, and now use those exclusively. After working under stress-inducing fluorescent lighting all day, coming home to a softly lamp-lit home really helps me unwind!

Taking it a step further with throw blankets and extra pillows also adds hygge texture and coziness. I converted two old sweaters into pillow covers, and they now bring the same warmth to our living room that they once did when I wore them (learn how to do this yourself here). Reading about hygge was a truly transformative experience in embracing winter, and I encourage others to check it out!

Learn more from our selection of titles below:

  1. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
  2. Making Winter: A Hygge-Inspired Guide to Surviving the Winter Months by Emma Mitchell
  3. The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Comfort, Coziness, and Connection by Louisa Thomsen Brits
  4. How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen
  5. Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Soderberg

Get Outside

You may be thinking, why would we want to connect with nature during the time of year when it is most inhospitable? Understandably so! Yet there are many enjoyable ways to explore the outdoors without getting frostbitten, and a big concept in hygge is getting outside – even during those chilly days. You can find several books on winter gardening, birdwatching, and winter plant foraging. Hiking is also a year-round activity here in the Smoky Mountains, and one of the best parts about winter hiking is that many views become much more visible with the loss of leaves. 

That said, spending time outside is not necessarily easy. Many of us get off work by the time the sun is setting, only to rush home to complete more tasks. One thing that I can occasionally make time for at the end of the day is stargazing. We have one king-sized blanket that is a dedicated “outside” blanket, which is large enough to both sit on and wrap yourself in. Winter is really the best time to stargaze because the night sky is so clear! 

Of course, there comes a point in the dead of winter where it may be dangerous or even impossible to go outside. In this case it can be nice to read a nature book, turn on National Geographic or explore some nature photography on Instagram; even viewed through a screen, nature can make us happier and more relaxed.

Learn more from our selection of titles below:

Nourish

Food is probably the best part of winter, or let’s be honest, any season. The comfort of a warming bowl of soup or hot cup of cocoa cannot be underestimated. I was surprised to learn that there are numerous vegetables which are fresh and in season during winter, including beets, cauliflower, broccoli, squash and kale. This is the perfect time to whip up a creamy squash curry soup or an Italian sausage and kale soup (my favorite!), both of which can be found in the Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day collection listed below.

Learn more from our selection of titles below:

All the soups, all the time!

Rest and Recuperate

In tandem with getting active, winter is also the ideal season to honor our need for rest. This is an essential time of year where most plants lie dormant and many animals hibernate. This practice is not only to ensure survival through winter, but also to support robustness throughout the rest of the year. We are much the same, and a majority of us experience a dip in energy through the winter months. However, this is not something to resist, but rather something to encourage. After all, we are liable to get sick this time of year!

Resting may mean that we pair down our holiday ambitions and learn to feel okay with saying no to extra events, which tend to multiply this time of year. Or it may mean that if you feel like crashing on the couch after a long work day, then you should – and then not feel guilty for it.  Because after lighting a candle, heating up a cup of tea and spreading out your softest blanket, the experience becomes an intentional meditation on rest.

Learn more from our selection of titles below:

The metamorphic effects of learning never cease to surprise me. For winter itself is not a blight; it is simply a matter of equipping ourselves with the right knowledge to enjoy it. I hope this reading list can help you find something to love about winter!

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