Winter – when the sun is down by 4:30pm and most things, including my motivation, start to shrivel. Last year, after a bad bout of seasonal affective disorder, I came to terms with the fact that leaving the house was both a necessary evil and part of the antidote.
Despite this, I knew that committing to going outdoors in the bitter cold was easier said than done. After realizing I didn’t have the discipline to go outside purely because I know it is good for me, I decided to look for reasons outside myself that are worth leaving the house.
THE COZY HANGOUT SPOTS
Winters in Rhode Island have taught me to appreciate what I took for granted when I lived in California: warmth. It is the season that brings out the longing for warmth in its many forms, from the kind that can be manipulated with a thermostat to that of the communal energy felt in welcoming, bright environments. Some places contain both – the cozy hangout spots.
My hunt for warm and cozy hangout spots is ongoing, but a few stand out.
As one of the few coffee shops in Providence open past 5pm, Riff Raff Cafe and Bookstore (and bar!) in Providence offers a cozy spot to study, meet a friend, read a good book, or even just people watch. When I need a hint of excitement, they also host regular events such as author talks, poetry readings, and literary trivia nights.
When I’m feeling literary and a little bit fancy, I take it up a notch by visiting the Providence Athenaeum. One of the nation’s few remaining membership libraries, it is open to the public and a quiet place to defrost. I specifically like to pick out a desk in the stacks up on the mezzanine. In a quiet corner of my own, I watch from above as library visitors and the occasional dog wander among almost two hundred years of history.
THE GREAT, VERY COLD OUTDOORS
This year, I tried something new for winter: exercise. Mind you, I don’t even exercise when it is a reasonable temperature outside.
This time, my competitive streak took the wheel when my workplace put together a team for a month-long walking challenge. Together, we were tasked with walking 900 miles. Out I went, every day, finding reasons to add to my mile count – walking to the grocery store instead of taking the bus, taking the longer route, literally going the extra mile.
At some point, I stopped competing with the people on my team and started competing with myself, aiming to feel increasingly satisfied with how pleasantly tired I was as each day of the month passed on.
Additionally, all of the time spent outdoors reminded me of the beauty that my surroundings have to offer, even in cold and darkness. I now have a newfound admiration for all of the plants and creatures that thrive in the New England winters.
As part of this journey of appreciation, I have developed a new hobby: birdwatching. Maybe it’s my competitive streak showing through again, but it’s become a fun personal challenge. I track my finds on the birdwatching app Merlin, a somewhat natural progression from playing Pokemon Go.
THE LAST DITCH EFFORT
When all else fails, there’s one thing that brings me out of the house at least once a week: groceries. Some may see it as a chore, but being food-motivated in the same vein as a cat, I see it as an opportunity. Whether it’s a weird new snack at Shaw’s, this year’s newly released cheese advent calendar at Aldi, or even a good cheese stick from the Cumberland Farms gas station, there are no shortages of grocery store treats that can make any shopping trip worth it. I have come to realize that winter is the season of treating yourself, a cultivating ground for last ditch efforts that will keep me moving until spring comes again. •