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Goodbye, Winter. Hello Spring: 8 Ways to Shake Off the Old & the Cold

This particular spring is a season to treasure moments of optimism and renewal.

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Flowers in ice
Yasu + Junko/Trunk Archive
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Do you live in Key West or Australia? I feel so badly for you, enjoying the warmth and sunny skies year-round. As consolation, the rest of us get spring. (I know you do, too. But if you go barefoot in January, please let us have our moment.)

We have been shut indoors, wearing long underwear and a down jacket for the past several months, wondering if every cough was a whisper from COVID-19. Spring approaching is like holding hope in our hands. This particular spring, after two years of isolation and illness, is especially a season to treasure moments of optimism and renewal.

The intoxication of a warm breeze through your kitchen screen. The birds chirping. The crocus under the snow. The lake ice cracking and melting. The smell of the first grass cutting. The golf course and outdoor tennis court reopening. The rediscovery of that long-forgotten spring wardrobe: Shorts! Sandals! Sundresses. Painted toenails. Oh my!

A 2016 Brigham Young University study reveals — surprise! — that spring is good for us. We get more creative. We have more freedom about where we go outside, and how long we stay there. More vitamin D from sunlight, strengthening our bones and teeth. We have fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers. Our mood improves. Optimism returns—and love.

If you are out of practice with optimism and renewal, here are nine life hacks designed to warm you up from the winter doldrums and ease into spring. Most involve exploring new outdoor activities. The most popular hobbies in the world can all be done outside, and you don’t need to worry (as much) about catching a virus outdoors.

1. Take up gardening

You don’t have to aim for France’s Versailles or Delaware’s Winterthur. You can order a can of wildflower seeds online and sprinkle them along your walkway. Or plant pots full of fast-growing aromatic mint—there are hundreds! Chocolate mint? Lemon bergamot mint? Banana mint? Or start a vegetable garden to grow cherry tomatoes, lettuce and parsley for your salads.

2. Perfect outdoor cooking.

Fire up that grill! Don’t limit yourself to burgers and steaks. Get a grill basket and experiment with eggplant, peppers, corn on the cob, even romaine lettuce. Gather grilling recipes and have the girl-gang over for a much-needed in-person happy hour and dinner. 

3. Dabble in bird-watching.

More than 45 million people bird-watch, spending over $80 billion a year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Binoculars help, but you don’t need them. Of course, there’s an app for that. Dozens of them, in fact: Sparkbird, Audubon Bird Guide, Picture Birds and more.  You can identify birds by picture or song. Birding is a great solo, couple or group activity, and most regions have a local ornithological society or Audubon chapter that organizes trips.

4. Take up pickleball.

The badminton–ping-pong hybrid is the fastest growing sport in America, with more than 4.5 million players including Today’s Jenna Bush Hager and actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The game has a goofy name — it has nothing to do with pickles — and it’s crazily popular with adults 55-plus. And you can burn up to 11 calories per minute!

5. Find a new romantic partner (if you’re single!)

Create a new Silver Singles profile or send a social media note to your long-lost high school prom date. My favorite idea: Conjure an imaginary boyfriend. Remember in first grade when you had an imaginary friend? The same principle applies now. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that imagination changes our perception of reality. Call me crazy, but it works. After a night out with friends, or during a long drive or an evening at home watching Netflix, I pretend my perfect boyfriend is with me. Sometimes it’s Brad Pitt or Steph Curry. Or that dark-haired Argentinian I met at Beatlemania when I was 16. We talk, cuddle, dissect my day ... and retreat to bed. Mmmmmmm.....

6. Try something you were never good at.

When was the last time you attempted something new? Numerous studies show that lifelong learning stimulates our brain and sharpens our memory. So, pick up a paint brush and paints, set up your easel outdoors and become the artist you were meant to be. Start on your memoir, even if you’re not a writer. Tell your life story to pass onto kids and grandkids. You can easily self-publish this important book as a gift for loved ones on blurb.com. Try out for a play, sign up for a cooking class, join a hiking club! 

7. The easiest idea.

If you think all these ideas require too much time, money, or effort, here’s an easy one: Rearrange your furniture and change the lighting in your home. Increasing the light intensity sparks our brains and has been shown to be highly effective for treating seasonal affective disorder.

8. The best, quickest, cheapest life hack? Radically change your hair.

I’ve done this twice in my life, once when I was a college freshman and once after my first divorce. Chop it all off! Dye it spring green, or Easter pink—any springlike color! Good sources for at-home dyes include Madison Reed and Garnier. Changing your hair often changes everything, particularly your spirit. And if you don’t like it, remember, like spring itself, it won’t last forever.

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