100 Sober Things to Do to Beat the Winter Blues

101? Watch the sunset over Little Traverse Bay


Feeling the winter blues? There are many wonderful things about living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. But, and there is a but, the winters are long. A lot of the awesome things to do are currently buried beneath a crazy quilt of variations on the color white.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real issue when the days are short and the sky is gray. And after almost of year of distancing, even Michiganders need inspiration to keep the winter doldrums at bay. Live in warmer climes? Many of these ideas will work wherever you live.


100 Sober Things to Do When You’re Feeling the Winter Blues


1. Shovel the walk – it’s great exercise and it burns 300 calories per hour!

2. Write in your journal.

3. Bundle up and walk to your favorite coffee shop, especially if they have igloos outside!

4. Shop online and buy a great pair of snow boots, gloves or hat!

5. Pop popcorn and watch the movie Everest; it will remind you that things could always be worse.

6. Watch the sunrise on a frozen lake.


beat winter blues

Reeds Lake, Grand Rapids, Michigan


7. Make hot chocolate (with peppermint or colored marshmallows) and savor.

8. Make those calls/zooms you’ve been wanting to make and catch up with old friends.

9. Go to a museum online and linger over your favorite Pollock.You can travel to Paris and the Louvre!

10. Read something super-sad and allow yourself to cry outrageously (Never Let Me Go gets me every time).


That’s Only Ten! Keep Reading


11. Chop logs and stack them – more great exercise!

12. Make a raging fire in the fireplace.

13. Indulge yourself with chips and cheese.

14. Snow balls, snow men, snow angels, hello?

15. Get out your most difficult exercise video and master it!

16. Then take a hot bubble bath.

17. Join a virtual 12-step meeting, group therapy session, or recovery group.

18. Watch Bridgerton (or other compelling Netflix show) in a weekend.

19. Put a coat and booties on your favorite hound and take him for a  walk.

20. Check out the art installations at World of Winter 2021, Grand Rapids.

21. Make a proper English tea for your family. Lift your pinkies as you sip.

22. Inspect snowflakes – put a piece of black construction paper in the freezer; take it outside and spend time looking at individual snowflakes! 

23. Watch Frozen (I and II again) and sing along raucously again.

24. Go ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids (check their COVID-19 guidelines).



Get outside as much as possible!


25. Sit down with the family and play Scrabble, or other board games.

26. Support your local restaurants and buy a gift certificate or takeout.

27. Find a great recipe online, venture to the store for supplies and make it from scratch.

28. Light every candle you own and grab a furry lap blanket – listen to music by candlelight.

29. Color a picture in the adult coloring book you got for Christmas.


You Can Always Adopt a Stray ….


30. If you can provide a stable home, adopt a kitty from  the local shelter.

31. Get your pandemates and go to a pottery painting or candle making studio. You will feel good about supporting your favorite local artisans. Wear your most conversation starting mask.

32. Embrace winter’s natural wonders. Grab your partner/best mate or go solo and challenge yourself physically.



33. Straighten your sweater/underwear drawers and lighten the load in your closets. Take cast-offs to the local shelter or thrift shop.

34. Read an inspirational recovery story, like: Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget   or Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man

35. Play hide and seek in the house with your kids (they get the winter blues too).

36. Update your gym playlist and listen while cleaning the house.

37. Take your car to the $8.00 car wash on Michigan Avenue, Grand Rapids and feel renewed!

38. Go see 7,000 butterflies at Butterflies are Blooming at Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

39. Or bundle up and see the Meijer Sculpture Park with a blanket of snow.

40. Buy an orchid or fresh flowers and remind yourself that spring is coming (someday).


41. Take a drive. Stop at a gas station or drive-through and buy a snack (Slim Jim anyone?).

42. Wash and iron your sheets and pillowcases, spray them with your favorite cologne and take a nap!

43. Sports fan? Hole-up for a day of full sports immersion (complete with chicken wings and ranch dressing).


When You Learn Something New, You Feel Renewed


44. Take up a new activity like chess, baking or origami.

45. Go to the prettiest neighborhood in your town and look at houses.

46. Listen to a self-help tape (Tony Robbins I love you…).

47. Plan a summer vacation 2022!

48. Reread To Kill a Mockingbird, Candide or another book you read in high school.

49. Up your culture with a virtual trip to the opera, theater or ballet.

50. Look up “things to do” in your town and check out the history in your backyard – bridges, historic homes, battle fields.

51. Start to write the great American novel, or document what you did during the pandemic.

52. Prepare food for the whole week.

53. Invite your best friend to come over (or connect with zoom), make real popcorn with butter (what is it about popcorn that makes you feel better) and scare yourself silly: ghost stories and scary movies.

54. Laugh. Belly laugh away the blues.

55. Pamper yourself with a home facial – mash up a whole banana into a smooth paste and apply it to your face and neck; let it set for 10 minutes and rinse with cold water – you are gorgeous!

56. Look at the color blue (those vacation photos of The Bahamas OR Lake Michigan) – the color blue relaxes the mind.


Blue Sky Lake Michigan

Or you can real-time explore the lake shore.


57. Have a fizzy-water, taste-testing party.

58. Feel some human touch. Hold hands with your partner, or get your hair done (safely).

59. Meditate.


Winter is the Time to Indulge Yourself…


60. Sit on the floor with a pile of tacky, celebrity magazines.

61. Indulge your dark chocolate sweet tooth – release endorphins and serotonin.

62. But don’t binge on sugar. Instead, freeze sweet grapes or taste-test 80 calorie yogurt (chocolate/raspberry?).

63. Eat an orange and breath – sniffing orange and lavender improves your mood.

64. Disney movie marathon with the children, anyone? The Little Mermaid!!!

65. Read inspirational quotes and write your favorites in your journal.

66. Take a social media and news moratorium (studies show that people who turn off are happier).

67.  Get out the sewing machine, knitting needles or tool kit and make something beautiful…

68. Call your mother. Call your grandmother or a favorite aunt and tell them about an accomplishment!

69. PLAY dress-up!

70. Babysit. Do art and crafts – the messier and goofier the better.

71. Plant a kitchen cutting garden in a sunny window – basil, mint, thyme.

72. Buy a great winter coat – you’ll want to get outside if you can stay warm and dry!

73. Find a sheltered place and soak up the sun – exposure to sun aids your brain in the production of serotonin – a natural antidepressant.

74. Sit down with the kids and finish a big jigsaw puzzle.


Now, More than Ever, GET OUTSIDE to Beat the Winter Blues


75. Put on your woollies and go snow shoeing or skiing.

76. Or go for a leisurely stroll.

77. Grow a Tickle Me Plant (I’m serious).

78. Make a list of 100 sober things to do to beat the winter blues!

79. Deep clean your house or apartment (as in baseboards and under the bed).

80. Make an ice sculpture.

81. Or an igloo…

82. Bake a pie from scratch.

83. Paint an accent wall.

84. Or a paint by numbers masterpiece.

85. Arrange your bookcase by color (if you are really, really bored…).

86. Find a Podcast you love and download hours of inspiration!

87. Play a Hidden Object computer game…

88. Go ice fishing with a folding chair and hand/foot warmers…

89. Write a love poem and send it anonymously…

90. Bored? Wash and quaff your pet.

91. Get nostalgic and look at old photographs – make a collage.

92. Research a subject that interests you and read everything you can on the topic.

93. Make a list of all the places you want to see when you can travel again.

94. Take photos with your phone and change the tone from full color to sepia to black and white…

95.  Take your favorite kids to the children’s museum online.

96. Work on your “sure winner” installation piece for a future ArtPrize

97. Curl up in an electric blanket, close your eyes and dream of life after COVID-19.

98. Slow cook homemade chili and bake cornbread!

99. Go to a local bookstore and spend hours perusing, but keep your distance.

100. Sharpen all your kitchen knives.


after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a writer, sober coach, recovery advocate, and student of the world (she also holds a BA in English). Nine years sober herself, she penned one of the first sobriety blogs, "Waking Up the Ghost" in 2013. The blog garnered an international following, allowing Marilyn to communicate with thousands of folks in all stages of recovery. Marilyn is Sanford's Director of Marketing and serves as Editor-In-Chief for the Sanford online magazine, Excursions. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board, JACK Mental Health Advocacy.