101 Sober Things to Do to Beat the Winter Blues

Winter blues people outside

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


Are you feeling the winter blues? There are many wonderful things about living in Greater Grand Rapids, Michigan. But, and there is a but, the winters are long. Many 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 another year of tiptoeing around Covid 19 and the flu, 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!

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 hats!

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

6. Watch the sunrise or sunset 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 wanted to make and catch up with old friends.

9. Go to a museum online and linger over your favorite Pollock. You can travel virtually 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. Snowballs, snowmen, snow angels, hello?

15. Find your most challenging 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 Yellowstone (or other streaming shows) on a weekend.

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

20. Check out the art installations at World of Winter 2023, 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 look at individual snowflakes! 

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

24. Go ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.



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, takeout, or walk there for in-person dining.

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. Go to a pottery painting or candle-making studio. You will feel good about supporting your favorite local artisans.

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. Then, 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 favorite playlist and listen while cleaning the house.

37. Take your car to the $10.00 car wash on Michigan Avenue, Grand Rapids and feel renewed!

38. 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 total 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. Drive or walk 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 in 2023!

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

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

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

51. Start to write the great American novel, or document a family event.

52. Prepare food for the whole week.

53. Invite your best friend to come over, make real popcorn with butter (what is it about popcorn that makes you feel better), and scare yourself silly: with 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) – 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.

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. Freeze sweet grapes. Eat them for dessert.

63. Eat an orange and breathe – 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 the sun aids your brain in the production of serotonin – a natural antidepressant.

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


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


Expanding Outpatient Services Social Ad


75. Put on your woollies and go snowshoeing or skiing.

76. Or go for a stroll.

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

78. Make a list of 102 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 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. Wash and quaff your budgie or beagle.

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.

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.

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

97. Curl up in an electric blanket, close your eyes, and dream.

98. Slow-cook homemade chili and bake cornbread!

99. Go to a local bookstore and spend hours perusing.

100. Sharpen all your kitchen knives.

101. Do continue or find a therapeutic alliance! Whether in-person or telehealth, therapy is the answer if you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression, anxiety, or substance misuse. Don’t wait to change your life for the better!



after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.