I like winter, but it’s a challenging time of year for me. It’s so easy to get depressed, and even easier to just spend every evening vegetating in front of screens. Over dinner last night, my partner and I agreed that we really need to find more ways to fill these long, dark evenings.
One of my personal ‘life lessons’ from the past ten months has been this: drinking is not an activity in itself. I used to treat it that way, as the very best answer to an empty stretch of evening time, or a rainy Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t play that role in my life anymore, which has opened up a lot of time, a lot of freedom, and a lot of questions about what kind of person I really want to be.
Without excessive drinking, my evenings have already become more full. I’m more likely to set up evening activities, more likely to try new things, and more likely to spend quality time with my partner. But it’s still easy to slide into a rut, which is normal (but worth fighting!), so I’m brainstorming some ideas to mix our evenings up a little. Writing them down here means I have a place to check back the next time I’m feeling short on inspiration!
Reading, good movies/shows, conversation
Not every evening needs be be a non-stop whirl of entertainment. The truth is, I’m a hermit by nature, and I love quiet evenings doing nothing in particular. I just think I maintain my equilibrium better when I spend my time enjoying just one well-chosen movie or show, and actually paying attention to the experience (ha, that sounds familiar). Or reading; an evening spent reading makes my brain feel a lot better than an evening locked in front of a screen.
Reading is also something my partner and I can do together. We can pick a book and read it out loud, alternating a chapter a night, and it’s a surprisingly cozy way to spend time together. It’s how we read the whole Harry Potter series! We just need to find the right book. That’s going to be one of my quests over the next few weeks.
This requires just a bit more effort than reading or watching a good movie. Or a lot more effort, depending…I’m including almost any kind of creative endeavor here.
Making stuff with my hands is therapeutic in a way few other things are. It’s just tough to figure what to do with all the junk once it’s made. I like to crochet, for instance, but don’t really need an infinite amount of lumpy hats. So one plan could be to find a place to donate fiber crafts, so I can make as much as I want. My favorite current activity involves a lot of specialized equipment, a lot of mess, and a great deal of satisfaction…but I’d really like to figure out a complementary creative activity that is more portable, less messy, and pushes similar mental buttons.
Recently, I’ve been drawn to painting, which never appealed to me before. I think I’ll try to figure out a way to experiment a bit to discover what medium would fit what I’m looking for. Ironically, the only place locally that offers evening painting classes is a wine bar, which I could probably make work, but doesn’t actually sound like what I’m aiming for overall. Hmm.
Take a class
Speaking of classes…my partner and I have taken classes together before and enjoyed most of them. I’ve been taking art classes recently too, which have been a ton of fun. So maybe another art class, or an exercise class (although group exercise makes me feel unbearably cranky), or something. We could take ice skating lessons through the local parks department. Or yoga. Or work on our Spanish. Something, anyway.
Just got my parks & rec brochure in the mail, so I’ll see what’s on offer. The nicest thing about a formal class is that it provides that external push — on my own, I can find it difficult to exit the house and “do something fun,” but a class makes sure I get moving. Plus, it gets me around other people and out of my hermitage.
You would think I’d get more done during winter evenings, but I actually get less done. Something about the fact that it’s already dark outside means we both shut down kind of early, leaving many household tasks half-done. One solution (can be done alone or together): listing to a podcast or audiobook while loading the dishwasher, sweeping the leaves back outside, or re-organizing the hall closet. This combines well with crochet, art, and many other things too, and while it seems almost as mindless as Netflix, it seems to leave me feeling more cheerful. I think it’s the satisfaction of checking items off a to-do list, but may also just be that I’m moving my body around.
Bookstore browsing, coffee shop catch-up, trips to the library
I like going out for dinner, or out for a drink. But sometimes, I want to spend an evening out that’s not centered around eating. Browsing through a bookstore, or spending time at the library, can be pretty good options. So can catching up on some writing projects at a coffee shop. Huh, even taking a book to a cozy bar/pub/cafe and reading around the fireplace might be nice, if I found a comfortable one.My partner and I tend to be creatures of habit. Trying to persuade ourselves to get out of the house can be tough on a day-to-day basis, but if we got into the habit of meeting up at a coffee shop one night a week, we’d slip into that groove pretty easily. Just have to figure out what we want.
Board game pubs, bowling
Speaking of things besides eating, there are a lot of fun things to do in my town that are “alcohol adjacent,” meaning the venue serves drinks, but the fun isn’t dependent on them. There is a board-game pub with a couple of hundred games to check out, plus any number of places with “pub quiz night” type entertainment. A drink in these situations is genuinely enjoyable, and a large chunk of the reason I aim for moderation over abstinence. Bowling, laser tag, whatever…anything that involves getting off the couch, laughing, and connecting with others works for me. The barrier here is that I usually have to do the inviting, which I can probably manage.
Be kind to myself
The above lists are a bit limited in scope. Some of that is because I left out things I know I don’t personally enjoy (like “take a long bath,” blerg). Mostly, it’s because I wanted to list fairly easy things, the ‘low hanging fruit’ of evening entertainment. Things that may be slightly more challenging than lying on the couch, but that aren’t actually a huge struggle.
There are plenty of things I’d like to do that are a bit more complex, for me. For instance: exercise more, go for late-night walks, cook something new. The truth is, I’m just not in the mood sometimes, which probably means I need to tackle those activities in a more organized way if I want to actually change my relationship to them. For now, I just want to start small, and remind myself that there are lots of easier things I can to get through the winter in some kind of balanced state.