Sailing Through the January Doldrums

Doesn’t life seem a little bit less fun in January?  Christmas is over, the festive decorations have all been packed away.  The days are short and grey, the nights long and cold.  The landscape seems…indifferent, whether it be covered in a blanket of white or displaying the muted browns and greys we associate with this time of year.  And January will soon give way to February, which is almost a repeat performance of the preceding days.  It’s what I call the January Doldrums — that period when the invigorating winds of gardening season are deadly calm and our sails are empty.

There are a few things I’ve done in the past — some planned, and some completely spontaneous — that have helped me through these somewhat dreary days.


(1)  You can certainly brighten the day by bringing the garden indoors.  Even supermarkets carry inexpensive plants such as these lovely pink hyacinths Charlie brought home last winter.  There were four bulbs in this one pot and these fragrant flowers, in various stages, added a little splash of spring to the apartment for a good two weeks.  And I believe this was a $5.99 purchase.  If you remember, he recently brought home a single, white hyacinth which he found on display for a mere $2.00.  I’ve also purchased tulips and daffodils in the same way with great results.  Cyclamen and Amaryllis are two more favorites that seem to be popular right now.

(2)  Be good to yourself. Take advantage of these long nights and squeeze in an extra hour of sleep.  Eat well — Charlie and I have been eating more hearty soups and salads and trying to snack on nuts and fruit, as the budget allows.  It’s made a huge difference in the way I feel, along with those few extra zzzzz’s.  Position a comfy chair in a bright, sunny window on nicer days and bask in the warmth, if only for a few moments.  It can really lift your spirit.  Treat yourself to a new hair style.  (I’m happy to report, speaking of being good to yourself, that Charlie and I are both still smoke free!  I think we’ve finally done it.)

(3)  Stay in touch with friends. Chances are that your friends are feeling blah if you are — write someone a long letter…by hand!  Or pick up a ‘thinking-of-you’ card and put it in the mail.  Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.  It’ll brighten both your days.

These are a few of the things I’ve tried to do to make January just a little bit shorter.  How about you?  I’d love to hear any tips you have for chasing away those mid-winter blahs!


Author: nancybond

A writer, photographer, naturalist from small town Nova Scotia, Canada.

18 thoughts on “Sailing Through the January Doldrums”

  1. Nancy,
    Good tips for sure on these “two dog” cold and dreary days and nights of winter. I also pick up a few pots of color or greenery at the grocery store to give myself a boost. After all I have to feed my spirit as well as my body!
    However, I did say “NO” to myself yesterday to a huge, fat pot of beautiful yellow daffodils because my cart was already overflowing…..but I did look over my shoulder at it as I wheeled away….and thought for a moment of doing a “U Turn”.

    Jon at Mississippi Garden

    Hi Jon – good to see you again. Oh yes, there are many temptations that would warrant a U-turn, but I admire your strength in resisting! :) Indeed, feeding the soul is as important as feeding the body.

  2. Glad to hear that you are both still smoke free – well done. I still feel that January and part of February should be banned.

    Thanks, Karen — and I’d agree with you about January, at least. I don’t seem to mind February as much, perhaps because it’s short and once it’s out of the way, you know you’ll see hints of Spring in March/Apr. :)

  3. All great suggestions Nancy. THis time of year can get under your skin some. I think that blogging has helped the past couple of years for me. Just knowing that someone else is plodding along with their life in the dark makes one feel a little better somehow. You know what they say, misery loves company. Ha…

    I commend you for being smoke free. It is such a horrible addiction. Good for you for beating the smoke.

    Oh, yes! Blogging helps immensely! As you said, just knowing that others are going through the same thing, and then being able to scoot to Australia or down south to Florida and see what’s in bloom helps a lot, too. Smoking is a horrible, disgusting addiction and I hesitate to say we’ll never smoke again, because we’re all human and we slip, but I really do think we’ve got it licked this time. Neither of us could have done it without the Champix (Chantix in US) – it’s amazing.

  4. Glad to hear that you have quit. Wonderful.

    January, and Feb, are times for dreaming, hoping, and planning. Spring will come, trees will blossom, bulbs will come out of the ground.

    I plan on really appreciating this coming spring, photography, and blogging have made me look at things differently. And I want to document what I am seeing, and hide it away for sustenance during the next cold winter.

    Then during the coldest days, I will haul out my treasures, and array the photos on my computer, living in denial of the snow.


  5. Congratulations on quitting – well done! Potted bulbs are just the best tonic. I decided to work on my cabin fever by getting outside – bought myself some new snowpants (how Canadian) and am taking myself for long walks. They even make the same swishswishswish noise I remember from when I was a kid. Like you, soup figures high on the list – and I think today, I’m going to break down and make something sweet.

  6. Just what I needed to read today. Thank you, Nancy. I can smell those luscious hyacinths from here – ahhhhh. Spring flowers narcissus, jonquils and hyacinths are my favorite scents. I’m getting all heady just thinking about them…is it spring yet?

  7. Beautiful hyacinths. I went flower-looking a bit this morning, but the $$ were way too high. :-( I’ll need to try again, as I’m needing a little pick-me-up!

    Friends are a wonderful boon to the soul, and getting together with them is an absolute!

    Creating something with my hands; any one of a variety of media and/or endeavors perks me up. And a little blog note to someone I admire is good, too. Consider yourself “noted!” ;-)

  8. Not the doldrums for me. I really love this time of year. The snow is so white, the sun is so bright… shall I continue and make a poem – let’s see, the heat is so slight, my weight is not light, my book is just right. Okay I’ll quit! :<) ……for the night. :-)

  9. Count me in on your advice, Nancy, although I must admit to liking the slower month of January!

    1) I have a beautiful indoor garden 2) finally got hair cut today and have been walking and trying to go to bed earlier 3) Had a huge party for 50 friends last weekend

    (Good news about you & Charlie :)

  10. Congrats on quitting smoking Nancy, what a wonderful thing to do for yourself! Your words of advice on how to get through winter are exactly what I would have said. I buy myself indoor plants and flowers, read a good book, have some hot tea or cocoa, get my nails done, go shopping, read garden blogs, or look back at my own garden photos from summer. The best thing though is to actually get out in the snow and enjoy nature anyway! In the past I haven’t taken this advice, but keeping my blog interesting has forced me outdoors this winter, and it has really helped me appreciate my least favorite season. The other day I caught myself saying how pretty the snowflakes were, and I was shocked! Normally I just grumble at them. Maybe I can learn to appreciate winter, even if it’s just a little bit.

  11. A nice post, as usual, and I am always so inspired about cheering thoughts in northern climates. I find our gray days trying enough without snow!

    Delighted to read that you and Charley are continuing to be smoke-free. Habits are so hard to break. Good for you both!


  12. Very wise counsel and suggestions! I have also resorted to putting up some pretty red things around the middle to end of January for Valentine’s Day. It helps with the let-down from Christmas. Fortunately, in our climate this is the month when our hills turn green (they’re golden brown in summer). If I didn’t have those green hills to look forward to, I’d be in a world of frump.

  13. Great news about being still habit-free! I’m proud of both of you. And the good news about January is that it’s almost over. But of course, now FARCH is looming on the horizon…

  14. Great ideas, Nancy! And congratulations on quitting–I’ve been wondering how you were doing.
    This is the time of year I also read a lot. I love to read any time, but there are far fewer distractions in January and February to pull me away from a good book.

  15. Oh, Nancy, what wonderful tips! I must try the hyacinths indoors. Staying in touch with friends via the Internet is a cheering thing. Playing board games with my children, and listening to them talk is also something I enjoy all the time, but these dark, cold nights seem especially conducive to a good game. :)

  16. Great tips Nancy. January is the worst month for me. I always figure I have winter “beat” once we flip the calendar to February. At least the days are longer then even if we have more of the same weather. If it’s not too nasty outdoors, just taking the dog out for a short brisk walk will make me feel better. Congrats on still being smoke free. I hope you can totally kick the habit. I’ve heard it’s really hard to do. Another reason to be good to yourself!

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