Winter, a topic that requires no preamble.
Nonetheless I will state the obvious: Winter in Montreal is cold, dark, salty and grey. It is full of small rocks that get in your boots and your bed. However, winter can also be beautiful, magical, spirited, romantic and quiet. Regardless of what it may or may not be, it is here now. So I have prepared a haphazard list of Pro Tips on winter survival (I am the pro):
1) Turn the heat on, and increase the household tog.
Putting plastic on the windows saves a tremendous amount of energy, and thus money. I have spent several winters Scrooging out and refusing to turn the heat on. Guess what happened? I was miserable, and never wanted to get out of bed. Having the luxury to exist in your home not wrapped in a blanket is worth paying for.
2) Find your exercise (and then do it!)
I am convinced that if a person could find the sport or exercise that suited them best, they would be more inclined to do it. It can be as simple as taking a long walk on Sundays, or as complicated as trying to catch a rabbit in the woods for dinner. I personally like swimming, floor hockey and volleyball.
Note: Dancing is also exercise! You like the good ol’ bump n’ grind? Click here (it’s not porn, don’t worry).
3) Rent a movie from McGill, free.
I promised myself I wouldn’t share this ‘secret’, but I can’t keep secrets (and I am sure you didn’t skip the library tour like I did and already know about this). Not just mere mortal movies, but the entire Criterion collection is available at McGill! That is an overwhelming amount of good cinema. All the Hitchcock you can handle!
4) Get good lights and turn them on.
Most of you self-respecting graduate students aren’t waking up at 6 am (unless you are unfortunate like me) and thus are only exposed to 6 or 7 hours of sunlight per day, which is not enough to maintain sanity. To remedy this, build a “solarium”in your house using full-spectrum light bulbs that simulate sunlight. They can be expensive, but not as expensive as a therapist.
This is the type of bulb I have, and here is a link to the manufacturer’s page about health and natural light. Their site has a picture of a totally hot girl running across a beach, so you know the information is reliable. Hot or not, it’s my scientific (really!) opinion that the benefits of light are considerable. If you want some slightly more credible information (or want to brush up on your seasonal-affective-disorder trivia), look here to read a quick and unbiased summary from the US National Institutes of Health.
Regardless of the type, turning on the lights when you first wake up helps to stimulate your sleepy brain. Personally, it keeps me from crawling back into bed.
5) Keep your bedroom and bathroom clean.
These rooms are important. They’re where you wake up, and where you’ll spend a fair amount of time in any season.
An old roommate once told me it was her rule to have a brightly coloured shower curtain in the bathroom, so that when she first stumbled into the bathroom in the morning she felt ‘happy’. Luckily happiness is subjective, so you won’t necessarily have to buy a tropical print shower curtain like she did. Anything that soothes, yet stimulates comes on high recommendation from me.
6) “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
How beautiful and eloquent this quote from Michael Pollan is. What we eat is the most important decision we can make in our day. It effects how we feel physically and emotionally, and influences many health outcomes. I know that it’s not easy to eat a healthy diet, but there is one rule I live by: Eat more food and less product. What I mean is eat more foods that aren’t processed and don’t come in a box. That is where you find high amounts of strange preservatives, nitrites/nitrates, trans fats, sodium, and so on. I am a big fan of vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fats from natural sources like milk. In winter I am also a fan of the sacred cold-weather duo of potatoes and cabbage.
Diet is incredibly personal. People get defensive at the very mention of it, which is why I keep my strong opinions to some basic concepts. I mean, think about it: we didn’t evolve on products like Kraft Dinner and candy bars. We evolved on foods like nuts, meats and berries. So why would we buy the other stuff when we have no real concept of how it was made or what is in it?
Next time you are in the grocery store, say to yourself “What would my great-great-grandmother eat?” Or save time and shorten it to “WWGGGE?” (I hope this becomes a meme/bracelet).
Special Bonus Even Pro-er Tip: essential fatty acids in the morning help stabilize blood sugar and decrease cravings for greasy foods.
7) Put a string on your mittens so you do not lose them.
7 b) If you have a special someone, get him or her to kiss your nose to keep it warm when waiting for the bus. Swoon.
7 c) Skin care: Consider using body oil instead of lotion. It will turn you into a satin goddess much like myself.
8 ) Proper footwear and clothes!
Thermal everything! Or if you have fashion sense, wool everything!
9) Keep your poinsettia alive after the holidays.
I have been told that poinsettias can grow to be beautiful and bountiful plants. Generally, plants are good to have around because they help you forget about the cold and dying world outside.
10) Buy a wall mural. (Why not?)
11) Follow me on Twitter @zsofiazambo.
Then we can play Would You Rather in real time.
There is no shame in forgetting about your academic and financial problems (I might be projecting) by indulging in some laughs. Some quick recommendations:
Skeptics Guide to the Universe (Funny and smart, just like you!)
Tim and Eric Awesome Show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The IT Crowd, Futurama, Arrested Development, Better Off Ted, Parks and Recreation, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Alright that’s it! Stay alive people!