We’ve made it to the middle of February … it’s that time of year when, like many Midwesterners, we’re contemplating whether or not we’re going to actually make it until spring.

February hits me like a month of Mondays, when every morning I wake up and think, “Oh yeah, it’s cold and dark outside and I don’t really feel like doing anything … Do I have to adult today?”

And although most of us have something that motivates us to keep going, that’s not to say there aren’t a good number of people riding that old struggle bus all the way.

Spoiler alert: I am about to deliver some completely unsolicited advice, so feel free to stop reading here.

(Or if you’re someone who can honestly say he or she is not struggling this time of year, that is amazing. You should use that skill to teach some classes to help the rest of us … I mean it.)

But I think for the rest of us, all we can really hope to do is try to find little things that minimize our floundering and contribute, in whatever way, to our feelings of wellness as we look forward to spring.

Here is my own, random little list of things that apparently help me navigate the season:


Reconnect with an old friend. It doesn’t matter how or why you fell out of touch, stopped talking, doing lunch, etc… just give them a call and remind them you still value their presence in your life. I ran into an old friend who is going through a really hard time the other day … not only was this person touched by the fact I still cared, but when I learned of his hardship, I was reminded of just how important it is to try to stay connected with the people I care about. It is the most important thing. I sent him a Facebook message this morning wishing him a better day. The conversation will continue...


Write a letter to someone. I receive letters from my godmother on a monthly basis. There is nothing I look forward to more than getting one of these little gems in the mail. Writing … it’s almost a lost art form. And sharing your thoughts and feelings through writing can help you work through some pretty complicated stuff.


Take up an old hobby you have let slide over the years. Not only will you potentially meet some cool people, you’ll also be reminded of why you loved doing it in the first place. I returned to downhill skiing last year after a 30-year hiatus and have been loving it ever since. It helps to have a winter activity to look forward to each year, even if it’s an indoor pursuit, such as knitting, fly tying, etc.


Subscribe to a new newspaper, magazine or book club. Reading something made out of paper can transport you to a place that sitting down at a computer, phone or other electronic device just can’t deliver. You have to hold the pages in your hand. Just try it.


Check out your local library. Not only does the Decorah Public Library offer an amazing amount of books and periodicals on loan, there are classes, workshops, happy hour book groups (held elsewhere, obviously), etc. Plus the library’s movie section is amazing -- an excellent way to help pass those long winter nights and catch up on a flick or two you missed in the theatre. 


Join a club, any club. It can be a fitness club or beer of the month … just find something you’re interested in, and -- voila -- you will benefit from meeting others interested in the same kinds of things. If you can’t find a local club that meets your interests, start your own. If you build it, they will come.


Shop for weird food. I bought some olive loaf at the City Meat Market as I passed through New Albin the other day, because it reminded me of my dad, who just loved the stuff. Having an olive loaf sandwich on plain white bread with coffee this morning made me feel like I was hangin’ with my dad from the great beyond. I know it sounds crazy. Don’t knock it until you try it.


Dress it up. When you’re having a day when you can’t even stand to look at yourself in the mirror, make a conscious effort to try to dress yourself up a bit. It sure is easier to throw on that hoody and baseball cap, but try throwing on a scarf, earrings or special occasion suit or outfit you usually save for (insert imaginary special event here) and just rock it. You’ll be surprised at how making a concerted effort to look put together can actually help to put you together. Fake it ‘til you make it, as my brother always says.


Volunteer to help someone. Volunteering doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment … if you have some extra time, just stop in somewhere and ask if there is anything you can do to help. There usually is.


Start a tradition. A good friend of mine started a “Breakfast Club” a couple of years ago, and every few months she just sends out a text and puts together a group of 10-12 people for breakfast. I remember the first time she did this, she said, “I don’t know if anyone will come.” Now she has people who approach her on the street and say, “Make sure you send me a text about when the next breakfast is.” It’s really great, and super easy to do.


Acknowledge your struggle. When you see that old friend on the street and they ask you how you’re doing, there’s no reason to lie about it. Chances are, their world is not all sunshine and rainbows either. Talk about it. Or, if you are really having a hard time, go talk to a professional. There is no shame in asking for real help if you need it.


The bottom line is the best path to wellness is whatever one works for you on any given day. If grabbing a Monster and a pack of cigarettes first thing in the morning is what does it for you, so be it.

We are -- all of us -- works in progress.

I guess for now, I’ll stick to my cup of dark roast -- with an occasional side of olive loaf.