February is officially my least favourite month of the year. With the festivities of Christmas feeling far behind, but the dark cold days still stretching ahead, I get through by planning some simple slow-living activities to lift my spirits.
Make time for these easy self-care activities to help you enjoy the last month of winter and stay positive until spring arrives... we've almost made it!
Gaze out of the window every day. Pull up a chair, make a cup of tea and give the view from your window 10 minutes of your undivided attention. Watching the world go by, while being still, can give a great sense of calm.
Feed the birds. Nuts, seeds, fat balls and suet blocks are a nutritious source for garden birds in winter when food is scarce. It's relaxing to watch the birds tucking in and uplifting to feel you're making a positive difference too.
Batch-cook warming meals. After a long day the thought of preparing dinner from scratch can seem like a slog and it's easy to lean on ready-made options more than you might like. Instead, make a double quantity of soup or casserole at weekend and freeze ahead so you have something good to eat in a hurry - click here for warming recipe ideas.
Buy new socks. I find that taking off my shoes and putting on warm wool socks the moment I walk in the door is one of winter's simple pleasures. If your sock collection is shabby, buying new ones is an inexpensive treat. The alpaca socks from here are my favourites.
Use one sense at a time. Multi-tasking is not always a good thing, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. Instead, identify activities that involve using only one of your senses at a time and don't let anything else interfere. For example, listen to a podcast without checking your Instagram, go for a jog without your iPod or read a book without music playing.
Get out in the garden. Studies have shown that gardening can reduce depression and February is a good time to plant summer-flowering bulbs like agapanthus and lilies. If you don't have your own garden, use this RHS tool to search your postcode for nearby Britain in Bloom and School Gardening Projects seeking volunteers.
Light candles in the daytime. I always used to wait until evening to light candles, but it's amazing how a candle creates a calm atmosphere in the day too. A candlelit brunch is a special weekend ritual to try.
Wrap-up in a wool blanket. The Danish tradition of 'hygge' is the buzzword of the moment and cosy blankets are essential to creating a nest at home. Pure wool blankets are the warmest and come in lots of beautiful colours and designs at The British Blanket Company.
Take a board game to the pub for a lazy weekend afternoon when the weather is grim and you need a change of scenery. Our family favourites (that aren't too rowdy to play in public) are Dixit and Ticket to Ride.
Start a sociable hobby. Spending time with others is important if you find it difficult to motivate yourself on dark evenings. Sociable hobbies can be more emotionally enriching than solo activities like going to the gym. Join a book club, enroll on an evening class to try a new craft, or learn to dance.