Turn That Winter Frown Upside Down

Tips to turn that winter frown upside downYes, that's the real title of this post. And I meant it. I don't know about you, but I find myself getting a little bit down during the winter months. It's cold. It gets dark at 5pm. It's just not my favorite time of year. And that's OK. I think it was Groucho Marx who said that we (not events) have the power to choose if we're happy today or not. So, winter or no winter, let's discuss a few ideas to help us choose happiness this season.

1. Seek out light.

I feel like one of my big gripes during the winter is that it feels like it's constantly dark. Yes, there are actually less daylight hours during the winter months (where I live). But that doesn't mean that it's dark all the time. Seek out light by making more of an effort to get out of the office and maybe go on a walk during your lunch break (weather permitting). Or try to take advantage of sunny hours during the weekend. Another option is to add more light to your life. If your house feels constantly dark, why not add a lamp to your space, or replace a a thick lampshade with a thinner one. You could repurpose those holiday lights around the house. It'll feel super cozy! I'm going to try to get more creative with my time and space and seek out more light this winter. Who's with me?

2. Challenge yourself.

Oh yes, you knew I couldn't get through this post without talking about setting goals. I am a broken record when it comes to goal-setting. But it can make such a positive difference in life! I'm a believer, what can I say. So if you're feeling down this season, instead of focusing on how you wish it was warmer (looking forlornly at all your sandals in your closet), try setting some challenging goals for yourself. Learn to sew. Make a giant wall weaving. Redecorate your room. Cook your way through a cookbook. Train for a half marathon. Set a photography challenge for yourself. Learn to use Photoshop. Make that wedding scrapbook you always meant to make. Write a novel. Start a blog. The world is our oyster, guys, so make some goals and get in to it!

Lake ice3. Good smells rule.

In the winter I find myself getting more and more obsessed with good smells. It can make your space feel so much more cozy and vibe-y (not a word, but you get it, right?). Buy or make some candles. Try out a few stove simmers. Bake some bread. You've got options here. Currently the scents I'm craving are: lemon and woods-y smells (there I go again, making up words). Other great options: cinnamon sticks, rosemary, lavender, oranges, fresh baked cookies. Explore some scents this winter!

4. Plan something.

I like to think of this as active day dreaming. Does your budget & schedule allow for a weekend trip this season—then plan one (go somewhere warm for me!). If you are planning to move to a new apartment or your first home this year, maybe start a pinboard dreaming up how you'd like to decorate. Another fun thing to plan—parties! Plan a movie night, pot luck, or clothing exchange with your friends. Side note: I'm counting "Get Social" as my bonus tip here. 🙂

Winter on the lake5. Embrace winter.

It's easy to focus on all the things about this season that I don't love. I will have perpetually cold hands for the next three months. It's dark by the time I get off work. Blah, blah, blah. Focusing on the negative is easy. What takes guts is to notice and embrace the things you love about this season. For example, I'm looking to challenge myself to do some kind of photo shoot in the snow this year. Sure it's cold, but snow (and ice) can be SO beautiful in photos, and I can only get those kinds of photos during this season of the year. Think about it, what do you love about the season you are in? How can you embrace something about this time of year? Maybe you could go sledding (it's not just for kids!), make snow ice cream, knit a scarf—whatever works for you.

These tips are really for me, but I'd love you to join me—let's get happy this season! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Yes, 100 times over. We’ve been having the same conversation around our home. Its my choice how I deal with winter. It is a fact of where I live, might as well embrace it. 🙂 My husband and I actually planned a last minute night away tonight. So unlike us, but I’m really looking forward to the mini break! Hope you enjoy a HAPPY weekend. x

  • LOVE your tips Emma! By the time February comes around my mood just seems so dull because of winter. This year I have been trying to embrace the season a bit more and it really does help. Plus it helps to know that March is only two months away and in my eyes, March means Spring. Even if there’s still snow on the ground 🙂

  • Also, if you have a botanical garden near you, make a day trip. They are usually warm, steamy, and green. Heck, even going to a climate controlled commercial nursery cheers me up sometimes.

  • Amen. Winter can be a beautiful season if you learn to embrace its pros and cons with a determined smile. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you—that means a lot. Really. I had taken these not really intending them for our site, and I was nervous they were too moody or dark.

    So anyway, thanks.


  • Love that thought. One of our local green houses is actually pretty hard to be in during the summer (so steamy and hot) and I didn’t think it might be a great spot to go walk through, maybe get a little plant for our house while I’m at it. 🙂


  • Seasonal effective disorder was SO real for me when I lived in NYC haha. These are really insightful suggestions, esp re: good smells. I became obsessed with my current L’atelier perfume after spritzing it on my parka in Nolita one day during the polar vortex. I think my love for it grew out of feeling comforted by the smell on a cold day!

    Latest Post: Business Casual Violation – with 1980’s Adidas

  • Many thanks for the infusion of optimism and ideas for staying positive during deep winter. Much needed! I’m going to try some of those. Have a good weekend!

  • I love this, Emma! Such good advice. I really believe in #4 a lot, especially when I’m feeling down (for whatever reason). Planning something that will happen in the next few months, or sometime this year, and then setting a countdown is a real motivator for me. Nothing lasts forever. Not winter, not mental funks, not anything. When in doubt, look forward 🙂

    Sarah Alves

  • I would have to agree with the above! I don’t find these photos moody or dark at all. I would describe them as hopeful 🙂 (and completely perfect for this post)

    This may be a bizarre comment, but I love the way you organize your thoughts and goals in your writing. Only yesterday, I made resolutions on my own blog for the new year. Before I felt ready to do so, I read (so) many of yours and Elise Blaha’s posts on goal-setting. I don’t think they turned out nearly as wonderful as your posts do, but I feel happy with them nonetheless. I just find that your writing flows so beautifully. I can’t deny that I breathe a sigh of relief as I read (“I can do this,” repeated over and over again in my mind). Maybe it’s all of the reading that you do, but you’re a lovely writer Emma. (This counts for your recipe posts too!)


  • I like the quote, “your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn”. I hung it up in my kids room 😉

  • Great post, I’m too counting the weeks until it gets lighter again 🙂 I’ve been working out more (not b/c it’s the New Year or anything) but to keep my mood and health up which really helps. Having Girl’s Night tonight (much needed) and a planning peaceful, cozy weekend for my biz: setting goals, dreams, learning new things & getting creative 🙂


  • I adore this post – I’ve had so may of these thoughts and intentions and it’s nice to know I’m not alone! I think getting outside more is huge – I definitely tend to hibernate in the winter but fresh air and sunlight does winters, even if we have to work harder for it.

    Warm Regards,

  • This is my first winter working freelance from home and I’ve been feeling a bit down because of all those things you mentioned! Thanks for sharing these tips 🙂
    (btw I love your name!)

  • Winter is a beautiful season! Here in Germany/Bavaria there is a storm out there right now. But in the morning hours it was such a nice winter weather with a bit snow. Enjoy it!

    Have a nice day!


  • This is such a great post! I always struggle with winter, and I found that the thing that makes the biggest difference is embracing winter. Like you said, there are actually a lot of wonderful things about winter and it’s important to focus on those too.

    xx Kathryn

  • Thank you very much! You all are making my Friday the best ever!

    I adore Elise’s blog/writing so much too. So being put in a similar category with her makes me smile.


  • Haha, love embrace the smells! I’ve always hated the cold (still do) and one thing I’m trying to do to shift my feelings towards it is dress better.

    My goal by next year is to clean out my closet of all the things I don’t wear, get rid of anything I don’t feel amazing in, and start with ONLY the clothes I love wearing on my body. By the time winter rolls around, I want to be able to have amazing winter staples that I feel great in AND keep me warm. My closet is filled with mostly summer/fall clothing (okay, I lie. Mostly summer, haha) and I think that may be one of the reasons I hate winter! I need more warm clothes!!

    Aiming to hate winter a little less, one month at a time!

    Neha // http://nehasharmaphoto.com/blog

  • The “teach yourself something new” thing is RIGHT ON. I taught myself to crochet last month, and I’m spending the winter curled up on my couch making little creatures for friends’ kids. So there’s the joy of something new, PLUS the joy of giving gifts!

  • These are such great ideas! I, too, find myself getting a little down in the dumps during the winter for many of the same reasons you gave. But I’m excited to turn my thinking around and try some of your suggestions for appreciating winter. Thanks!!

  • I do not like winter.. when i was younger i love it… now with two kids and so much time at home it is my unfavourite seasson !

  • I love using essential oils to create that vibe-y smell in my apartment! We definitely have lemon AND woods-y smells, Emma! 🙂

  • I love that, although the author of blog posts isn’t visible in my feed reader until the bottom, I can always tell when something’s been written by Emma – such a distinctive voice. 🙂

  • If you live above the 35th parallel you should quite likely be supplementing vitamin D. Have your levels tested so you know what dose to take. It makes such a huge difference in northern climates in winter.

  • I’m a big fan of this post. I think people usually believe that bloggers have these perfect, wonderful, happy lives all of the time. But I believe that blogging is about people who are focusing on the positive. It might not be easy for everyone, but finding the bright side of any situation is often what helps us find our way out. Thank you for turning something crappy (i.e. freezing cold dark days) and showing the light!

  • I don’t comment on here a ton, even though checking your blog is a part of my daily routine, but I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this post. It couldn’t have come at a better time. It is so, so cold where I am right now (like -30F brrr) and this post has inspired me to do something other than curl up on the couch and watch TV marathons this weekend! So again, thank you 🙂

    I’m not a super goal-oriented person, but I’m going to give it a shot. Instead of whining about the cold and dreaming of summer, I think I’ll finish my bedroom makeover and start organizing my mudroom and spend some much needed time with my hubby.


  • A silly little thing that put more light in my day (by accident!) is that our apartment came with a black shower curtain. Eventually, it got old and gross, so I bought a new one that’s frosted with some white shapes. It lets SO MUCH MORE LIGHT into the shower! I had never even thought before that it was dim while I was showering with the black one up, but the difference was amazing.

  • Thank goodness for this. I want to share this with everyone in New York City who is so MAD all winter long.

  • Hi Emma!

    First: those pictures are so beautiful <3

    Second: I think the best tip I have is just to find what I love about winter, like how much I love being cozy at home and not feeling guilty for staying in, I love living in layers, hot beverages, chrsitmas films, etc..

    ABM actually helps me everyday, your blog is so colorful and inspiring!So thank you!

    All the best from Paris 🙂

  • Thank you! I’m in the grip of a very bad depression right now – I don’t blame winter because this thing started a year ago and didn’t get better as summer came and went – and I know things like this are important. Actually right now I’m pretty much bedridden because the medication is causing problems… I know, that just seems wrong! Once I’m back on my feet I’ll be outside again. My work requires me to bundle up and go out to the barn twice a day whether I’m making a living or not, and as much as I complain, it is very beneficial. That’s part of embracing winter for me, because although Canadian winters are brutal, they are beautiful. Thanks for the suggestion of good smells in the house. And as for planning something? When I’m feeling better I have all kinds of ideas saved up for making my house a more beautiful place. Great post for a day in bed feeling icky and shaky while the storm rages around the homestead.

  • This was a very positive and well written post. I especially love your suggestion about embracing the season by doing something that you can only do during this time of year. I really enjoyed reading your message and feeling inspired!

  • Great post with gorgeous photos! My outlook on winter completely changed when my husband and I took up snowshoeing. It is so easy (you can do it anywhere!), fun (walking on top of snow!), and also good exercise. Now, instead of dreading winter, I get excited for snowstorms!

  • I’m so with you on incorporating the Mediterranean smells into the winter rotation (lavender & lemon!) and I think this goes for flavors into cooking as well (lemon, basil(!), rosemary, creamy beans, etc). Also, I read this book: http://bit.ly/14DyAH4 one winter and it was like being transported to the warm south of France. I highly recommend reading it to beat the winter blues.

  • what a great post! so refreshing to see someone share ideas on how to be/stay happy during this season. i often get the winter blues so i’ll definitely be trying these. i’ve already started a 365 photo project and i feel like it’s helping a lot. thanks for always sharing such positive and inspiring ideas. love the photos too! 🙂

  • Ha, great minds think alike clearly! I posted about tips to banish winter blues yesterday too. The light thing is a biggie for me too, I always find myself struggling the most on the days where I leave home in the dark and get home in the dark. I definitely find myself nesting too, I think a stove simmer sounds like a perfect project for this weekend 🙂

    Chambray & Curls

  • love this post and the idea of setting some goal… good tips..and i just posted on my blog a photo-shoot we did in the snow, loved it and the pics turned out great.., anything to cheer up the gloomy days right?


  • Love winter! But enough light is really important!
    (From a Norwegian trying to cope on 6 hours of daylight at the moment, all of them while I work, of course)

  • A million times yes to #1! Half the time when I’ve found myself feeling those mid-winter blues, I’m disliking how dark my day feels (hello leaving in darkness and coming home from work in darkness)! Great post, Emma 🙂

  • A million times yes to #1! Half the time when I’ve found myself feeling those mid-winter blues, I’m disliking how dark my day feels (hello leaving in darkness and coming home from work in darkness)! Great post, Emma 🙂

  • This post is very close to my heart. And as you can see from the many comments above, so many of us were hungry for a post just like this : – ) Thank you, Emma, for inspiring us and creating a sense of community, giving us the motivation to fight the winter blues by empowering ourselves.

  • Love this post! Really beautiful images. I guess since I live in Florida…it stays pretty warm here:)<3 It's nice when you have a positive outlook during your day even if it's raining, cold, and dark. It just means it's perfect for snuggling and getting things done around the house (and of course catching up on blog posts.) Your completely right about taking full advantage of winter...finish a book, start a tv series, scrapbook, photography.. it's all so lovely:)
    <3 Love, Thays <3

  • I call them the winter blahs. I get em every year. Seeking out light is my biggest tip. And enjoy daily cups of “gratitude tea,” where I dedicate each cup to someone or something that I am thankful for in particular that day. It’s usually a friend or family member, or something really small like my slippers. :]

  • I feel about Summer the same way you feel about Winter! Rain and grey skies energize me, but the constant bright sunshine and heat of Summer become boring and draining to me (I know how crazy that sounds to most people!) I’m in Western Australia and our Summer stretches from November to March, and even our Autumn is humid almost all the way through! Sometimes we don’t even get any rain in January or February. So to me, Winter is a cosy break 🙂 having said all that, a lot of this list definitely can be applied to Summer for me right now, so thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  • Great tips! I always enjoy winter but it can seem so long and dreary at times. I’ll have to try these next time I’m feeling worn out of winter!

    xo Kenzie

  • I love your obsession with planning and goal setting, I am very much with you on that one. Great idea when it comes to smell, I’ve always been good smells junkie and it’s nice to see that it’s not a bad thing after all. If it makes you feel better, why the hell not! Thank you for your beautiful article, really enjoyed reading it x


  • i feel you – my mood has definitely changed during these dark & cold winter days. going and having fun sometimes feels like such a task.. before i know it, i’ve been sitting inside all day, wasting my day behind a computer. time to get out there! thanks for sharing your tips, hope your winter will be amazing! 🙂
    xo, cheyenne

  • I love this post. I suffer with SAD and I struggle with my love/hate relationship with Winter. I love Christmas and the frosty mornings, but I hate the lack of light it really gets my down. I’ve found using my lightbox really does help though, I know that’s not for everyone but for me it works. You’ve got some excellent tips in here.

    Beauty and Lifestyle Blog


  • I love this. Feeling inspired to make the most of this season.

    P.S. Maybe it was a doppelganger, but I swear I spied you as an extra in a Hallmark movie! (I have refined taste in movies, what can I say)

  • Such great tips Emma! Here in Alberta, winter is long and dark as well. It takes a focused effort to keep your spirits up on some of those unreasonably dark and cold days. Love the tips you shared! Definitely going to keep them in mind 🙂 Stay warm!

  • Such good tips! I completely agree with you, I always lose motivation during winter, and I found that planning things ahead is a great thing to do, and setting yourself a challenge is a great idea too! Great post xx

  • Where I live in Sweden it gets dark at 2 pm and sun rises around 10… And further north it doesn’t rise at all during winter. Gah! So 5 pm would be a dream to me 😉 Then again, it never gets dark during summer, which is equally weird.

  • I was feeling exactly this way this cloudy afternoon when i saw this post. I guess there are good things about winter 🙂 like how we’re not sweating all the time

  • I love this post, and find it ironic, because I actually really MISS seasons. I know, I know, I should not even complain. Really, truly I usually can’t because at current I live in Hawaii. It is paradise…but…and I risk being hit upside the head here by someone, I did grow up on the east coast USA and miss how the year changes. I do miss falling leaves, snowflakes, and the first inklings of spring. However beautiful, no matter where you are is what you make of it!

  • Please say I am not the only one who came here because of the nature photos..


  • Such a great reminder! It can be so hard to remain cheerful sometimes, but there is beauty in winter, too! 🙂

  • I love that you use smell as a winter pick-me-up! it really is a cheap and easy way to improve your mood. i sell fragrance at sephora, and woods-y is a totally normal request, btw! it’s hard to describe smell so i like to encourage folks to use whatever words come to mind. woody/fresh fragrance is pretty popular right now, next time you’re at the mall check out B. by balenciaga!

    /perfumelady 🙂

  • Beautiful photos! We don’t have icy snowy winters where I live (unless I drive for an hour to the foothills) so I always enjoy seeing other people’s take on their winter. You have a wonderful eye Leah and your photographs are so calming that they belie the intense cold and misery you must feel at times outside. Although… if I remember correctly, you have some killer scarves so you won’t get so cold!

  • Totally love this post. Cold weather makes me feel dull too. I was asking my friends at office last week, “can we get some holidays for hibernating?”.
    The advice to challenge ourselves in the winter with new projects totally resonates well with me.
    Thanks for the post dear.


  • oops sorry my comments a while ago, I confused the blog… thought it was Leah’s, silly me. But YOUR photos are still beautiful and all, just didn’t want you to be too confused from my comments… you can delete this and the post and one of these days I may stop having senior moments.

  • I think these photos are completely beautiful! I have definitely heard of people getting bummed during the winter months. I am from Orlando, born and raised, and it has been 85 degrees for months now, like 110% humidity and most days, at some point in the day, super rainy too. I know being in snow and freezing temps can get old (or so I’m told) but I think it’s so beautiful! I saw snow for the first time in my ENTIRE life at this time last year and I was completely in love! Down here we don’t get seasons really (just hurricane season, Hades hot Summer and sort of “winter”). The past three years it has been at least 80 degrees and pouring on Christmas which does not exactly set one up for that festive holiday spirit, I can tell ya that! Maybe we’ll have to do a house-swap for the holiday’s next year haha Hope the mood turns around for you guys! Keep up the great work! <3

  • Embrace winter…..very cute! It’s currently – 32 Celsius here (that’s
    -25.6 f I think). The only thing I’ll be embracing is a blanket and a hot water bottle (and Netflix). But I’ll agree with the good smells rock….especially hot chocolate with cayenne pepper sprinkled on it!

  • i don’t know what it was specifically about this post, but i think it has been the most inspiring “New Year” post i’ve seen! the world IS our oyster…we (i) have to stop waiting for life to happen and take control! thanks for the inspiration emma!!


  • I recently discovered the Danish term ‘hygge’ and I think it’s kind of what your getting at here. It essentially means coziness but a lot more than that. It’s so interesting! It means surrounding yourself with things that make you happy and cozy and warm. Apparently the Danes always rank among the happiest people in the world despite their long, dark winters! I thought you might enjoy checking out some info on this magical concept, too. Now, add Denmark to the travel list! 🙂

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