Over the past few weeks I’ve been feeling a little down in the dumps. No particular reason, nothing has happened, it’s probably a slump brought on by many various elements – it’s winter and cold, dark days, not much fun, money-is-tight time of year, not seeing many people, living far away from family, kids are tired, working hard, feeling lonely, not able to get out as much, restricted because of family commitments, not feeling particularly inspired – to name a few. So, I’ve been thinking about how to pull myself out of this slump and get proactive in trying to improve my mood and outlook on things right now. I can’t change where I live or fast track my kids so that I can have more freedom (which I don’t necessarily want to do, it’s just a fact that having young kids does restrict what you can do socially and for business networking, for example), and I can’t change the weather and create more hours in the day.

There are lots of things I CAN do. Here are a few – and if you are suffering from British winter blues, these ideas might help you too.

  • It’s nearly Valentine’s Day and yes, I know and have been told several times that Valentine’s Day is not celebrated in Britain and kids don’t do anything for it. Well, I have and I am and my children are enjoying it even if no one else is. There are some wonderful ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day with children on Life As an Expat Parent blog. And I’ve made a special love bag which I’m dropping in chocs and heart notes to my children and husband. On the day, we can each pull out chocolates and hearts and read them out together. So get your ‘love’ on,  it’s nearly here! I’m already smiling again.
  • Invite someone over for coffee and a chat. I’ve done that already this week – I found out about a new family who just moved in to our street who is a friend of a designer friend of mine who passed on her number to me. She hasn’t responded yet, but fingers crossed she’ll be open to meeting new people in her new neighborhood. And we already have design in common as we both run our own design companies.
  • Skype or call your family or a friend back home, where ever that may be. For me, it will be my Mom. When I’m feeling down, I still always want to turn to her for comfort even if I don’t ask for it or say anything to suggest I need it. It’s just comforting. Even if she is over 4,200 miles away.
  • Bake. Make some comfort food. Get your children baking. Fill your house with wonderful smells and delicious food.
  • Movie night. My children love movie night. It’s tricky nowadays with my kids – a 12 year old doesn’t want to watch what a 4 year old wants. The 4 year old can’t watch what the 12 year old wants to watch (and the 12 year old probably shouldn’t either!). But we make it work and there’s always popcorn and nachos involved which makes everyone smile.
  • Get out of the house! A walk along the beach (in our case), a country walk or just a simple stroll anywhere. If you have bicycles even better. We don’t but I imagine I would die of a heart attack if I had to monitor all three of mine on bicycles at the same time! Bundle up, wear the right clothes and footwear and have the hot chocolate supplies ready for your return.
  • Get out of the house AGAIN. This time without the children. Arrange a night out with friends and treat yourself to a lovely meal or drink. This one is next on my list to action.
  • Create a Pinterest board to cheer you up and make you smile. Sometimes it’s the little things that help.
  • Do something nice for your spouse or your partner. Treat them to something special. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what 🙂
  • Go somewhere you’ve never been before. It can be anywhere. Even if it sucks, you’ve done something brand new. And who knows, it might not suck.
  • Plan something special for half term. It’s hard for me because I’m working but late afternoons are always a good time for us to get out and do something fun. The cinema, supper at a pizzeria, ice skating, swimming, that winter walk followed by a pub meal… I’ll have to get my thinking cap on.
  • Smile at people – even strangers. I know I know, that can be a dangerous strategic move here in Britain. But just try it out. I smiled at another mum walking her kids home from school (I’d never seen her before and she clearly didn’t know me). She looked like she was scowling at me, but the moment I smiled at her, her whole expression changed and she smiled back. (This may seem obvious, but actually I’ve been met with a lot of negativity when I’ve smiled at people I don’t know when passing on the street or people who work in shops or even neighbors. It’s crazy but true. It’s definitely a cultural thing.)
  • Ask your kids to write down 3 things they want to do this winter. Then choose one from each list to do and plan when you’re going to do it. Or, if you have fewer children than I have, you can do all 3 things from their list!
  • Create a playlist of upbeat, beautiful songs to lift your spirits.
  • OK off to wake up my husband and to share my new found cheer.

Meghan Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs with Heidi Mulligan Walker. Meghan is also the Director and Chief Designer at her own design company, White Ochre Design Ltd.  And, she is an award winning expat blogger.