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4 Ways to Embrace the February Malaise

Feeling grim in late winter? Go with it.


February is the longest month. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Those of us in cooler climates probably feel this more than anyone. February is the point of the winter when that first snowfall — the one that fell back in December when the snowflakes were sparking and prettily lit with holiday lights — is now just frozen filthy sludge at the side of the road. February’s winter is impatient and petulant. It’s the party guest who makes us grumpy because it’s overstayed its welcome and really needs to get out and go home.

In February, we learn the groundhog has seen his shadow (and even if he hasn’t, the windchill reminds us that groundhogs are not meteorologists). By mid-February, the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day have come and gone, leaving behind their respective sour grapes and sugar highs, followed by hangovers and let-downs.

This February has brought a constant barrage of troubling (and sometimes anger-inducing) news in my newsfeed, pinging my phone with notifications that sometimes make me want to crawl under my desk and hide.

I want to be like the Danish and embrace the art of Hygge – to cozy up in a slanket with mug of something warm and aromatic … but I just can’t. Every time I hit mid-February, it’s a pit of malaise. So I’ve decided to just go with it and embrace the malaise. And misery loves company, so if you’re feeling it, too, join me.

Don’t get cozy and hygge wit' it. Go out and feel that stinging bite of winter against your face.

Embracing Your Inner Malaise

Here are four ways to embrace your inner malaise:

  1. Channel your inner teenager and crank up the darkest music you can find. I was fond of blasting and singing Concrete Blonde’s Joey and The Pixies’ Wave of Mutilation at the top of my lungs at 17, and as it turns out, that still works in my 40s. For the more melancholy days, I switch to the weepy-dark classic singers – Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Find your musical equivalent, sing and wallow away.
  1. Don’t get cozy and hygge wit’ it. Go out and feel that stinging bite of winter against your face. If you aren’t in a Denmark-like climate, walk outside at night and just notice the chill and utter lack of sunshine. It’s in the darkness and the cold that I most long for better days. That longing leads to planning for better days and plotting how to reach them. Some of the best spring vacations and summer gardens take root in February.
  1. Note the despair/anger/sadness that February brings, but don’t give in. Instead, refocus it on enacting whatever change you can. Write. Create. Volunteer. Protest.
  1. Dress entirely in black. Channel your inner Johnny Cash and wear it with swagger (and cowboy boots if you have them). When you dress totally in black, you are the walking, breathing embodiment of cool at any age. OK, maybe not age 7. Then you are just a creepy character in The Shining. Bonus: Black is slimming (a helpful thing after all that Valentine’s Day candy and Super Bowl nachos).

And take heart. Spring really is coming — and it happens that black is still in fashion this year.

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By Shayla Stern
Shayla, the Director of Editorial and Content for Next Avenue, has spent a career in digital media journalism and content marketing strategy at organizations including washingtonpost.comEdmunds.comCars.com and Fast Horse and as a media professor at the University of Minnesota and DePaul University. She has a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Iowa and has published extensive research on social media and gender. Based at Twin Cities PBS,  Shayla can be reached by email at [email protected].@shayla_stern

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