The majority of us in the United States are stuck inside for winter (#midwestlife) but that does not mean we have to hibernate the entire time. Of course, the occasional lazy Saturday spent wrapped up in a blanket is an extremely welcome activity come January and February. But, on those weekend days when we would normally go for a walk, run outside, or hit up our favorite restaurant patio if the weather were warmer, feeling jittery or restless is all but an inevitability when you’re forced to stay inside due to the cold.
If winter has bestowed you with the gift of spare time and Netflix has started to run its course, there is ample opportunity to pick up a new hobby, gather with friends, or work on those skills that will help you stand out professionally. Once you get in the groove of your new hobby, the winter blues won’t stand a chance.
1. Learn a New Instrument
If the cold, dreary days of winter really get you down, one way to ward off unwanted winter blues is to pick up an instrument. Ukuleles are small and generally inexpensive (depending on which model you purchase) and it is virtually impossible to produce a bad sound with this instrument.
The next time you have an afternoon free, make a point to go to an instrument shop and hold a ukulele before you commit to buying one. Ukuleles come in a variety of sizes from the smallest, soprano; to the largest, baritone. Depending on your familiarity with string instruments, you may feel more comfortable holding a slightly larger concert-size ukulele than the unassumingly small soprano. Or, if you’re new to strumming and pressing your fingers onto a fret, the soprano ukulele may be right for you.
Once you’ve found the size you like, be sure to purchase a tuner; you’ll never have to rely on tuning by ear and you’ll always ensure your ukulele produces the best sound. There are a number of online resources and videos for ukulele beginners, and before you know it, you’ll be able to read tabs for all of your favorite songs.
2. Learn to Crochet or Amigurumi
With just a few supplies, a whimsical idea, and a free afternoon, you can learn to crochet everything from scarves to plush animals like this adorable little pig. Crochet is easy to pick up, there are plenty of tutorials and guides online, and the supplies are affordable.
To get started, all you need is a crochet hook. It is recommended that beginners use a size I-9 hook to start, as well as a solid color yarn to easily differentiate between stitches. Stay away from dark colored yarns at first, as it can be very difficult to see stitches and follow your pattern. The last thing you’ll need is a simple pair of scissors.
You may struggle in the beginning to work with your fingers on such a micro level — working with small tools, creating tiny loops, and feeding yarn through — but once you get a feel for it, time will fly by and you’ll have a collection of original pieces that you’ll be able to display in your home, or better yet, wear all winter long!
3. Teach Yourself a Coding Language
Coding is an incredibly useful and challenging discipline that can round out your professional skill set and open you to a variety of avenues of unexplored hobbies and passions, from UX design to software development. Programming languages come in many shapes and sizes, so wherever your interests lie, you should have no trouble finding a language that best suits you!
4. Start a Club
If you already have a hobby, or a couple of hobbies that you do regularly, there’s nothing more satisfying than introducing your friends to an activity you know they’ll love and one you can all do together. If you find yourself getting bored this winter, try creating a club with some of your friends where you can all do a designated hobby or activity together either at home or at your favorite place to meet up.
Whether reading a book, discussing a beloved podcast, or watching the latest episode, set weekly or monthly goals for yourself and your team and make a point to meet up and discuss. If your friends’ interests differ when it comes to movies or shows, you might have to get creative when creating your club.
It might be fun, for example, to start a cookbook club in which you and your friends create one meal every week or month from the same cookbook and then try each others’ creations. For the pragmatic group, creating a club to discuss finances might be a better fit! Or, if you and your friends would like an excuse to get out of the house, you can start a fitness club and manage any drop-in fees or temporary memberships through Classpass or Gympass.
5. Take up Calligraphy
Like learning and new instrument, coding, or crochet, calligraphy will require a little patience and a learning curve depending how new you are to the practice. Luckily, there are a number of resources online for every experience level and learning style to help you get started or hone your craft.
If you’re just getting started with calligraphy, you’ll need to buy the right supplies. There are plenty of starter kits that you can order online, but ultimately you’ll need to decide which style of holder is right for you. Calligraphy pens come in two styles: straight and oblique. Depending on the way you prefer to hold a pen in your hand, or whether you’re left-handed or right-handed, the shape of the penholder makes a difference.
Many forums recommended getting started with basic shapes and individual letters before writing full words. So, get a notebook, lined paper, or your favorite sketch pad and start with the basics. Once you feel comfortable stringing together artful letters to create aesthetically appealing words and messages, you’ll emerge from winter with a new skill just in time for wedding season.
6. Learn Photoshop or a Digital Illustrator
There is no denying that skills in Photoshop, Adobe, or Sketch are in high demand among creative fields; but it can be hard to find time on the weekend — especially when the weather’s nice in the summer — to stay inside staring at a computer screen. If learning Photoshop or Adobe is one of those ever-elusive skills you’ve been meaning to develop, take time this winter to sign up for an online course or go at it alone!
Many programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch allow you to sign up for a year or months at a time, which can help first-time users decide which service is right for you. By chipping away at a different tutorial every week and eventually following prompts to create small-scale projects to mark your progress. You’ll be shocked at how quickly you pick up this skill and a new idea will for a digital illustration, a picture, or even a new resume design will never go to waste again.