Just when your cabin fever hit its peak with all the quarantines we’ve been having, Old Man Winter rolled into town and invited you to stay indoors a little longer. How can you keep yourself from going stir-crazy?

Hopefully, by now, you have a fitness app to help you manage your physical wellbeing. But what about your mind? Here are nine ways to keep your brain engaged and less bored this winter.

1. Do A Puzzle

When was the last time you did a challenging jigsaw puzzle? No law says you have to finish it all in one sitting, although if you have pet cats, you need to find a way to protect your board from batting paws.

What if fitting shapes together isn’t your game? If you love words, hit your local dollar store and stock up on word search and crossword puzzle books. If you get lucky, you might find them two for $1. Are numbers more your thing? Treat yourself to one of the toughest Sudoku puzzles and see if you can make the rows add up.

2. Put On A Puppet Show

Do you have little ones to keep busy, too? Why not help them put on a puppet show? You won’t merely occupy their time — such activities also help promote abstract thinking, which is a critical schoolday skill.

You can ask your local grocery or home improvement store to set aside some cardboard boxes so you can create your stage for free. Use dolls or make sock puppets to invent your characters. Start by cleaning out your closets and repurpose the ones with holes in the toe into Snoopy or Dora the Explorer.

3. Read

Have you read any good books lately? Long nights and short days lend themselves to digging into a juicy novel or that self-improvement tome that’s been on your nightstand forever. What’s better is that you can read if you wake up halfway through the night — after the darkness puts you to sleep by 7:30 — and the pages won’t emit blue light to keep you up ‘til dawn.

What if you aren’t sure what you want to read? Why not join an online book club to get suggestions and meet new friends? Maybe you can all plan a circle IRL (in real life) when all the madness ends.

4. Journal

The quiet season also lends itself to introspection. However, keeping all your thoughts in your head can lead to rumination, which can send you into a negativity spiral faster than you can say, “Debbie Downer.”

Instead, invest in a stylish journal. While any old notebook will do, you want something where the pages practically invite your pen. Spend anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes daily writing down your thoughts. You can use this method to work your way through challenging problems or simply pen your memoir for future generations.

5. Learn A Language

Parlez vous Français? If you haven’t spoken a lick in a foreign tongue since your high school French class, why not dust off your skills?

Many of today’s language learning apps offer holiday and new year specials to improve your skills. What’s even better is that many allow you to learn multiple tongues. You could perfect your Spanish and dabble in Japanese simultaneously.

6. Master New Software

Are you one of the many who are seeking new employment after a round of pandemic layoffs? One way to make yourself more attractive in today’s market is to learn tech.

Now is not the time to say, “I don’t really know my way around computers.” Take charge. Check with your local library first — many used to offer free classes, and some have shifted that learning online. If not, sites such as Udemy offer courses you can take for as little as $10.

7. Build A Birdhouse

Do you know how to swing a hammer? If you don’t, why not use the quiet time indoors to brush up on your DIY skills? You don’t have to undertake anything massive like building a deck — it’s too cold outside, anyway.

Pick up a birdhouse kit from your local home improvement store. If you have little ones, help them build their skills by letting them join in the construction fun.

8. Design The Ultimate Spring Garden

If the winter blues put your mood in a funk, it’s okay to dream wistfully of spring. However, instead of letting that energy descend into thoughts of how long you have to go until the thaw, put it to productive use by starting to plan your spring garden.

Do you want to grow vegetables, flowers, herbs or all three? Maybe you want to add on to an existing plot or completely renovate your landscaping. Now’s the time to draw your design so that when the ground thaws, you’re ready with shovel and hoe in hand.

9. Start A Side Business

If financial insecurity has you feeling off-kilter, why not seek a way to increase your income? A side business — particularly one where you create a residual stream — is an ideal way to supplement your cash flow.

Sometimes, taking on yet another part-time job can backfire — the stress of too many demands can make it challenging to perform at your best for your primary employer. However, a side business is something you can grow at your pace, and while it may not pad your income much now, it can become a game-changer down the road.

Keep Your Brain Engaged This Winter With These 9 Tips

You probably aren’t looking forward to yet another dose of cabin fever. However, you can make the most of your time and keep your brain engaged this winter with the nine tips above.

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