Winter is a rough time for the work-at-home crowd. It gets dark at an ungodly hour, it’s blustery and gray outside, and your 40-degree bedroom does not make you want to get out of bed in the morning. Your office is freezing. You haven’t seen direct sunlight in four days.

0239Social interaction? Besides the poor souls you live with, you haven’t seen a human face in a week.

Writing at home may seem like a dream gig compared to life in a cubicle. Trading soul-sucking meetings and fluorescent lighting for working in your pajamas? No office politics? It’s a win-win all around– until you start realizing just how much you miss that morning talk around the water cooler.

Day 68 :: touchHumans are social creatures. We need relationships. A lack of social contact can lead to chronic loneliness, depression, and a burning desire to accumulate dozens of cats. Don’t hibernate in your office this winter: here are 43 ways to keep your sanity this winter.

  1. Go for a walk– it’s the simplest and easiest way to beat cabin fever and get some exercise at the same time. Even a quick 15-minute walk can give you a huge boost in focus and energy.
  2. If you won’t go for a walk for yourself, take the dog for a walk.
  3. Sign up for a co-work facility, where you share an office space with other freelancers. Most have shared conference rooms and kitchens in addition to permanent desks and office staples (printers, scanners, fax machines, etc.). The best part? Co-work facilities provide a collaborative and social environment without all the office politics.
  4. Steal an hour for some gym time.
  5. Treat yourself to lunch.
  6. Run some errands during the day. You don’t work standard 9-5 hours, remember? If you want to go grocery shopping at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, you go right ahead.
  7. Take a lunch hour every day: whether you’re going window-shopping or picking up some Thai food, it’s a guaranteed break from your home office.
  8. Take a class or attend a seminar to learn something new.
  9. Work from a local coffee shop or…
  10. …sample the local coffeehouses in your area– which one has the best coffee? Which one’s the quietest? Which one has the most outlets? Work at a different one each day to find your favorite.
  11. Meet someone for lunch.
  12. Make a doughnut or pastry run for a quick mid-morning break.
  13. Meet friends or colleagues for an after-work happy hour.
  14. Go to industry networking events for writers or professionals (check LinkedIn or Facebook for event-hosting groups in your area).
  15. Go to professional events in your community, such as free lectures, conferences, book signings, etc.
  16. Head to the library. Like Stephen King wrote in On Writing, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  Whether you’re working or finding books , you’ll be making excellent use of your time.
  17. Take weekly trips to the bookstore or trade in your older books at the used bookstore. Every book you buy is an investment for your writing skills.
  18. Beat writer’s block and head out to a local park, museum, or gallery for inspiration.
  19. Take a photo walk and snap pictures of whatever inspires you.
  20. Don’t let snow keep you inside: have a snow day! Invite friends over or take the kids out to make a snowman, have snowball fights, and create snow angels.
  21. Work in as much natural light as possible. Dark offices are murder on both your eyes and your spirits.
  22. Invest in a sunlight therapy lamp that mimics natural light. Seasonal affective disorder is a real thing, folks.
  23. Decorate your office with bright colors and pictures.
  24. Hang pictures of your past vacations– it’s hard to feel gloomy when you’re staring at a picture of yourself in Tahiti.
  25. Burn some candles or incense. Sensory stimulations can help your tired home office feel like someplace brand new.
  26. Get some plants to brighten up your office.
  27. Invite friends over for lunch once a month.
  28. Host a book club or a writers’ group at your house.
  29. Winter is a fantastic way to start a big project or begin a new hobby. Cross some things off your bucket list and learn to knit like you’ve always wanted.
  30. Volunteer. You’ll be making the world a better place and beating cabin fever at the same time.
  31. Get dressed up in the morning. Skirt, heels, jackets, ties– you may find you focus better in a tie than you do in those flannel pajamas. Dressing up can also help boost your self-esteem– when you look good, you feel good.
  32. Clean your office. Reducing clutter will reduce your stress level.
  33. Take some social media breaks throughout the day to reconnect with friends, family, and fellow professionals.
  34. Get active at home. Rent an exercise DVD, dust off that treadmill, or do some in-home yoga.
  35. Schedule Skype dates with friends and family– texting and Tweeting are no substitute for seeing someone’s smile or hearing someone laugh.
  36. Start a blog– you may find a huge community of fellow writers based in your hobby or interest. Most cities have regular blogger meet-ups to help you transfer those virtual connections into the real world.
  37. Host a web chat or Twitter party for fellow writers or people in your niche.
  38. Get a part-time job. In addition to getting potential benefits or a steady paycheck, you’ll be getting some much-needed socialization in the process. It doesn’t have to be unrelated to your writing, either: food bloggers will gain plenty of writing material by working part-time in a specialty food or wine shop.
  39. If you’ve got a big project due, consider splurging on a hotel room or vacation rental to get away from all your home distractions.
  40. Take a trip– you can work from anywhere, remember? Don’t be afraid to accompany your spouse on a business trip, visit family, etc.
  41. Further your education: whether you’re working on a higher degree or just taking a class for your own personal benefit, you’ll be enjoying social interaction while bettering your mind at the same time.
  42. Join a club or organization.  And finally…
  43. GET OUT! Go anywhere. Do anything. Go to that exhibit you’ve wanted to see. Go to the free concert your library’s been advertising. Say ‘yes’ to the friend who calls you to play hooky and go see a movie. Stop making excuses and go– or you’ll look back on your career as a life spent hunched over a keyboard in a darkened office.