Meaningful Activities for a Happier Winter: A Guide

by Tracy Karkut-Law

As the days grow darker and colder, we need to find ways to stay warm and keep our spirits up.

With this in mind, I’ve been learning about the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai: the value of meaningful activities to help us stay happy and well. Here’s what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully, there’s some inspiration for you, too.

Ikigai and Longevity

One international study showed that people with a sense of purpose in life are at a lower risk of heart disease. Areas worldwide with high numbers of people living long and healthy lives have shown to have “purpose in life” as a common link. But how do we find this sense of purpose and bring it into our own lives? Here are four key components that bring meaning and purpose into our daily activities

  1. Challenge – opportunities for improvement, mastery, and growth
  2. Choice – something that gives you a feeling of freedom
  3. Commitment – to a skill or a belief, maybe a cause or a group of people
  4. Well-being – positive relationships to bring energy and good health

My Ikigai

When you start thinking about Ikigai, you might like to take note of the activities that come to mind.

My list looks like this:

  1. Gardening – allotment, small garden, and indoor plants
  2. Outdoors – swim, walk or run outside once or even twice a week if possible
  3. Knitting – I like knitting socks
  4. Cooking – soups, stews, salads, and cakes
  5. Culture – art, films, music, and books
  6. Quality time – with people I care about

These are all things that I love to do, am reasonably good at, and have some benefit for others (as well as myself). When I make time for other activities, it helps me feel more balanced, and this is why I have to make time to do them regularly.

Planning a Happier Winter

Some things on your list might happen more naturally in the summer. The winter months can be more challenging as it’s darker and colder, and you might feel less motivated. Rainy winter days are the worst.

In Ikigai, physical movement is highly valued, so you might need to be creative and find ways to make it happen during daylight hours, which are much shorter during the winter months.

Make a Plan

Try not to over plan but be realistic about the time you have available and get specific with how you intend to execute your chosen activities. With this in mind, I decided to focus on three things that give my life meaning rather than try to focus on everything!

My plan looks like this:

  1. Go outside - keep Sundays free to make time for a walk (maybe a run or swim)
  2. Cooking - make a list of my favorite winter recipes
  3. Quality time - use candles to make small gatherings feel special

Then I jotted down more notes to further inspire my chosen activities. My notes look something like this:

Getting outside

  • Parks, forest and woodland, riverside.
  • Getting outside is always worth the effort.
  • Sunlight helps us absorb natural vitamin D and is essential for our circadian rhythms.
  • Physical activity releases endorphins which help our mood.
  • This is why a walk outside is valuable, even if it’s cloudy.
  • Getting into green space is even better.
  • Weekends are when I do my best to get out in the afternoon when it’s brighter and sometimes sunny.
  • Even in the city, there are accessible places that make me feel like I’ve had a proper day out.
  • A solo walk with an audiobook or podcast can be a real treat. Quality time with yourself.

Seasonal cooking

  • Soups, risottos, stews.
  • Seasonal vegetables, beans, lentils, herbs, and spices.
  • Cooking is something I have to do most days, and it’s one of my go-to ways to enjoy the winter season.
  • Simple, delicious, and seasonal, Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is just the best everyday cookbook ever.
  • My favorite online recipe site is Minimalist Baker.
  • They are great all year round, but stews and bowl recipes are especially good for this time of year.
  • The Guardian online has lots of ideas for mid-week meals that are not too hard. They often include spices and seasonal vegetables, which I love.
  • A list of recipes makes meal planning much easier, and a favorite playlist helps too.


  • Tea lights and candles give “living light.”
  • Natural light from a flame has a completely different feel from electric lighting.
  • Lighting candles isn’t only for the evenings.
  • In Scandinavian countries, they have candles lit all day long.
  • It creates a cozy atmosphere all through the winter.
  • Tea lights are easy and convenient, and they are very affordable when you get them in big bags.
  • Glass tea light holders come in beautiful colors.
  • Generally, unscented candles are best unless you are sure the fragrance is 100% plant-based.

Thinking about Ikigai has given me new motivation to make time for activities I find meaningful. Taking time to write a list and a few notes has encouraged me to value these simple things more fully. Maybe, like me, you can add Ikigai to help restore energy during the winter months.

I hope that thinking about Ikigai has inspired you to plan activities to help you find more happiness and well-being in the months ahead.
BIO: Tracy Karkut-Law is a certified homeopath based in London and specializing in women’s health. For more information, please visit