The good news is that Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow on Saturday, predicting that we're in for an early spring.
The bad news is that I don't believe in groundhog weather forecasters, and I know I share that skepticism with many other people who live in winter wonderlands.
Here in the Salt Lake Valley, the smoggy inversion has returned after a week of winter storms and treacherous commutes, and that makes me think that, despite Phil's optimism, we're in for many more weeks of snow and cold.
But that doesn't mean we'll all sink into the winter doldrums, as I discussed in a column a couple of weeks ago. I gave my tips then for staying motivated at work and home during the bleak midwinter, and readers chimed in with several good suggestions of their own. Assuming the groundhog just might be wrong, I'd like to share some of their ideas this week.
A reader named Kari wrote in an email that she liked my suggestion to keep learning new things, but she had a few other thoughts.
"I find that if I can force myself to exercise (treadmill in my basement due to weather), that helps me a lot," Kari wrote. "I’ve also found that if I limit my 'screen' time — computer and TV — and switch to crossword puzzles or Sudoku, that helps keep my brain activated and less likely to sink into doldrums."
Those are great ideas, Kari, and I especially like your point about exercising. I try to get on the exercise bike in my basement every morning, too, although my recent workouts have been just as likely to include shoveling snow.
Either way, physical activity in the morning helps me feel better all day, even if it means sacrificing a few minutes of sleep. A friend of mine pointed out last week that such morning exertions also help people feel less tired, referring to another recent column. I believe he's correct.
Another reader, Gayle, made a tongue-in-cheek email suggestion that the best way to avoid the winter doldrums is to take a cruise to a warm place.
"A much more practical suggestion is an attitude of gratitude," Gayle wrote. "While driving home in the cold, be grateful that you have a car that has a heater and you are warm and cozy while you are in that long commute. Grateful that you have a home to go to (unlike the homeless) where you can be warm and cozy. ...
"Grateful that you have a loving family to go home to. Grateful that you have a job to pay to have a home and to keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Just look for and think about the positive things you have. I know this helps me through almost any time that I fall into the 'poor me' attitude or when the weather outside is nasty. Life is good!"
That's excellent advice, Gayle. It's sometimes hard to count our blessings when the skies are cold and gray, but we all have much for which we should be thankful. Thanks to you for the reminder.
Delma sent an email with several suggestions. For example, she wrote, those seeking to avoid the doldrums should do something creative.
"I make quilts for weddings or births of babies," Delma wrote. "My husband bought a large world map and had family returned missionaries string yarn from their names to their mission fields."
She also suggested making a large pot of soup and taking it to an elderly couple. "Don't just drop it off, but go inside for a few minutes and visit," she wrote. "Don't take them cookies; good food is much better."
Her final idea is one that doesn't appeal much to me personally, but I still liked it. "Have a tea party (social, NOT political!) and invite only women, girls and girl babies. Ask all to wear hats (think of the royal wedding last spring). Serve lots of tiny sandwiches and have apple juice in tea cups."
A reader named Georgia also sent a good list of ways to beat the winter blues, including hikes up Millcreek Canyon to escape the bad air; trips to the bowling alley to escape the cold; sitting around the fireplace at the new East Millcreek library; and enjoying hot steamers and good conversation with a friend at a coffee house.
Another reader posted a comment online to tell me about a friend whose activities follow a similar theme.
"After the crazy scheduling during the holidays she uses January and (February) as a time to reconnect with friends," this reader posted. "She hosts dinners and gets together to get caught up with friends who don't live as close. It is a nice way to keep in touch with friends and a good time to have something social on the calendar."
Many of you suggested such human connections as the key to overcoming the winter blues, and that makes perfect sense to me. While it's true that misery loves company, I have found that joy does, too. Hopefully we'll all have plenty of the latter as we bundle up and push through the remaining weeks of winter.
And who knows? Maybe this year the groundhog will be right.