DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Winter blues? Ideas might put you in the pink

I dislike winter. If I say "hate," several readers will e-mail.
"Hate winter?" they'll grouse. "You sun-soaked idiot! Winter is the best thing since frostbite! When else can you FEEL your nose hairs? Did you know people in Florida never get to SEE their breath? Boots are fun. I love scarves. Do you know how versatile scarves are?"
They'll talk about beautiful white landscapes (brrr) and crystal blue skies (brrr) and the thrill of downhill skiing (double brrr).
Come on! What's in your cocoa?!
Winter is best done in your swimming pool looking at snowcapped mountains while sipping a margarita.
Fondest memories: My fondest winter memories took place in California, Arizona, South Carolina and Florida.
As a kid, I loved the lake-effect snow of Cleveland, threw and endured thousands of snowballs, built dozens of snow forts and produced hundreds of snow angels and "baby" footprints.
I have fond memories of mom wrapping me in a warm blanket and dragging me through suburban streets on a seat-backed sled.
I once began with a snowball at Elmwood Elementary School and rolled it up and down hills and snowy sidewalks, until I ended on my front lawn with a sphere the size of a Volkswagen.
I saw nothing at all wrong with winter. Then, I grew up.
Winter blues: If you are anything like me, you could use an antidote for the mild winter blues. The following are almost as good as the too-infrequent 50-degree days nature sent this year:
1. Exercise. Unless you're going to gorge on chocolates, there's no better drug-free way to improve the chemical balance in your brain. The Jewish Community Center, YWCA and YMCA, plus numerous private clubs, offer everything from swim and dance aerobics to spinning and Pilates.
2. Reduce stress. Another form of exercise that is also mood lifting is the calming, stress-busting stretching of yoga. Youngstown State University occasionally offers classes, and private parties advertise in the classifieds. You can even go online to www.yogaclass.com. Or you can put your name on the mailing list of EverGreen at Villa Maria, where the nuns there consistently offer inspirational workshops. Call (724) 964-8920 Ext. 3350.
3. Volunteer. Visit a nursing or assisted-living home and give someone a hug. You can't imagine how rejuvenating that is -- for both of you. Join a school's reading program and read to children one hour a week. In this case, you'll be receiving the hugs. Just phone your nearest elementary school.
4. Learn. How about music or language lessons (in person or via computer) or the martial arts tae kwon do? Look at offerings in adult education -- for example from Mahoning County Career and Technical Center (330) 729-4100. Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts offers craft and sewing classes. This might be a good time to pursue watercolors. Barnes & amp; Noble Booksellers has free online classes (www.bn.com)
5. Plan a meal high on summer foods. Who says you can't have a fruit salad and blueberry muffins in midwinter?
6. Music. Buy a CD you last listened to in high school. Crank it up. Enjoy.
7. Try light therapy. Get into the sunshine whenever you can. Try a tanning bed sparingly. Buy a special fluorescent light that limits ultraviolet rays and sit before it 30 minutes each morning.
8. Volunteer with Angels for Animals, knowing you're helping keep pets alive while finding them loving families. Call (330) 533-5577.
9. Throw a beach party in your living room. Invite friends, serve hot dogs, cold beer and Frankie Avalon's music.
10. Sleep. It's not exciting, but it builds up serotonin, which lifts the blues.
All that said, if you've got a real problem -- winter blues times 10 -- see a doctor. Otherwise, sweet dreams of summer days.

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