As I write, Winter Storm Jonas is surrounding my home. The wind is whipping, the walls are cold and the ground is covered in snow. The plows are not here yet and it is very quiet because I hear no trains, no planes, and no cars.
I know a lot of people dislike winter and easily fall into The Winter Blues. So I decided to write about how you can feel better during the cold months. I will talk about the impact light, exercise, and attitude have on your mood. Then I will give a few tips on how to keep your customers happy during the winter.
The Daylight Hours
Light is important because it regulates our hormones and mood. It also helps us to feel either alert or sleepy. You might notice this because you feel more tired during the winter and have more energy during the summer.
In the pre-computer world, people adjusted their workload accordingly to the the amount of light. Farmers worked many, many more hours during the brighter spring and summer months. They prepared the soil, sowed and eventually reaped. They were up with the sun in the morning and stayed up later at night. They labored hard. During the darker months they took it a bit more slowly. They worked a little less and slept more.
Today we can’t necessarily adjust our work according to the seasons. We still have to work when it is dark and cold out. Some of us might sit in an office all day and commute in darkness. And eventually it feels like we never see daylight at all.
That is why it is so important to go outside as much as possible.
The Outdoor Gym
Gym rats won’t understand this but I will suggest to spend less time in the gym in the winter and more time outdoors. We not only need to see sunlight, but we also need fresh air and many say that when we spend time outdoors we become happier and feel more grounded.
So skip the treadmill and take a walk instead. The beach is really beautiful in the winter and with the open wide ocean next to us we often get filled with a sense of freedom. The woods are of course also amazing in the winter. Quiet and still and a real retreat for someone who lives a hectic life. Or if it is possible for you to get off the bus or subway a few blocks away you can walk to work.
When I lived in Sweden I packed my backpack with breakfast and walked the two miles to work. I got fresh air and exercise and too see the winter sun slowly color the eastern sky golden-green was a true joy.
Now when I am speaking about Sweden I have to say that Scandinavians know how to make the best of the winter darkness. We embrace the dark and make the best out of the gifts winter gives us.
We use the darker months to cuddle up at home with blankets and warm drinks. We also light a lot of candles. When we are blessed with snow, we go skiing. When lakes and the Baltic freeze, we go skating and ice fishing. In Sweden, our gym is the great outdoors, where we can ski, skate, snowshoe and enjoy the scenery.
When you start to think about it there are so many fun things to do in the winter. Sleigh riding, skiing, skating, shoveling and snowball fights.
“Yeah,” you say “but I live in a city and it never snows it is just cold. And I hate the cold.”
Now I will speak about attitude. Imagine you are going to the dentist and you really dislike the dentist. You dislike the smell and the fact that a stranger is poking around in your mouth. You have two alternatives. Either you dwell on how much you dislike it before, during and after and get into a really bad mood. Or you can say to yourself that it will soon be over.
I am no fan of New York summers. I don’t like humidity and I much prefer cooler weather. I don’t like all the bugs and mosquitoes but I have no choice I can’t turn of the heat or the humidity so I try to not dwell on it. I try to think about the fun things instead. Going to the beach, taking my son to the pool, eating ice cream, barbecuing, fireflies and all the fresh fruit and veggies.
So if you dislike the cold buy good clothes, use hand warmers and drink hot liquids. Buy beautiful tulips, eat oranges and have fun with the holidays. And soon spring will be here. Because as with most things change is the only constant.
Now you know how to feel a little bit better during the dark and cold months of the year. But how do you keep your customers happy?
Keep customer relations warm during the cold
If you are running a business with a physical space, you want your customers to want to come to you. During the colder months there can be a drop in business because people hesitate to come out. They might not want to drive or they might fear it won’t be easy to get from the car to your location.
The best thing you can do is to make it easy and safe to visit you. If it snows, plow the parking lot and ensure that all walkways are clear. Put out sand or salt to make it less slippery outside. Put up “wet floor” signs and rubberized mats near all doorways to ensure nobody slips. You can also offer umbrella bags or offer to hold wet umbrellas near the door on rainy or snowy days.
If it is possible, you might want to offer free delivery or even a visit for people who don’t want to come out or can’t come out. Elderly, handicapped or parents with small children might hesitate to visit a business during the winter because it is harder for them move around. If you offer consulting advice, you can always do a home visit instead of asking clients to brave the cold to see you.
As it gets darker earlier, think about how your lighting is working. Can your customers see you? Can new customers read your signs?
If you run a restaurant or a bar or coffee shop make sure people want to stay a while by making your place comfortable. Make sure it isn’t drafty or cold. You want people to think about you as a retreat from the cold and dark.
Utilizes social media and emails to attract people to your business. A lot of people much rather sit at home in their sweatpants and woolly socks during the winter than venture out. You can still keep in contact with them through Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, or whatever social media platforms you utilize. Accommodate them as much as possible with winter specials and online/phone orders. A lot of people budget heavily after the holidays are over, so they’ll appreciate any effort you make to reduce prices as their finances recover.
Other people want to escape the winter. As a business, you can tap into this wish and give them something to escape to. Make your store exciting. Set up game nights and quizzes at your coffee shop. Offer hot drinks. And use social media to get the message out.
When harsh weather arrives, show that you care
When you are hit with hard weather you can show your customers that you care by checking in with your then via email or social media. In the days before, you can update your website with helpful advice on how to deal with a storm. Or if you are running a restaurant etc you can offer special blizzard creations.
During harsh weather, it is important to keep your customers informed about if you will be open or when you will re-open. If you run an online business, be sure to keep them informed about any weather-related delays in service, particularly with regard to shipping or power outages. A place that re-opens early will of course snag some customers.
If things still slow down use the extra time
Perhaps your company still find a dip in your business during winter then you can use that time to do other things that you during more busy times don’t have time for.
You can review the last year and see if things need to change.
You can update your website.
If you need to renovate your location the winter might be the best time to do so.
You can do research and educate yourself on new products or ideas.
And you can also take care of yourself and save energy until the busy season starts again.