No, I’m not jesting or being facetious. It is possible to be happy during the dark days of winter—or if not happy, at least less depressed. Really.
Those of us living in the heartland of America understand the true meaning of winter; we know its dark, gloomy, windy, cold, snowy and sometimes treacherous days and nights. We know how it feels in our bones as we dig our cars out from snow banks…lose power from downed, ice-encrusted power lines…slip and slide on icy roads and sidewalks…take half an hour to bundle up to our eyebrows in a million layers just to take the trash out (and then half an hour to get ourselves out of it all again).
AND…we also know how it feels to build adorable snow people…make snow angels…have bracing snowball fights…go ice skating…sled down snowy banks…ski down snowy slopes…drink steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows…curl up with a good book and fuzzy afghan…enjoy favorite movies and popcorn while snuggling with loved ones.
The two faces of winter in the heartland.
But those of us at Rebecca’s Dream know—intimately—how difficult these cold, dark days in the heartland can be for so many people living with mood disorders. While we recognize his charm, we also don’t underestimate Old Man Winter’s fierce power. To stave him off, we’d like to offer you some methods to put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart…some tips and suggestions to help all of us get through the tedious, challenging days, weeks, and months leading up to Monday, March 20, 2017. That’s the first day of spring…ONLY 64 days away as I write this on January 16.
The Dalai Lama said: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
So, to put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart, let’s start with practicing compassion for others:
* Take time to listen to someone else.
* Contact an old friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while.
* Visit a neighbor.
* Open a door for someone.
* Help out a new person at your job or in organizations/clubs you belong to.
* Compliment someone.
* Smile at random people.
* Say “thank you” to those helping you…for big and little things alike.
Those are just a few ideas, but the list is endless, really. Start with those, and add your own ideas.
Next, try practicing compassion for yourself:
* Take a photo of a happy moment in your day—big or small—and share it with others.
* Take time to talk to family and friends about the important issues in your life.
* Begin your statements with “I feel” or “I need.”
* Ask for help when you need it. And thank the people who helped you.
* Look for more than one person to support you—different people have different perspectives.
* Pay close attention to your wellness routine:
– Stick to the same sleep and wake times.
– Consistently practice mindful and healthy nutrition habits.
– Exercise regularly.
– Avoid alcohol and substance use.
– Avoid excessive fluids and heavy, spicy meals before bedtime.
– Avoid caffeine before bedtime.
– Avoid alcohol before bedtime. It is not a sleep aid.
– Avoid nicotine before bedtime.
– Avoid herbal energy boosters at bedtime. They may keep you awake.
– Keep your health care appointments.
– Keep a journal.
– Use a lightbox after consulting with your physician.
* REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE A WORTHWHILE PERSON!
* REMEMBER THAT YOU MATTER!
* REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE LOVED!!
Winter in the heartland. It comes and it goes. It doesn’t last forever. It can be our friend by teaching us to be kinder to others and kinder to ourselves. Winter helps us appreciate spring and summer and fall all the more. It isn’t our enemy. In fact, it may be a best friend in disguise:
“The Snow Man”
by Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Wishing you a safe and “happy” snowy season. Together, we’ll welcome March 20, 2017 with joy in our hearts and a loving farewell to our teacher…winter.