It’s winter. They skies are gray. The temperatures plummet. The sun dips below the horizon early in the evening and doesn’t show it’s face again for hours upon hours. The evening darkness drags on. The morning light delays its arrival.
If you’re not careful, these gray, bleak skies, these long hours of darkness, this cold and ice can creep into your soul, effecting every part of you.
What is it about winter that makes you cheerful and cozy and not mind the cold leading up to Christmas and New Year’s? But come January 2nd, this shift happens. Winter suddenly becomes a season to be endured, not enjoyed.
Why would you waste so much time and energy wishing away such a huge part of your year?
What if, instead of wishing away this entire season, you could embrace it? Even learn to enjoy it?
But how do you do it? How do you choose to embrace something that traditionally is to be endured and complained about? How do you embrace this season when you feel like you’re trapped inside your house with your children with no hope of escape?
There have been many people who have wondered these same questions. And people far smarter than me have even gone to the countries of the far north (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland) to find out how they handle their long winters with such grace and enjoyment.
Because, let’s face it, there’s a huge difference between getting 4 or less hours of sunlight a day in the Arctic Circle and getting 8 to 10 hours of sunlight a day!
Each person who takes on these questions have a little different perspective on how they present their research, but the common thread I keep seeing is that it’s all about your mindset. It’s all about the choices you make. Little choices add up in a big way and have a profound effect on your overall mood.
So how do you do it? How do you choose your mindset? And after you choose your mindset, what are some simple things you can do to brighten your winter months? Let’s break this down one question at a time, starting with: How do you choose your mindset?
You Choose Your Mindset
You have a choice in what you think about. You have more power over your thoughts than you realize. Don’t believe me? Try this: Start thinking about your favorite warm drink whether it be coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate, hot apple cider, or something else. Think about the smell, the flavor, that deliciously warm feeling that slides down your throat and warms you from the inside out. Think about how the heat from your drink warms your fingers as you wrap your hands around your mug. The more you think about it, the more you want to get up and go get yourself a coffee or some tea, right?
This same mindset power you have to convince yourself you want coffee (or hot chocolate or anything else) can be used to help shape your mindset and attitude when it comes to either enduring or enjoying the winter. So then the question becomes: Why would you exercise your power to be sad and miserable for months on end? It just doesn’t make sense.
Instead, choose to embrace and enjoy the winter season. If you look at something with dread and as something that simply must be endured, you’ll find it very hard to discover pleasures of any type in it. On the other hand, if you start looking for little pleasures, for things that can be enjoyed, for things you can be grateful for, you’ll begin to feel your mindset shifting.
Winter is a season filled with experiences you can’t have at any other time of the year. When else in the year can you walk outside and build a snowman? When else can you cover your yard with snow angels created by you and your children? When else can you stand and watch the snow come down in fat, fluffy flakes that are so big they look almost fake even though you know they’re real? When else can you dance around the yard with your kids catching snowflakes on your tongue? If you can catch them through the giggles, that is! When else can you wake up and look out the window to discover a magical winter wonderland created by the falling snowflakes overnight?
Why not choose to look at winter as a season to be enjoyed? A time to experience new things. A time to appreciate the seasons. A time to look for beauty that cannot be found in the summer.
Choose Not to Complain
Some of the researchers asked the Scandinavian people why they don’t complain about the winter. Do you want to know what they said? The common theme through every answer was that there’s no reason to complain about things that cannot be changed.
Did you catch that? There’s no reason to complain about the things you have no power or control to change! How often do you find yourself complaining and wasting your time and energy griping about things that are beyond your control? Things that cannot be changed? Like, ahem, winter weather?
But have you really stopped to think about it? When has complaining about the winter weather ever changed the temperature one tiny bit? When has griping about the darkness every brought one more hour of sunlight back into the day? It doesn’t! So, why do you engage in this negative mindset of complaining about the things you cannot change?
Instead, choose to look for the positive things. Choose to set your focus on the simple things that bring pleasure and those things that are harder to enjoy at other times of the year. Oh, don’t get me wrong, when you focus on the positive it doesn’t mean the temperature will magically warm up or the spring will come 6 weeks earlier. But it does allow you to enjoy this season for what it is.
So how do you do it? What are some things you can do to brighten your winter days? Here are a few simple suggestions:
Choose to Enjoy the Outdoors
There’s an old Swedish proverb that says, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” So much of your outlook on the weather can be broken down to whether or not you’re comfortable. So before you head outdoors to enjoy the weather, make sure you dress for what you’re going to do! You wouldn’t wear ski pants, a parka, and gloves to the beach in midsummer and expect to be comfortable, right? So why would you wear thin, inadequate clothes outside in winter and expect to be comfortable? It just doesn’t make sense.
Bundle up! Embrace the warmer knits and weaves of winter. Enjoy wearing and rotating through all your warm scarves. Find boots that really do keep your feet warm. Then, get outside to enjoy the many wonders of winter that can only be experienced from being outside:
The squeaky crunch of the snow beneath your boots…
The stars that shine their cool light through the crystal-clear sky…
The ice that hangs on whatever it pleases, transforming a world of dry, dead branches into a fairy land…
Constellations that can only be seen in the winter months…
Winter sports like skiing, ice skating, and sledding…
And, if you’re far enough north, the Northern Lights put on their most spectacular displays in the winter…
These things just cannot be fully enjoyed through a window or cooped up in a building. So, dress warmly and head outside to enjoy the beauty of winter all around you!
Warm up from the Inside Out
After you spend some time outdoors enjoying the beauties of winter, you’ll want to warm up! So, when you come inside, why not warm up from both the outside in and the inside out?
I’m talking about enjoying those hot beverages – coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate, hot apple cider and more. Use the opportunity of the cold weather outside to sit down and enjoy your hot drink. But don’t just use it as a way to warm up after you’ve been outside, enjoy them any time of day that you want!
Take the time to really savor and enjoy your drink. Find pleasure in letting it warm you from the inside out instead of simply gulping it down. On top of that, in those moments where you’re feeling cold, grabbing a hot coffee can start to warm you from the inside out, which then improves your mood, and starts a whole chain of positive reactions.
Embrace the Light
In winter when there are fewer hours of sunlight, this can be a hard one to accomplish. But the idea deals with not only embracing the outdoor light from the sun, but the cozy light that can be found inside.
Yes, by all means, throw open your curtains, allow the sunlight to pour into your space while it shines in the sky! Get outside and enjoy those precious few hours of daylight! But what do you do during those long hours when the sun is hidden from your view?
Embrace the light that you can inside. Bring the lights up to encourage those times of action and accomplishment, and dim the lights for a cozy feel. If you have a fireplace, light a fire and cozy up on the couch with a good book. Light some candles to give your room a soft and comforting glow. You could even get creative and put a picture of a fireplace on your TV and iight a few candles around the room!
Be Intentional with Your Friends
There is nothing that will pull you into the winter blues faster than isolation. We, as humans, were created for community, for relationships, for interacting with other people. When you deny yourself this all-important piece of what you need, you set yourself up for the winter blues.
But in winter, it can be a lot harder to connect with friends, can’t it? Everyone wants to be indoors and there is much less chance of running into someone on the street and enjoying a coffee together. So what can you do about it?
Be intentional! Grab your calendar, pick up your phone and start calling or texting a friend or two. Figure out a time you can get together whether it’s for a game night, a movie night, dinner, a party, or just two friends chatting and enjoying a coffee together. For that matter, you can spend some time chatting and reconnecting on the phone right then and there. No matter what it looks like for you, be intentional to reach out and connect with your friends.
Who knows? They might just be sitting there wondering if everyone has forgotten about them! Your text or call could be the encouragement they need!
Bring Color into Your Space
It seems like such a simple thing: Color. And yet, color can have a profound effect on your mood! But where can you find color when the sky seems gray so often and the bleakness of winter sets in?
Well, my Friend, make some of your own!
Bring some color into your home with throw pillows or a cheery colored blanket. Pick up some fresh, colorful flowers to brighten up your space with their presence and their scent. Choose to wear that pink shirt that makes you smile or that emerald green scarf that brings out your eyes.
There are so many ways you can be creative and bring color into your space and into your life. Use your imagination and let the sky be the limit.
It’s All About What You Make It
No matter what, it all comes down to what you make it. You can choose for winter to be a cozy season, full of family fun, laughter, new traditions, and enjoyment with friends. Or you can choose to be miserable, to complain at every turn, to be bummed out and depressed just waiting for that time of the year when you feel is a “good time” (ahem, summer).
Why not choose to embrace the winter season this year?
Why not choose to look for the beauty around you?
Why not enjoy wearing those scarves and fuzzy boots?
Truly, what do you have to lose?
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Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.