In the Northeast whenever we have had some significant snow storms in early December, we were forced to shovel and stay home. Our initial reaction was, “How beautiful and pure.” Then the next day when driving and walking became difficult, we began complaining, “Who needs snow!” By the time Christmas rolled around no one longed for or dreamed of a white Christmas as we all had our fill. Even in the Southern states winter is chilly with grayer, shorter days. It seems that we tire easily and feel depleted. When we feel mildly depressed, or burned out, we always look for external stimulation and warmth.
Strange, we never look within ourselves where the cold emptiness begins. Ironically, the solution exists inside where we can find greater control and empowerment through positive perception. Seeing every day as a good day with its special distinguishing moments creates peacefulness and clarity. And for those of us who demand immediate gratification, we can change our perception immediately whether at work or at home. It can be as simple as: rearranging a few knick knacks, where we usually sit at the kitchen table, or moving a chair or lamp from here to over there. If I change my seat at the kitchen table, I really see things from a different perspective. I might notice something new in my field of vision. If I rearrange paintings or furniture, I see them with a fresh eye and appreciate them differently. When we are beset by winter doldrums, long nights, clearly we need to let the pendulum swing the other way to restore the balance.
Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanza bring light into our homes and our hearts. Decorating for the holidays, cooking the special recipes, singing the traditional songs and celebrating with family and friends - all come together when we most need them. Can we appreciate that these spiritual holidays are perfectly timed to alleviate the darkness and alienation we feel in winter known as Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Here are 10 tips to help you change your perception of winter and bring warmth and light into a chilly life:
1. Raise the blinds and let the light shine in. Sit by the window look out and gaze, or read. Feel the warmth.
2. Try eating more hot soups and stews. Add beans and lentils to your diet. These hearty meals are both comforting and nourishing. (If you use canned soups pay attention to the amount of sodium as many ready-made soups are high in sodium.)
3. Go outside to reset your biological clock. Let natural sunlight counteract SAD. Appreciate the winter landscape: the “tree architecture” that we never notice when the leaves are flourishing, or the feathery ornamental grasses swaying in the wind.
4. Exercise to stimulate and bring warmth to your body. Many of us are bored with treadmills and stairmasters that go nowhere. Change up your routine. Dress warmly and go for a brisk fitness walk. If you can get to the shore, a walk on the beach is peaceful and inspiring. Try some new classes in Pilates, Yoga, Belly Dancing, Salsa and Weight Training. Join a league to participate in fun team sports. Get a buddy to exercise with or make friends in fitness centers.
5. Connect with sunny people. Do volunteer work. We tend to get isolated in the winter and keep to our igloos. Get out and see positive people who appreciate you and if you can’t get out, use the phone or email.
6. Bring spring bulbs into the house and force them to bloom early or buy them already blooming in the supermarket.
7. Look at the color orange which is cheering. No need to repaint your home; just put something orange on the desk or your coffee table.
8. Try a warm glowing candle light meditation. Light a candle in the evening and stare at the flame for about 30 seconds to a minute. Then close your eyes and breathe to your own natural rhythm and see what comes up for you in meditation
9. Give yourself an auto-massage. Warm some inexpensive olive oil in the microwave and massage your body from head to toe. Long strokes for the limbs, circular strokes for the torso. Make sure to massage the temples, and using your thumbs, do windshield wiper movements under and over your eyes. Feel the warmth pervade your body.
10. Simplify your home, room by room. Clean out the clutter and donate what you have not used in years. In winter we tend to contract and go inward. Use this indoor time to organize your home. Sharing with the needy will give you an inner glow.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City, produces a wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more please visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com.