Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the first day of winter is Sunday, Dec. 21, and the first day of spring is Friday, Mar. 20. That gives us 90 days of cold winter weather. However, if you’ve ever experienced a Canadian winter before, or if you’ve been outside lately, you’ll know that winter weather in Canada actually runs from about mid-November to mid-April.
I just returned from a family vacation in California. Toes in the ocean, the sun on my face, and I am energized and ready to tackle the upcoming winter months. Like many, I’m not a fan of winter; it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dark and it puts me in a funky mood. But rather than allowing these ‘blue’ feelings to take over and pull me down, I use mindfulness and the art of gratitude to fill me up.
Battling the Blues
I’m not a doctor, but I am well versed in the long list of self-help tips for beating the blues: exercise, eat healthy, take up a winter hobby, visit with friends, light therapy. Easier said than done, right? Well, maybe not. With using mindfulness as our foundation, twist this list into something a bit more practical and obtainable. To be honest, if you’re feeling down and the list is feeling big, you won’t do any of it, not one thing.
Mindful walking (aka exercise and light therapy)
Go for a walk outside. Make it an experience. It can be as short or as long as you’d like. Notice the cool, or perhaps frigid, breeze on your cheeks. Listen to the wind. Hear the crunching of the snow under your feet. Feel the sun on your face. Feel alive.
Mindful eating (aka eat healthy and visit with friends)
Create a warm and savoury meal to enjoy. Notice the textures. Feel the warmth. Enjoy the flavours. Experience it. And as you enjoy your meal, focus only on the meal. Put all distractions and devices away. Be in the moment. My favourite is to slowly sip a warm cup of peppermint hot chocolate, either at home or at one of my favourite local coffee shops. It’s amazing the joy that a little mug of warmth can bring. Gather some friends and make it a group experience.
Mindful breathing (aka your new hobby)
One of the easiest ways to focus on the ‘now’ is to practice mindful breathing. Bring your attention to the rise and fall of your breath, and focus on the inhale and exhale. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath. Inhale, exhale. You can practice this in a seated position for a concentrated amount of time, or you can practice anytime, anyplace; walking, cooking, cleaning, etc. As you focus on your breath your
thoughts settle down and your mind becomes calm and clear. The end result is a feeling of contentment and happiness.
We have roughly 120 days of cold weather ahead, use this time to find beauty in the mundane and gratitude in the everyday.
Sheena Bounsanga is a mindfulness coach and the creator of Mindful Kids. She works with stressed out mamas and helps them find their zen. www.SheenaBounsanga.com.