Sunday, February 17

7 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues!

Friends, I have good news for you…
There are 32 days until Spring!
Someone please queue the marching band and let's sing that from the rooftops!
If you don’t live in the Northeast let me just tell you, it is bitter, bitter cold in these parts. It’s gray, windy, slushy, dreary, and just plain miserable to walk even from your car into the grocery store. The runner in me is longing for slightly warmer, less windy days, to get out on the roads, and a friend of mine in Michigan recently told me her kids were on their 9th snow day! Ack! 
By the end of last winter I ended up buying a light lamp on Amazon- I'd set that little thing up on my countertops in the kitchen while I was cooking dinner, or in my office if I was working on a project. I can't say I saw a huge difference, but I also can't say I used it as consistently as recommended. We've since had recessed lighting added to our living and to my office--"If I'm going to live in Buffalo," I told my husband, "We're going to install lights ALL over the house!"

And, so we have.

While this winter continues to be cold and gray, my moods have been steadier, which I'm thankful for. I credit this to several things-- more light in the house, my awareness of how the gray can affect me, and my intentionality to do things to combat how the gray affects me. 
I should also be honest about one big piece of the puzzle here—all three of my kids are in school this year!

As a woman who can speak from the experience of being a full-time stay at home mom for 11 years, Northeast winters at home with toddlers in the house can be hard, hard, HARD.  So, for you mommas out there at home with your little ones, and to my homeschooling friends—I’m sending extra amounts of love and hugs your way! It's no easy gig- I get it. 
So, while I live under no illusion that March 20thwill actually bring about warm temperatures and flower buds here in Buffalo (it usually just means gray, rainy days for another month), just the idea that there are only 35 more days of winter inspires some hope in my cold, winter-weary soul. 
In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you my own personal “winter survival kit”, or 7 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues:

1. Seek Beauty
I know I’ve been winter bashing a little bit here, but we all have to agree—there are pieces of the winter landscape that are breathtakingly beautiful. My family tries to get out skiing several times during the season, and while I’m not the best skier  I LOVE being outside with the kids, and I really love the chair lift.

Laugh all you want, but the fresh air, the time to sit and observe the landscape, and eating gummy bears with my 10 and 11 year old (a chairlift tradition they started), these things always help me to enjoy my winter days. (Hint: Learn how to ski just enough to make it down an easy hill, and simply ride the chairlift with your kids all day!)

And last week, when everything melted and then froze, and the tree branches were encapsulated by ice, it was stunning. I stopped and took photos with my I-phone, thankful for the incredible display of God’s artistry.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands,” says Psalm 19:1.

2. Practice Gratitude
It sounds so cliché, I know, but it’s true and it works. When I am intentional about thanking God for my blessings, my heart changes.
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp depicts this so poignantly: 
“I cut extra squares of chocolate-melt bars in half and the knife slides clean straight through. A ladybug walks the windowsill, spring stroll all in parade of red and black dots. Her back parts into wing, then shies. I jot her down, 366. I slow time! It’s ridiculous how much joy a moment can hold.”
Isn’t that the truth? It’s ridiculoushow much joy a moment can hold! 
It’s ridiculous how much joy is in those moments on the chairlift eating gummy bears with my girls. It’s ridiculous how much joy comes from watching my 5-year-old cackle when her big sister makes a silly face at her. It’s ridiculous how much joy there is in stopping to observe iced over branches.
The joy filled moments are there, waiting to be observed, felt, held, noticed…redeemed. They're ready to capture your soul, and remind you that life is good. 
Two ways I've learned to practice intentionality in  noticing these moments is to take pictures on my I-phone and journal regularly (even if I just jot down some bullet points from the day).  I find that capturing the moments, even a few of them, in a concrete way like writing or taking a picture helps to secure them in my mind and is a concrete way to combat the winter blues.

3. Worship
A friend once told me that she turns worship music on in her house daily as a way to fill the air with God’s goodness.
Isn’t that a beautiful way of putting it?
She swears it decreases fighting, and increases positive attitudes in her family of six!
I say it’s worth a try!
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been anxious, overwhelmed, discouraged, and weary and have tuned into a worship station on Spotify—within minutes my heart is moving in a different direction.
Worship doesn’t have to be accomplished through playing music on the radio, though it can be. Worship can be a prayer walk outdoors, a song sung in your car, it can be writing your gratitude list down on paper.  Worship can be going around the table at dinnertime and having everyone name a blessing in their life. 
Any act that shows reverence and adoration towards God is an act of worship.

4. Get Out of the House! 
I know you might not feel like it, but it’s good to get out! Even if you just bundle up and drive to Wegmans for some eggs, milk and dark chocolate bar with sea salt (c’mon, there’s got to be something fun!) it helps to get you out of the funk that you can find yourself in when we hibernate all winter.
Go for a 20-minute walk if it’s not too cold. Take your kids sledding, even just for an hour. Throw everyone in the car and grab hot-cocoa and Timbits from the Tim Horton’s drive through. Anything will do, but I promise fresh air, and seeing other human beings is actually good for you. 

5. Take a Nap
Give yourself permission…it’s ok. It is winter and it is cold. A nap can do a lot for the spirit! I'm a short napper and find a way to integrate this practice into my schedule almost daily. I simply set a timer on my phone for 15-20 minutes, close my eyes, and let me body re-set (I've even done this in the backseat of my minivan if I'm out running errands or carpooling that day).

I've heard friends say they can't do this because they're groggy afterwards- that doesn't happen to me, but it's probably because I don't actually fall asleep. I'm just letting my body and mind rest.

I do have a friend with a newborn who takes longer naps because she's so stinkin' tired and I say that's ok to! Our bodies need rest-- sometimes just a little rest in the middle of the day- so, again, give yourself permission. 

6. Make Soup
Last winter I took half a dozen cookbooks out of the library and researched soup cookbooks on Amazon. I LOVE soup, but was bored with my recipes. Even just the act of looking through the pictures in the cookbooks cheered me up! There is a reason that comfort food has earned the title "comfort food".

If you need a place to start, here are two of my favorite winter soup recipes:

7. Send a GIF
The humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.”
Ain't that the truth.

Did I mention that I was home full-time with my kiddos for 11 years?  Let’s just say there were a bazillion moments that I learned to laugh, otherwise I might have cried…a LOT!
All that to say, Erma is on to something here.

My Buffalo friends and I, we send each other links, and images and GIFS on a regular basis. You should have seen the L-O-N-G text message string that 4 of my girlfriends and I had going the day I figured out how to use the GIF tool on my I-phone. It STILL cracks me up just to think about it! 
So, send a friend a GIF about motherhood, or the crazy weather—either way, it will get you both laughing, and, as they say, Laughter IS the best medicine—even for the winter blues.

This is SOOOOO true! Bahahaha! 

I LOVE this sign! Lol! 

Leave a comment about your best tips for getting through the winter!