“I wish I had a river I could skate away on,” Joni Mitchell famously sings of winter in River. This desire to get away in recent cold wintry days is palpable and valid for many people. You may feel it as the temperature drops and the sun sets earlier in the day. We have all experienced the frustration of not being able to stay warm. Many days, at least one part of our body is cold, be it our face or hands, which we may have left uncovered in a rush. Sometimes we hide ourselves away in our heated homes with a novel of choice in these frosty times. Nights in can certainly be comforting. It can be refreshing to remember, however, that the temperature change needn’t prevent you from outdoor activities that feed your soul.
With a good coat, gloves and a hat in this weather, we are simply unstoppable. It can be difficult to remember all of these items when rushing off to work or to see a friend. The self-care and time that you take to bundle up, though, will pay off in dividends. When you are warm, you can stay outdoors longer, which means you can continue to do things there that nourish you.
Consider going for a 20 minute walk each day once comfortably layered. The clear air and quiet of your surroundings can help you to reflect on your feelings and the environment. You can bring headphones on a solitary stroll if being alone with nature trails or on city streets seems daunting. Music can make us feel more creative while we also benefit from the restorative effects of being outside.
You can also really check in with yourself as you walk alone. Ask yourself how you’re really feeling in the moment. If you find that you’re anxious or sad, try to figure out why. Consider an action you can take to help yourself feel better. Maybe that means scheduling that walk as your “worry time”, not ruminating on an issue once the stroll is over. A useful mental exercise on lone walks is cultivating gratitude. Try thinking about three positive events that occurred during your day and why they went well. Developing gratitude can help us “lead meaningful and fulfilling lives,” Martin Seligman says in Sasha Lynn’s
You can still pursue other beloved outdoor interests, even in the cold. Filming and taking pictures can be rewarding. Maybe you’d prefer to draw or write a poem about your surroundings. Consider going downhill skiing or snowboarding, if you skateboard.
Pets are also proven to reduce stress. You can dog sit for a friend or walk dogs for a profit to get your furry fix, if owning an animal is too much responsibility. You can even get paid to walk dogs on your own schedule through several online services. Animals enable us to get outside and stay active, in addition to reducing our anxiety levels.
We remember one of our major superpowers when we choose to live our lives fully: we are in control of our own well-being. We, as human beings, possess more inner strength and resilience than we give ourselves credit for. “Control your mind before it controls you,” reads a famous Zen proverb. These words are more than hyperbole that look nice on a bedroom wall poster. Try to really think about that quote this winter. We’re able to take full control of our reactions to events—it all lies within us. To reclaim agency of ourselves allows us to stay positive and fulfilled, even in unpleasant circumstances. We can do anything with this strength in our toolbox (and armed with a scarf or two)—even in the frigid air.
Lynn, Sasha. “The Science of Gratitude and Positive Psychology.” 20 November 2017. The Blue Room. 2 February 2019.