Frigid temperatures and dreary skies often do not spark excitement, but with proper planning and a positive attitude, wintertime can be enjoyable for you and your family.
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The local forecast on television announces another imminent cold front. Staring out a frost-covered window watching snowflakes accumulate on the ground, a heavy feeling squelches any sense of motivation you might have: the winter blues have officially settled in.
It is obvious your children feel them too. Cooped up in the house, they become restless and find themselves getting into mischief. It seems their attention spans have contracted as much as your desire to do anything.
While some experts classify the depressed feeling that accompanies the change in seasons as “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or specifically “winter depression,” both children and adults experience some degree of melancholy as daylight hours diminish and lush landscapes whirl into blank pages of white. Feeling trapped inside their homes, they blame the lack of sunlight for their moodiness, disinterest in normal activities, weight gain, and constant drowsiness.
According to statistics from the American Academy of Family Physicians, winter depression affects approximately 4 to 6 percent of the United States population—about 1 in every 16—who feel inexplicably dispirited five months of the year. Similarly, the “disorder” is said to affect 1 in 50 people in Britain. Even if the feeling is not enough to be classified as outright depression, between 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population experiences some form of mild winter blues.
But with all the other worries that threaten to alter our attitudes—troubled relationships, sick children, financial problems, etc.—must we let something as fickle as the weather dictate our mood?
Though it is scientifically proven that a bright, warm, sunny day can cause us to be more chipper and that our serotonin and melatonin levels do vary more during this time, the attitude with which we approach the gray, icy days of winter will determine whether we continue to be productive during this time.
During the winter, the Earth rejuvenates itself and prepares to spring anew. Animals enter hibernation, permitting other species of flora and fauna to regenerate. Instead of being disheartened by the frosty forecast, be excited about the coming of this important time.
Just because nature goes into hibernation does not mean humans were meant to do so. There are plenty of ways to keep active during the wintertime—and effectively ward off the winter blues that threaten to dampen our moods and limit productivity.
One of the ways is by getting outdoors. Taking the time to properly bundle for the cold will open a whole new world of fun to you and your children. Wearing the correct mittens, scarf, hat and thermal undergarments will make all the difference and prevent frostbite.
Imagine your little ones’ delight while watching you roll a small ball of snow into a full snowman, complete with charcoal eyes and a carrot nose. Or their excitement as you sled down a hill together. Other winter sports options include skiing, ice skating, ice fishing, snowboarding or building snow forts.
If you and your children do not enjoy any of the above activities, create your own games and invite your children’s friends to participate. Although the activities may be silly or you may have other tasks you need to accomplish, your children will appreciate the time you spend with them. Given that children are our greatest stewardship, we must always prioritize time with them.
If you do not have children, organize a skiing or sledding outing with friends to recapture your youth. Experts agree that spending time outdoors with friends can elevate your mood.
Aside from the fun factor, most health experts also recommend fresh air to help build strong muscles and bones in children and to help relieve stress in adults.
Contrary to popular belief, winter should not be a time for laziness. Though gym attendance drops off during winter, you can be different!
Of course, if icy roads pose safety risks, stay at home, but do not be inactive. This can lead to lethargy.
Even if you are unable to go to the gym, working out with an exercise video or lifting free weights is a viable option.
Remember, your children will follow your example. If they see you sitting at home depressed about the weather, they will assume it is acceptable behavior. On the other hand, if you maintain a high energy level during the winter, the season’s arrival will not faze them.
If you have children or younger family members, build a pillow fort with them or teach them a dance they can later perform for relatives. If you are not athletically inclined, crafts are a great way to occupy young minds and keep them continually learning. Use these opportunities to teach your children to think of others and express their creativity. The Internet is brimming with ideas for children’s indoor activities.
Being proactive also means organizing and prioritizing what you need to accomplish during the winter months. View winter as an opportunity to catch up on tasks you could not bring yourself to do when the sun was shining brightly outside. What about those pictures from last year’s family get-together that have been sitting in a box for the past year? Or that drawer of items you are not sure what to do with? Now is the perfect time to sort out the clutter that has accrued since summertime.
Include your children while organizing. Demonstrating the importance of order will help them manage their own lives later. Also, teaching them to be tidy will save you from having to clean up after them.
Whatever you do indoors, do not let the television trap you into thinking that winter is a good excuse for a continual date with the couch. Statistics show that children spend more time—44.5 hours per week!—in front of a screen than any activity other than sleeping.
In addition, obesity in children and adults tends to increase the more hours they watch television.
Winter can also be a time to show others that you care. Cooking a hot meal for an elderly couple or offering to shovel their driveway can be a great way to help them ward off winter’s biting chill. The weather often makes it difficult for the elderly to move about.
Use this time to think of others. Doing so will help eradicate the “woe is me” attitude that the winter blues can bring and give you a more positive winter outlook.
Just as it is important to be physically active, it is equally imperative to exercise your mind. Statistics from the National Endowment for the Arts show that reading improves quality of life and gives “children a better future, makes us more useful in the workforce, and encourages us to build our communities.”
Along with making you a more efficient employee, reading builds confidence, and strengthens your comprehension and analytical skills. Studies have even shown that those who read regularly land higher paying jobs.
In this fast-paced world, less people are reading for enjoyment than ever before. What better way to travel to a new destination, augment your grammar skills, and become more cultured than through a good book? Though television can show you new places, it does not expand your mind and force you to think like a book.
If you are a parent, turn off the television and read to your children. Explain how snow is formed and its many benefits for the Earth. This will help them (and you!) to appreciate the beauty of the crystalline flakes that cover the ground during winter.
Of course, none of the above activities can be accomplished without exercising proper eating habits. Given that winter is the time of high heating bills and increased auto expenses, many tend to lean toward cheaper processed foods to save money. In other words, foods that pack on pounds!
Depending on where you live, vegetables may be difficult or expensive to obtain during winter. This, however, should not diminish their importance. Consuming excessive portions of carbohydrates without adequate amounts of vegetables can lead to weight gain.
The United Kingdom Department of Health recommends that adults consume at least two portions of fruit and three portions of vegetables each day. However, according to a 2013 study produced by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, just “24% of men, 29% of women and 18% of children (aged 5 to 15 years) consumed the recommended 5 A DAY.”
Experiment with cooking different kinds of vegetables that may be cheaper to buy in the winter. Sweet potatoes can substitute starchy white potatoes, and are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and antioxidants, which help prevent sickness.
If you are a mother with children, spend time instructing them how to maintain a healthy diet. Teaching them to eat correctly when they are young will guarantee them a lifetime of good health.
Above all, never forget that winter is a time for fun and an opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family. Whether enjoying the chilly weather outdoors or doing activities indoors with loved ones, you will both build wintertime memories you will cherish for years to come.
Use the cold months to organize and prioritize your life indoors. Then, when sunny weather comes, you and your children can take full advantage of it.
While the winter months continue, however, think about all the fun things you can still do. And if the weatherman predicts snow, you and your little ones will be ready to combat the coldness and beat the winter blues with an active approach to life.