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 slowly 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 soon 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 which 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 normally lush landscapes whirl into a blank page 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, “winter depression” affects approximately 6% 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 attack 1 in 50 people in Britain. Even if the feeling is not enough to be classified as outright depression, between 10 to 20% of the U.S. population experiences some form of “cabin fever.”
But with all the other worries that threaten to alter our attitudes—relationships, sick children, financial problems, etc.—must we let something as fickle as the weather dictate our mood?
Though it is true that serotonin and melatonin levels vary more drastically during the winter months, we must ensure to not over-elevate the feelings we experience. Winter is a time to be enjoyed with family and friends, if we take advantage of all it has to offer. Though it is scientifically proven that a bright, warm, sunny day can cause us to be more chipper, the attitude with which we approach the gray, icy days of winter will determine whether we continue to be productive. This same positive attitude will wear off on our children as well.
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—look forward to the landscape’s re-coloration.
But just because nature goes into hibernation does not mean you have to as well! We were created to be active, and must continue that way throughout the year—whether the day is sunny or dreary. There are plenty of ways to keep our minds and bodies active during the wintertime—effectively warding off the winter blues that threaten to dampen our moods and limit productivity.
Snow can be a pleasure to play in with your family! 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 children’s delight while watching you roll a small ball of snow that eventually turns 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 invented 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 our children are the greatest stewardship entrusted to us, 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 memberships drop off industry-wide for three months during winter, you do not have to be a part of that statistic!
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, doing 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 the same energy level during the winter, the season’s arrival will not faze them.
If you have children or younger siblings, 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 crafts to teach your children to think of others and express their creativity. The Internet is rife 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 a time to catch up on all those indoor activities 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.
If you have children, be sure to include them while organizing. Showing them 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 other activity other than sleeping. This equates to just under 6.5 hours of media use per day—more hours than a five-day workweek!
In addition, researchers discovered that obesity in children and adults actually increases the more hours they watch television.
Winter can also be a time to show others that you care and to teach your children to do the same. 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 slick ice often makes it difficult for the elderly to move about.
Even if you do not have children, but are young and healthy, take a moment to think of others. Doing so will help eradicate the “woe is me” attitude that the winter blues can bring and give you a positive winter outlook.
Just as it is important to be physically active, it is equally imperative to exercise your mind. New 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 by reading a good book? Though television can show you new places, it does not expand your mind like a book.
If you are a parent, turn off the TV 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 prisms 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, we tend to lean toward cheaper processed foods that give us warmth, but have less vegetable content: heavy stews, casseroles, spaghetti, mashed potatoes—foods that pack on the pounds! Depending on where you live, vegetables may be difficult or expensive to obtain during winter. However, this does not diminish their importance! Consuming excessive portions of carbohydrates without adequate amounts of vegetables can lead to weight gain.
The British Heart Foundation recommends that adults consume at least 400g, or five portions, of fruits and vegetables each day. However, just 13% of men and 15% of women in the United Kingdom consume this much. Equally, of young adults (ages 19-24) surveyed, 0% of men and 4% of women ate the recommended daily portion!
To combat the urge to eat for comfort, 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 vitamin A and C, and antioxidants, which help prevent sickness. If you have 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—regardless of the weather! 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.
Next time you find yourself staring out the window watching snow sprinkle like salt from the lampposts, expressionless and full of self pity, think about the treasures of the snow and all that winter has to offer. Organize and prioritize your life indoors so that when the sunny weather comes, you and your children will be able to take advantage of summer’s lovely rays.
Soon you will be thinking about all the things you have yet to do during the winter months, wishing that summer was not such a short time away. 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.