Do gray days ever get into your head? Maybe they do and you never thought about it. Maybe the gray days impact you emotionally in ways that never occurred to you.
Wintery, gray days have provided an amazing learning experience for me in regards to the management of my own emotions. Prior to living in a wintery world, I never considered how weather and other external factors impact my internal world—and I would not have considered myself emotionally “vulnerable” to those types of things.
My first two Winters in New England taught me differently. Weather impacts us more than we realize, and gray days tend to draw us into melancholy, internalized thinking—maybe even feelings of discouragement. It’s been a fun journey to “take on the challenge” of the gray days and discover how to push back and reclaim the emotional territory that external, environmental influences attempt to hijack.
Along with some of my own discovery, some godly friends have weighed in and given me good advice to cultivating a joyful heart in a wintery world. Here are the things that help me, and maybe they will help you!
1. Supplementing Vitamin D and B—For the past two years, I take a 2000 IU vitamin D, a multi-vitamin, and vitamin B every day. This helps replenish what is missed from sunlight during the Winter, and after the first 60 days, I definitely noticed a difference in my response on gray days.
2. Absorbing Available Sunlight—whether from a store-bought sun-lamp or just sitting near a window on sunny days, I’ve been more intentional about absorbing sunlight when it’s available. It’s not exactly a beach in a tropical climate, but it helps more than I would have guessed.
3. Intentional Reckoning—this one sounds strange, but it is simply the process of thinking through the fact that the days are shorter, the darkness is longer, and the low-cloud/gray days are a part of the “new order of things” for the next few months. This reckoning helps to recalibrate my heart and mind to a different set of environmental expectations. I guess it’s my way of “my acting on the weather” rather than simply “the weather acting on me!” It makes my response conscious rather than subconscious.
4. Listening to Music and Other Spiritual Input—just as weather impacts emotions, so does great music. Perhaps you can identify other things that impact you emotionally as well—like a cinnamon roll! During these months, I intentionally try to fill my life with good, godly music that rejoices the heart and lifts my emotions.
5. Reading God’s Word—Whether it’s the Bible or a good book that expounds the Bible, God’s Word always strengthens and calibrates my emotions to His heart. Getting into God’s Word is true nourishment for the soul.
6. Exercising or Physical Exertion—This one is all about blood flow! I have found that even a 15-20 minute brisk walk or exercise will completely rewire my emotions and give me a different perspective, which again reminds me that it’s usually not a heart problem as it is external influences acting upon my heart.
7. Encouraging Relationships and Community—This one is big! People lift people—that’s what is so wonderful about the Christian family and the local church. God gives us relationships to encourage, edify, strengthen, and bless one another. Get around people who will encourage you, and you encourage them as well. That’s another reason that Sundays and mid-week prayer and Bible study is so beneficial to your family. When you come to church and pray with friends, or when you intentionally create light-hearted family time, you will not be the same.
8. Strategic Remembering—Tonight we’re studying Ephesians 2:11-22, which begins with a command to remember. On my emotionally gray days (which are fewer than they used to be), I find that remembering God’s goodness and recent victories have a way of recharging and energizing my heart. When the gray days close in upon you, make a short list of the ways God has recently been at work in or around you.
9. Praying—No one understands the human emotions, and the ebb and flow of life better than our Heavenly Father. Have you considered taking the low days straight to His throne? You have ACCESS to the Father! He powerful over your heart, and He is faithful, even when your heart condemns you. God is greater than your heart! “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” (1 John 3:20)
10. Finally, of Course, You Knew It Was Coming—Consuming Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee! If all else fails, this is the magic bullet for gray days. God created coffee, and He invented these wonderful Heavenly distribution centers and placed them all over the North-East with orange and pink signs, multiple flavors, and manna with sprinkles. So, at your lowest moments, take a mini-vacation to a warm place and fuel your body and soul with something steaming and energizing.
Now, if you really want to go nuclear on gray days, here’s the secret formula:
With vitamins in hand, get your best friend, your favorite Christian songs, and briskly walk to the closest Dunkin’ Donuts—at which point you order a large, hot “whatever” (and maybe something with sprinkles—which are like a mini-vacation all by themselves), you treat your friend to the same. You then consume the vitamins and share with your friend a favorite verse and three things for which you are deeply grateful. At this point the only thing missing is sunlight, which you can’t always control.
As a side note: for the opposite results, in other words, to depress your emotions—visit Starbucks (or as I like to call it, “The Dark Side.”)
In all seriousness, these are all simple ways to bring our thoughts and emotions into the captivity of obedience and rejoicing in Jesus. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
As Winter arrives, I challenge you to push back! Don’t let Winter win. Leave Winter wondering what happened to you between now and last Winter!
Take on Winter like a boss.