Ready for winter? If you don’t live in a “wintery place” move along—there’s nothing to see here.
For the rest of us—I happily send you these 10 ways to win over winter emotions (plus a bonus!):
It’s taken me seven New England winters of experimentation to understanding the weather’s impact on my mind/heart. Perhaps you’re already a pro! It took me two years to assess, with Dana’s wisdom, that the emotional impact was a combination of multiple things: shorter days, longer nights, low gray clouds, rain/snow/cold, etc. So here is my spiritual/emotional survival list for winter. In fact, it’s more than that…it’s a THRIVE LIST! Make this your winter checklist, and you will GROW immensely this season, I promise!
1. Think Weekly Worship!
I mean with your church family, in the room, heart open, Bible open, ready to receive from Jesus. (Resist the temptation to crash at home and just “live-stream”—unless you are physically unable.) Nothing will beat this devoted weekly commitment in your life, even beyond winter. Avoid the “twice a month” or “occasional worship attendance” pattern. Every seven days, minimally, decide you will LOVE, GROW, SERVE with your church family. You can’t do anything more beneficial, in the long term, for your life and family!
2. Think Environmental Impact!
I’m not talking about climate change. I’m talking about your immediate world, your surroundings. Think light, sound, (music, smell, temperature, color, air-flow, and even clothing choices or color.) Consider how to make the immediate environment more “encouraging.” For me and Dana this has meant: painting our home with lighter colors, playing encouraging worship music often, replacing our dim lightbulbs with brighter ones, adding lights to dark areas of the house, keeping air flowing even when the temperature is right (fans, etc.), lighting candles, air fresheners, decluttering spaces. Call me strange, but I find that even wearing certain colors can impact me differently. All of these things, and more, impact you emotionally, thus spiritually. Changing how you manage your environment can powerfully change your mental world as well.
3. Think Physical and Mental Health!
It’s a downward spiral… first you drift from Jesus and away from worship, then you withdraw into a reclusive environment (cloudy days, dark rooms, lonely feelings), then you flip on the TV and binge eat pizza and donuts (and maybe pop-tarts) while you binge watch a show filmed in some exotic, tropical, sunny place. Then you come out of your coma three months later in a miserable state physically and spiritually.
Sure, I’m going to eat some holiday sweets! Sure, I’ll enjoy some entertainment this winter! Sure, I love pizza and donuts!
It’s all about moderation and movement!
Moderation means portionyourself! Pace yourself! You’ve got all winter and only so many cookies are safe! (I highly recommend “Dad’s Favorite Cookies” from Stew Leonard’s) Balance out the “comfort food” with healthy things or entire days or weeks of precision dieting. Then, get your body moving—blood flow changes everything—even if it’s a brisk walk. For me, it’s 45 minutes a day on an elliptical (and lifting weights) about five days a week. Dana and I also love to walk together (indoors or out.) I put off regular exercise for a long time, then I worked up to it gradually, but now I would never go back. The impact on my mind, physiology, and energy is dramatic. Quality of energy, strength, and mental clarity is well worth the time invested.
The key here is to find out what you can do consistently and actually enjoy! On that elliptical I can study, listen to a podcast, make phone calls (while apologizing for being out of breath), or watch TV. The physical and mental change after 45 minutes of movement is astounding! It’s a total reset. It took about 30 days to establish the habit, build physical stamina, and grow to appreciate the impact—but what a difference it makes.
4. Think Nutrients!
We will miss the sun the next four months or so, and sun gives us more than cancer! It gives us Vitamin D, that wonderful vitamin that increases mental happiness. Sometimes you need a nap. Other times you’re just having a bad day. Maybe some lows are purely spiritual. But sometimes you may just be vitamin D deficient! For me, it’s 2000 UI of Vitamin D daily. It takes a month or so to build up in your system, but this has been a good decision over the last four years. In addition, I do a daily multivitamin—you know, the one for athletic, young men! and also vitamin B and fish oil. (I tried the fish oil with tartar sauce on bread, but it isn’t quite like New England fish and chips!) You may come up with a combination that works better for you, but don’t discount the fact that this season often leaves us nutrient/vitamin deficient. Also, in general I have found that I’m sick less often or for shorter periods. (Now watch, I’ll probably get whacked with some big flu just for writing that!)
5. Think Sunshine!
In those rare moments when the sun is shining, sit close to a window and absorb what you can. Some seasoned winter pros have said “go tan”—which actually works, but I doubt my dermatologist is going to be onboard! I guarantee you, if the sun is shining, I’ll be trying to find ways to get into the light this winter.
6. Think Personal Worship and Soul Health!
Feed your soul with God’s word and other devotional, inspirational, encouraging reading this winter. Daily is best, but any frequency is better than none. Great worship music with biblical content, or biblical podcasts will also lift you and build you. (We have 6 years worth of sermon series available at the ebcnewington.com website!)
7. Think Intentional Relationships!
The temptation during seasonal/emotional lows is to withdraw, which makes things worse. When you withdraw, you get mired into your loneliness, which becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Withdrawal makes you isolated; isolation leaves you feeling alone; which then makes you withdraw further. Reverse this cycle! Arrive at church early. Have coffee and introduce yourself to someone new. Stay a little longer before “bolting out the door” and encourage someone. Plan your week with some intentional fellowship. Bottom line—find those Christian friends or family that inflate your spirit with strength and deliberately hang out around those people! Then, be that person for someone else!
8. Think Ministry Involvement!
Be a part of an adult group! Join a ministry team! Serve Jesus by serving others through your church. Someone else needs you. Your church needs you. You can actually make a big difference this winter just by serving on a team. You’ll have a blast, you’ll meet new friends, and you’ll have a lasting impact. Connect with any pastoral staff member about joining a group or team.
9. Think Gospel Ministry!
One thing transformed a dark, Philippian jail cell into not only a tolerable place, but an enjoyable place—worship and giving the gospel to others. Paul took his dark moment and turned it into a gospel moment. He shared Jesus. If you want to absolutely “blow up” your heart with joy and delight this winter, be intentional about giving the gospel to others. At the very least, invite them to “come and see” or hand them a Done book.
10. Think “Casting Your Care!”
This is a great habit! Take the nagging burden, the unresolved problem, that thing that is just dragging you into an emotional fog—and throw it into Jesus hands. Say it out loud— “Lord, these are your problems! I can’t wait to see how you plan to solve them!” Then smile and move out into your day with hope, faith, and joy. You are the beloved child of a wealthy and powerful King, and He will never leave you in need. God never leaves His sheep “wanting.”
Bonus—think little delights that cheer you!
What are some small gifts of God that He has placed into your life? Dana likes “smelly candles.” I like really good coffee. Dana likes soft/warm shirts. (She calls them cozy.) I like ice-cream (even in winter.) In fact, my primary motivation for exercise and healthy eating is so I can occasionally “go off the rails” with cookies and ice-cream. In my book, a really good donut is worth every moment on the elliptical! Dana likes Hallmark movies. I like “not watching Hallmark movies.” Be deliberate about what cheers you! Like for me, any day I don’t watch a Hallmark movie, that’s a happier day!
OK—I’ve taken enough of your Tuesday! Last thought—share this post with someone who it may encourage! Have a winter filled with growth and health.