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Practice Mindfulness to Cope with Shorter Days

November 9, 2015|Counseling & Psychotherapy

It happens every year.  We set the clocks back to “fall back” and lament the 4:30pm sunset.

We dread the approach of darker, colder days and brace ourselves to fight through the winter. It’s all part of being a New Englander, right? But what if our mindset is making it feel worse than it actually is? Practicing mindfulness techniques can help change our internal conversation about the return of the cold and dark.

Focus on the present moment. Check in with yourself: are you okay right now? It’s 5:30pm and it’s dark and cold, but are you okay right now? The answer is probably yes! If it’s still light outside, soak it in. Don’t focus on a moment that isn’t here yet. If we spend all morning lamenting that it will be dark at 4pm, then haven’t we essentially spent all day in the dark in our minds?

Acknowledge what you can’t control and celebrate the positive. Your energy is precious. Will spending it on resisting the inevitable changing of the seasons really help you feel better? Instead, try embracing what makes the season unique and find the little things you enjoy. You can’t have a pumpkin spice latte in July, right?

Make a winter plan. There are legitimate reasons why so many of us struggle during the darker, colder months such as increased social isolation, decreased exercise and time outdoors, holiday and family stress,  or even let-down after the holiday excitement and celebrations are over. Here are some ideas for positive actions to address these challenges head on:

  • Find indoor activities to look forward to such as crafts, cooking, reading, researching your family tree.
  • Commit to getting social plans on the calendar in advance.
  • Make phone dates when winter weather gets really messy.
  • Redefine your idea of exercise and try a new winter sport like snowshoeing. Snow removal, sledding, snowman building can count as exercise!
  • Bundle up and get outside for a walk in the fresh air and reward yourself with hot chocolate when you return.
  • Make a gym date with a friend.
  • Balance holiday treats with fresh fruits and veggies to nourish your body. Drink plenty of water.
  • Be kind to yourself. Evaluate the expectations you have of yourself, your holiday, your family to make sure they are realistic. It’s okay to simplify and it’s okay to create new traditions.
  • Know you’re not alone. It’s okay to feel sad or to miss loved ones who are far away or who have passed.
  • Write down three things you’re grateful for each day.

Above all this season, practice staying present. When it all feels overwhelming, remind yourself to pause, breathe, and check in with yourself. Am I okay right now?

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