If I go back to when I was 8 years old, I see a time when I embraced winter – snow, cold and especially ice. After Mom taught me how to skate on the backyard rink Dad created, she turned me loose in Dieppe Park. I write in my memoir:
I clutch the skate guards, one in each hand, and stagger slowly. I look around and see people – old, young, even some wielding hockey sticks – they’re supposed to be in the hockey rinks. I take a cautious step onto the ice and almost lose my footing; when I point one skate guard out, I find my balance. I put one foot in front of the other, hold both skate guards out and I’m off.
It is exhilarating and scary but I am skating around the rectangular rink. No one can call me stupid now. I am gliding and… One of those hockey-wielding teenage boys nearly crashes into me as he takes the corner too fast. I clutch the skate guards and skate on the spot. Then I get my momentum. I can skate.
(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford).
Not anymore. I gave away my skates 20 years ago and just the thoughts of snow, cold and ice are enough to make me wish I could afford to spend winter in a warm climate…almost.
You see, I may regard the beginning of each winter day without much joy – getting up as daylight tries to poke its way out (sunrise 7.51 a.m. – it expands about a minute a week) is not my idea of bright joy. Too cold to go out into the garden and if the sun doesn’t actually show up then, having to turn on a light to see the coffee pot on-switch is pathetic. But once I get a few cups of coffee in me and get dressed, usually I see things in a brighter light. And if the sun actually comes out (as it did just now), my whole atmosphere changes drastically to big smiles.
The health experts and studies show that this lack of light in winter can cause some people to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Because I snap back fast usually (unless one of my eight health problems is acting up or I have too much administrative consumer stuff to deal with) and retain my joy and passion in most of what I do, I don’t believe I have SAD. If you want to read more about SAD, go to Pub Med’s article on Seasonal Affective Disorder at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002499/ You will be surprised as it is not all lack of light.
So, if like me, you sometimes get a smidgeon of winter blahs and your budget won’t let you visit warmer climates, what can you do to get some happiness? First I suggest you do some reading on what exactly happiness is. There are many books and Internet postings on the subject and everyone has his or her own idea. Just Google it. You might want to check out an Ipsos study done on Canadians’ happiness last year. It has some startling, yet not-so-surprising results. According to this study, 18% of Canadians are extremely happy, 43 moderately happy and 39 are what the study calls “downright testy.” The study showed three main factors that tipped the happiness scale: living debt-free, living in a romantic relationship, and having some sort of spirituality. High on the list also was having a passion for something you are doing in your life. (See http://www.creditcards.ca/credit-card-news/author-qa-debt-and-the-happiness-equation-1278.php)
According to that study, I fall somewhere between testy and moderately happy. I have some sort of spirituality (wacky, some people might call it) and I am doing what I have a passion for – writing, teaching writing and editing, gardening (in the summer, although I try with indoor plants in winter), reading, walking, etc. This study has shown me that happiness is a combination of outside factors and inside factors. A psychiatrist once told me that it might not be happiness per se you seek but some form of contentment. The bottom line to me is you have to work with what you’ve got to lift yourself out of the blahs and make some happiness in your life. For each of us that may differ.
Here’s my personal list to start on the road to happiness.
Do something you feel passionate about – daily.
Express your gratitude for what you have – daily.
Go for a walk or get some exercise – what you like, not what others say you “should” do – daily.
Listen to soothing music.
Read a book.
Watch a movie, TV programs you like (but not more than three hours max. a day).
Meditate and take deep breaths.
Solve your problems – one at a time.
Get together/talk to and email friends and family – but watch they don’t take over your time.*
Get enough sleep.*
In the next couple of postings I’ll be blogging about time issues and sleep issues and how they get in the way of our happiness. Meantime, read The Happiness Plan by Sarah Treleaven and
Astrid Van Den Broek http://www.chatelaine.com/en/blog/happiness_plan and books about happiness, such as The Happiness Equation: The Human Nature of Happy People by John Hallward (Price-Patterson, 2011) and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Craft Rubin (HarperCollins Canada, 2009).
How do you deal with the winter blahs?
Only Child Writes