I grew up in the tropics, where the weather never got below 65 degrees, ever. Fast forward to now, and I am raising my family in cold, snowy Michigan. I’ve been in the state for about 13 years now, so I’ve seen some winters. Still, I dread their arrival each fall. I am trying to adjust my own mental approach to winter and train my brain to truly enjoy the season, especially in spending time outdoors. To do so, I walk through your five senses and share how you can enjoy the winter season through each one.
See winter with fresh eyes.
We start with appreciating the visual beauty of winter. This one has come the easiest to me. Truly, a morning view of freshly fallen snow is a beautiful thing to behold. Look for the contrast of the white snow against the grey tree branches. See how bright red berries and colorful winter gear stands out against the sea of white. Watch the snowfall in the evening from the warmth of your couch, anticipating a morning walk the next day.
I have also started reading books about cold weather and snow, both to my daughter and for myself, in preparation for another winter season. For kids, I highly recommend the classic The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. If you have Amazon Prime, there’s a sweet animated short based on the book, too. For myself, I really enjoyed There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient and Confident kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge). Reading through these books has inspired me to enjoy winter the way I see the authors or characters do.
Feel ready for anything.
One of my first winters in Michigan, I fell on the ice and broke two bones in my foot. It was very painful, and left me extremely nervous about walking, let alone playing, on ice and snow. Because of this experience, I knew I had to invest in heavy duty snow boots with great traction in order to enjoy the winter wonderland around me.
Spend some time thinking through what makes you uncomfortable, physically, about the winter. Do you get chilled easily? Are you afraid of falling? Do you dislike how quickly your lips dry out in the winter wind? There are tips for how to dress in winter, and how to dress your kids. Learn how to confidently walk on icy sidewalks. Keep lip balm in every pocket of every coat. You may find there are answers to all of your concerns, and with a little preparation, you’ll be ready for anything!
Listen to what various experts have to say.
This next one can seem a bit crazy, but bear with me. Spending time uncomfortably cold can be good for you, according to scientists in this article in the Wall Street Journal. They also recommend practicing cold exposure by ending your shower with cold water for as long as you can stand it—let me know if you do give that one a try!
Feeling more mentally overwhelmed by the dreary and dark months ahead? Dig into the negative feelings you have about winter, rather than trying to ignore them. Identify where they are coming from, and you may be better able to reason your way into a new perspective. Check out this article on staying well through a COVID winter for advice from experts on protecting your mental health in this particularly tough cold season.
Heat up some comfort food.
I’ll combine taste and smell into this last point, which is just to treat yourself to warm and delicious foods this season. It can be a great motivator for yourself and your kids, as in, we’ll all get a cup of hot chocolate when we get inside from sledding! It can be a way you fuel yourselves to have the mental and physical energy to get out into the cold. I recently discovered this “change-your-life chicken” recipe which is hot and tastes great. Amazingly, it has tricked my husband and toddler into happily eating roasted onions, carrots and potatoes.
Let these smells and tastes connect you and your family to the unique memories of warming up after a brisk walk. Cuddle up by the fire as you dry wet socks and gloves for the next adventure.
So, we’ve walked through the five senses and how you can use each one to enjoy or at least conquer your dislike for spending time outdoors this winter season. I hope this process can help you, as it is helping me. See you in the snow, friends!