Coping with winter

Katie Nail on how to get through the short days and grey skies, waiting for spring.

Growing up in Florida, I always found “winter” to be an enjoyable time. It was the one time of year that I could wear a jacket and “real” shoes, there was the excitement of Christmas, the sun was always shining, and by February “spring” had arrived.

Photo: Unni Holtedahl.

Photo: Unni Holtedahl.

Then we moved to Scotland, where I learned that what I called “winter” was actually summer in some parts of the world. The first January and February abroad, I discovered the full meaning of Seasonal Affective Disorder. That winter I vowed to always take a sunny holiday in January, and for the past 5 years I have achieved that goal.

However, the thought of jet lag for my 6 month old put me off of flying anywhere this year. While the temperature in Luxembourg has been mild, the thought of two months with grey skies feels horrible. In an effort to combat the winter blues and keep a positive attitude until spring, I decided to research positive ways to promote mental happiness until the sun can take over for me.

1)     Learn something new. I find that I can spend all day doing the same thing over and over. Often, when I am in the middle of changing a diaper, I remember that I have a degree. For a lot of women, we find a routine and then charge through it trying to accomplish as much as we can in one day.  However, studies show that learning something new builds confidence. I also read that learning something new can help to relieve stress and I personally think it keeps me a little more interesting.  There are plenty of ways to learn something new in Luxembourg. If, like me, “learning a language” is an unaccomplished goal, why not download a language app and spend 10 minutes a day using it? I’ve been using Duolingo for French with decent results. Or sign up for a night time course and learn to dance or try cooking a new type of food. It’s not the amount of time spent or being perfect, what’s important is taking time for yourself.

2)     Volunteer. Not only does volunteering benefit the community but it helps us to connect with other people. Studies show that there is a direct correlation between happiness and the number of hours spent volunteering. There are plenty of worthy causes in Luxembourg that are happy for help whether it’s as a one off or on a more regular basis.  Volunteering is also a great way to connect with the community and meet new people.

© Michael Brown | Dreamstime.com

© Michael Brown | Dreamstime.com

3)     Get daily exercise. Everyone knows the physical benefits of exercise, but many people don’t realize that exercise is also good for your brain.  It can help improve memory, and the release of dopamine and serotonin can reverse the affects of ageing (a big plus for me!). It doesn’t have to be a 30 minute run every day. Even 10 minutes of sustained exercise will help improve your mood and clear your head. If it’s too rainy to go for a walk, I try to do yoga at home or go to an evening class.

4)     Stay connected. With social media it’s easy to keep track of friends and family. However, seeing photos of someone’s life is different than talking to them. Keeping in touch with friends and family may feel tricky when living far away, but surveys around the world consistently show the happiest people are those who have active social lives and strong relationships. If you feel connected to people at home but not those in Luxembourg, then try a group like Meetup.com to meet new people. I’ve found mom and baby groups a great way to meet people in a similar situation to myself.

So these are my goals for the start of 2014. I am sure they will change as the year goes on. I know in June my goal will be to eat as much pasta as I can in Italy. Until the summer, hopefully, focusing on these things and my family will get me through the short days and grey skies.

By Katie Nail, January 2014

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