(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)
For most, the winter months are a happy time, filled with comforting thoughts of warmth, family, friends and holidays, but for the less fortunate or those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, the holidays are simply a reminder of the things that they don’t have. They may be missing the comfort of a companion, the warmth of a blanket or coat, or a family to exchange gifts with. And for others, the winter months, with the early darkness, lack of sunshine and frigid weather, mean Seasonal Affective Disorder is lurking around the corner.
Whatever the reason, not all hope is lost. It is important to spend the next few months in a state of mindful acceptance. The cold won’t last forever, the grief will get easier with time and, with a little effort, loneliness can be a thing of the past.
We encourage you to consider a few of the following ways to get through the winter season:
Food not only nourishes the body, but it does wonders for the soul, as well. Try not to load up on heavy comfort foods just because the garden has stopped producing. Shop at your local growers market and consider buying organic at the local market. Eliminating chemicals, additives and growth hormones is a great way to ensure your body is getting only the best from the food you’re consuming. Beat depression and anxiety by reducing inflammation in the body and eliminating the consumption of excess sugars. This can be achieved by saying no to shakes and cakes and yes to fruit and veggie smoothies and walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids. Nibble on fresh produce all throughout the day, like dark leafy greens, avocado, berries and plenty of beans, and see your energy levels and moods begin to experience positive changes.
Listen to your body
While not all of us have time for practicing loving-kindness meditations, simply listening to the body is a great way to feel more centered. Our bodies are incredible at speaking to us if we are quiet enough to listen. Feeling extra tired? It might be time to increase sleep by an hour or perhaps add a supplement. Are you quick to react or do you feel extra impatient? Make some changes to eliminate a few of your daily tasks that will help to decrease stress levels and allow you to experience less mood swings. If you feel that your body is communicating that something mentally could use some attention, don’t be afraid to schedule a visit with your primary care physician. There is no shame in asking for some guidance!
It is important to not become too comfortable with the familiar four walls of your residence. While staying in can bring comfort to those who have trouble making new friends, getting out of the house can introduce healthy experiences to those who are in a slump. Sign up for a local nonprofit. Many volunteers are surprised at how much giving their time can change their perspective. Not only does volunteering counteract the chemicals associated with stress, anxiety and depression, but working with like-minded individuals is a great opportunity to meet new friends. If volunteering isn’t your thing, be sure to schedule at least one recreational outing each week, whether it’s to the movies, library, local craft show or art exhibition. It’s all about engaging, connecting and stimulating.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community, as is making a donation is someone’s memory or honor. These are great ways to feel connected to others, while memorializing a friend or loved one. But sometimes realizing that things could always be worse or that there are others facing similar challenges is enough of an eye-opener to redirect the thought process to be proactive. Create a few care packages for the local shelters, write some loving notes to those serving overseas or meet with local shut-ins to not only keep yourself busy during the winter months, but to be the joy that someone needs today.