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Wintertime Mindset

The word 'winter' can conjure up images of dreary days and having to spend a lot of time indoors during long months of mostly darkness and limited natural daylight. And depending on where you live, perhaps feeling cold and damp and maybe seeing a long stretch of days ahead where you are not having a lot of fun.

Kari Leibowitz is a Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow and doctoral candidate in Psychology at Stanford University, associated with the Stanford Mind & Body Lab. Through her extensive research while living in Norway learning how people there deal with wintertime, she discovered that staying positive in how you approach life during this period can have a profound difference in a person's well-being overall, which may be linked to improved health and performance.

She found that those who looked at winter as a time to engage in activities and pastimes that naturally presented themselves during the colder months, such as skiing or even taking the time to enjoy cozy moments indoors, seemed to be the happiest overall.

During the long winter months, Ms. Keibowitz suggests keeping a positive mindset and taking an approach to focus on what is within our control. Perhaps see this time as an opportunity. Find one or two things that you like to do during the season and spend time cultivating those pursuits.

Living through the current pandemic and subsequent periods of quarantine might feel like you are stuck in a year long season of winter. Activities that you would normally participate in and that would bring you joy are not as readily available. Friends who you would usually see on a regular or perhaps even daily basis are no longer out and about. This can lead to a feeling of despair and isolation and in some cases, even anxiety.

But rather than dwelling on what you can't do, perhaps this might be a good time to reacquaint yourself with a hobby that used to bring you joy, but you haven't thought about in a long time. Maybe it's getting out the paintbrushes or getting the guitar out of the case. Could be you dust off the sewing machine or look for those knitting needles. Or it might just be curling up with a good book on the couch. Maybe it's trying something new, like baking your first loaf of homemade bread or learning how to make split pea soup.

Or perhaps it's just putting on that favorite cozy sweater from the back of the closet that you haven't worn in at least nine months, putting on a cute knitted cap and matching muffler, pulling on thick gloves or mittens and heading outside for a brisk walk and actually look forward to the cold air hitting your face. You just might enjoy it enough to make it a regular activity, even when the temperature starts to warm up or your local restrictions begin to relax a little bit.

And while you are outside on your walk, keep your eyes open for signs of spring, or anything that brings you joy and puts a smile on your face. Because just like winter, what you may think of as darkness or a time to just get through, will pass, and will lead to brighter days ahead. It's all in your approach. And totally up to you.

Click for more information on Kari Leibowitz and her research from Norway.


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