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Battling the Winter Doldrums

December 12, 2021 | by Emuna Braverman

How I learned to love winter.

Fall seems to have receded into the distance and the next few months seem a little dreary, with not so much to look forward to except possibly more cold and some snow. The shortened, dark days add to the sense of bleakness.

I frequently hear my daughters question how they will get through the winter with everyone stuck inside, the kids growing crazy from boredom and their moms from loneliness. What should I tell them? I hear my granddaughters running around saying “I hate winter” and I wonder whose word they are parroting? (Actually, I don’t have to wonder!)

I think we have all had a little taste of this phenomenon during the long Covid lockdown. Each day looked much like the one before. There was nothing (except the occasion trip to a doctor’s office and not even that at the beginning to break the monotony). If variety is the spice of life, ours was becoming pretty bland. And it was taking a toll.

What did we and should we do to change that perspective and brighten our days?

While I don’t dislike the winter as much as others (I affirmatively enjoy it!) but I do understand how they feel. The darkness and cold definitely create a disincentive to leave the house, except when absolutely necessary. There is the potential/risk of narrowing our world into the walls of our homes – which, no matter the size of said homes, can start to feel a little claustrophobic.

With my daughters, I just try to be empathic. They're not asking me for advice or tips so as all mature parents know, the best approach to keep our mouths shut. But here's what I tell myself when those winter doldrums threaten to me to hole myself up inside until the sun breaks free.

I employ two strategies. One is based on fear – fear of growing old, fear of losing my motivation, fear of becoming a shut-in, fear of…we can develop bad habits all too easily. I’m concerned that if I don’t push myself to go out, to participate in the world, I will become accustomed to that. I will become a recluse. My world will be small, my activities and impact diminished. That result terrifies me so I push through.

This is actually a challenge we face not infrequently in our lives. While battling a brutal cold the other day (barking cough, difficulty breathing etc.) I was forced to curtail my activities and spend some time resting. This is a real anathema to me but I found that I could still get used to it. And with each moment spent resting, it got harder and harder to act. I had to really push myself to get going again. That terrifies me especially as I see the prospect of aging in the not-too-distant future. I want to continue to be active (in every way) as long as possible – but that requires pushing myself. Whatever the limitations of winter I have to get out and do.

The other strategy is to not see winter as full of limitations but rather as full of opportunities – to engage in different sports (I personally love outdoor ice skating), to cook the cozy foods, to sit around the fireplace (yes it’s not leaving the house but it’s still an activity!) and, most of all, to see with awe the beauty of a world covered with snow – trees glistening with drops of ice or snowflakes. It’s another opportunity to thank God and appreciate the awesomeness of the world He created.

There is variety in the winter just as much as in the spring, summer or fall. And if we have to look harder for it or work harder for it, then the reward is that much greater.

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