Guess what? Winter is not going away. The place on Earth your family calls home will affect your perception and experience of wintertime, but as long as our beautiful planet orbits our Sun, winter will be a reality.
The winter equinox occurs on a different day of the astronomical calendar depending on which hemisphere you call home, but meteorological winter always brings us three months of the coldest temperatures (no matter what the groundhog says). Seasonal snow can cover up to a third of the Earth’s land mass during winter, and while the surface temperature of our planet is creeping steadily higher, that doesn’t mean winter is about to become extinct! Many scientists expect climate change to lead to more snowfall in parts of the world.
Winter is an inescapable reality and it also happens to be the least favorite season for many Americans. You’ll hear words like survive and over it when people begin talking about winter, often followed with complaints: too cold, too little sunshine, bad weather.
But if we’ve discovered one secret to unlocking happiness it’s adopting a stoic mindset and remembering there are things within our power and things that fall outside of it. We have the ability to control the factors that are within our grasp. Everything else must be let go.
Winter is outside our sphere of control. It will happen regardless of our wishes and desires. Our perspective on the season, however, is completely within our power to alter! So is the clothing we choose to wear and the activities we engage in during wintertime. We believe that a mindset shift to see the beauty of winter and remember what is within our scope of control can make the season not just survivable, but one of the best of the year. Here’s how to love winter (or at least not curse it).
Adopt a positive mindset
A mindset is an established set of attitudes, but not a fixed one—mindsets can grow and change. Psychologists have studied the effect of our mindset on achievements and success, and common sense holds true: the way we set our minds can be positive or negative and has a significant effect on the outcome of our actions. If your mind is made up that winter is hard and bad, it will probably turn out to be true.
The Atlantic published a fascinating article a few years ago about a psychologist’s work studying seasonal depression and happiness in an Arctic town where the sun doesn’t rise all winter (yes, you read that right). Kari Leibowitz spent a year in Tromsø, Norway and concluded that “the Polar Night seemed to hold its own unique opportunities for mental and emotional flourishing.” The people with a positive winter mindset, she wrote, “tended to be the same people who were highly satisfied with their lives and who pursued personal growth.” Norwegians in Tromsø exhibited positive mindsets about winter by refusing to call summer “better” and calling the period of time without sunlight the “Blue Time” instead of using the term mørketid, meaning “dark time.”
Mindsets are malleable: shift yours to see the opportunities and beauty winter gives.
No bad clothing
Winter is cold. Dress accordingly! Outfit yourself and your family in the gear you need to stay warm, especially if you live in a city that experiences a long winter season. The right outwear will enable you to get out into your city and kick those feelings of isolation.
Nature walks and playground visits and romps through the park don’t have to end with the cold season, they just need to change a little. Take a thermos of hot cocoa along with you and be sure you’ve got warm gloves and socks. Neighborhood nature walks (even pajama walks) look different in the winter when the daylight is gone; maybe you’ll be lucky enough to have streetlights and moonlight and reflections of snow lighting your way. And have you ever been the first to blast away the snow on the playground slide? It’s pretty epic!
Interaction with nature and outdoor play is good for us and good for our kids. Sure, there may be days when the windchill is cold enough that it’s simply not safe to go outside, but unless you live in the arctic there won’t be many of them. Winter is cold, but not cold enough to spend the entire season indoors!
Do winter activities
Some activities are only possible in the wintertime: ice skating, skiing, snowball fights, sledding, snowshoeing, snowboarding, snowman-making, you get the idea. Fill your time with the winter activities you love to help you stay positive and excited about the season.
Winter also has a strong indoor vibe, and it’s not wrong to lean in to lifestyle changes and habits that make sense in the winter. Start a new project or commit to reading a stack of books. Work on side projects, become a master of a new board game, bake a new recipe each week, or fine-tune your mixologist skills. Seasons change, and we’ll get the most out of each one if we change our habits to match them.
A positive mindset works wonders here too; spending the whole winter lamenting what you can’t do will make you miserable and discontent. You can look at winter as the season that puts a stop to your beachside picnics or you can look at it as the time of year that brings new opportunities. An open mind changes everything.
Hygge is a Scandinavian concept that became a buzzword a few years ago. It implies coziness and encourages the celebration of simple moments and the life we already have; perhaps it’s a secret to why Scandinavians are consistently ranked as the happiest people! It’s much more than a trending hashtag and has real power in influencing our mindset.
You can’t get hygge by buying a plush blanket or decorating your home in a certain way or purchasing new things. It’s simply the feeling of comfort and delight in the present. It’s an act of gratefulness, really, and winter is the perfect time for it.
Don’t isolate yourself
Winter means cold and sometimes inclement weather and fewer hours of sunshine, but unless you’re a frog, hibernation isn’t the best idea. Humans are inherently social, and our happiness depends in part on interaction with others. Host a playdate, meet a group of friends at the museum, or organize a movie night at the theater or your house. Sign up for that dance class or pasta making tutorial you’ve had your eye on. Life doesn’t have to stop in the wintertime!
Edmonton’s Winter City Initiative is the perfect example of digging in to the joys of winter. “Instead of living in six months of denial” Edmontonians are choosing instead to “[open] our eyes to the possibilities of a city that thrives year round.” Their city-wide efforts to improve infrastructure and host wintery celebrations are noble and not impossible to imagine in other cities too. Winter picnic, anyone?
Winter is beautiful
The city is beautiful in the winter, whether it’s decked with holiday lights or glimmering with the streetlights’ noble attempt to offset the lack of sunlight. When snow falls and covers everything in white, the city is a magical place to be! The typical sounds of traffic and horns and hubbub are muffled and quiet and it seems as if the whole city gives a comfortable sigh. Winter is beautiful, if we have eyes to see it.
Look, we know the season is hard. It’s cold and often requires an extra half hour to get everyone bundled up for an outing. Sometimes the kids complain and the sidewalks aren’t cleared and the bus is a soggy, slushy mess. But writing off the entire season as “hard” and “bad” and counting down the days until it’s over means missing out on a lot of beauty and opportunities for fun.
“Winter is inescapable, but the emotional climate of our city is warming in the coldest months. We are strong. We are hardy. We are adventuresome.”Edmonton’s Winter City Initiative
Not all of us are cut out to be winter lovers. But rather than live in denial for months on end, let’s dig in and enjoy it! A shift of perspective makes all the difference between surviving a season or embracing what it has to offer.