Warmth Comes from Within to Help Decrease the Negativity
By Dr. Jay Greenfeld
As the retail stores shift from one giant set of holidays to the next, the shelves become lined with a lot of red, white, and pink. The focus of February becomes love and associating that with bundles of chocolate. Regardless of whether or not you partake in any type of festivities related to holidays, you cannot help but avoid the bombardment of chocolate, candies, and heart shaped cards. The challenge becomes when you want to share and communicate love yet it is intercepted by negativity, anger, and irritability that many feel during the deep freeze of February. It is all too common for many in the province to state, restate, and . . . restate again how cold it is and how incomprehensible it is to be that cold in one city. If you have been living in the province for more than 12 months, the cold is not a surprise. As Manitoban parents, we knew the cold was coming and that does necessarily mean it needs to influence our attitude and our moods. As parents, if we are feeling irritable and frustrated, our children feel it too.
There is no doubting that anything below zero can be tedious to deal with when dressing your children for the outside, as Robert Munsch said it best in his classic 50 Below Zero. There are many annoyances about winter that do not need to be revisited. However, one of the keys to surviving the winter months is focusing less on the negativity and more on the love that you can generate within yourself and more so those around you.
Love yourself. Remind yourself each morning what you are thankful for and what you are most proud of; your children, your job, your friends, your accomplishments. Too quickly we move from task to task and do not pay enough attention to the moment. One of the best ways to stop, slow down and pay closer attention to the moment and how you are feeling is through meditation. One of the better apps I use is Mindfulness for Children. A number of meditation options are provided to help your children learn to settle their nerves, the speed of their thoughts, and above all their emotions. If we want our children doing these things, it is imperative that we set the example. The key is to not just think about but more so follow through with action. To help you and your children love yourselves, attempt to engage in routine meditation (even if only for 5-10 minutes). Then follow it up with a short conversation with your children about the things they are most proud of or what they love themselves for.
Share the love. Focus on what it is that makes you irritated, angry, or think with overriding negativity in your life. Then, decide how you can change the way you think about what is generating the ngativity. You cannot change how cold it is outside, we all know that the cold is part of having the luxury of all 4 seasons. However, we can change how we think about the cold, indicating that we get to experience snow and winter activities, we get to play winter sports in our backyards and playgrounds, and often when it is too cold to go outside, we have the opportunity to spend more time with the people we enjoy the most. I remember many of my friends living in the United States asking how I survived winters. I often shared that because there were days we were stuck inside for many hours, we would spend hours with our friends and be forced to create new games, activities, and conversations.
The necessity to be inside was not so much a challenge, but more so a luxury because it strengthened the friendships and connections that would not have happened otherwise. Some of the best conversations with my friends growing up, happened when it was coldest. Rather than complaining about something that is known, focus on the enjoyment that can be shared with the people around you.
Love the outdoors. Loving the outside and getting fresh air can help prevent you and/or your children from struggling with some type of cabin fever. Yes, it can be very cold and some temperatures out there are not fit for humans. However, know the safe threshold for when you can go outside and if it is safe enough for your children to go out for recess, it is safe for you to take them outside after school and on weekends, (even for a short while).
Arrange to visit outdoor attractions within the city, help your children see that there is more to the city than just summer activities. Take the time to create and engage in creative outdoor games with your children that are not necessarily sport-related (but may also celebrate the Olympics). Have your children pick one activity they want to do and then you pick one you want to do to help create more variety and appreciation for the outdoors. Go for walks and create a scavenger hunt for random items within the city or nature to help your children become more aware of what they are surrounded by.
Helping your children become more aware of their surroundings will help lead them to become more mindful of the moments they have with you and you with them.
Help yourselves and your children shift from thinking about everything that is wrong with winter and how cold and dark it can be. Instead bundle up, get creative, and try to love winter and what you can do with it rather than letting negativity define the season. After all, winter is one quarter of the year and there is no reason to fast forward a significant part of your year, just because of the number of degrees Celsius. There are going to be negative events in every season, try not to let them define you and your experiences. Even though it can be cold, life still happens in winter, dress warmer, dress smarter, love the season AND embrace it!
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