Preparing for a Pandemic Winter
The winter months are already tough for a lot of people. With cold weather, we experience less sunlight and more time indoors than the rest of the year. Many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a depression that occurs in the winter months that’s characterized by low energy, feeling bleak and losing interest in daily activities. Living through a pandemic during the wintertime adds a new layer of dread for this upcoming season. It’s going to make it a lot more difficult to socialize outdoors, adding to the loneliness of the situation.
This Vox article explains how we can generate more positive feelings about the current situation: by shifting our focus outward. By directing the attention off of ourselves, we’re able to take on a greater perspective and focus on the things around us that make us feel fulfilled. There’s three practices that can help us focus on something outside of ourselves:
A Sense of Social Connectedness
There is a lot of psychological research that supports the idea that social connectedness is one of the keys to happiness. Having strong social connections boosts our mental health and has shown to contribute to increased physical health. While socialization during the pandemic is more complicated, we can still find creative ways to connect with others. One technique that’s been largely adopted in Canada and New Zealand is the “double bubble.” This is where two households make a pact to hang out with each other, as long as they are distanced from everyone else.
Another type of social connection that can bring us joy is doing kind acts for others. We can practice acts of kindness while still keeping our distance too, whether that’s picking up groceries for an older neighbor or donating to a charity that is meaningful to us. Giving back brings us social connectedness and is a great way to go beyond ourselves for joy.
A Sense of Purpose
Having a sense of purpose can help us to cope with isolation. Even in the gloomiest of times, people who have a sense of purpose have something to hold onto and guide them through it. Your sense of purpose could be simple, like caring for your pet, volunteering for a cause you care about or writing letters back and forth to a friend.
A Sense of Inspiration
We can increase our sense of inspiration by regularly feeling gratitude. Remembering that we have others to lean on and that we aren’t alone can significantly reduce our stress and inspire us to give thanks for those around us. Practicing gratitude journaling helps with this. It helps to especially focus on the people we are grateful for, rather than superficial things. (You can see a trend here about just how important connection with others is).
Another way to gain inspiration is to find things that bring us curiosity or awe in our daily life. Finding joy in even the most ordinary things, like in the path you walk near your home each day or the way a home-cooked meal tastes when you put all the ingredients together, can increase our emotional wellbeing.
When the winter season fully sets in this year, shifting our focus outward is a useful tool to cope with the bleak weather and ongoing pandemic. Transferring our energy away from ourselves and towards the people and simple things we care about can bring us joy even in the darkest of months. This type of mindset will make us more resilient through it all.
Other Helpful Articles
Tips for Wintertime Self-Care
Seasonal Affective Disorder
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