Mindfulness Methods Help People Learn to Embrace Winter With Smiles, Not Swears

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Seniors: Here’s some advice and pre-planned solutions for some of the difficult aspects of this chilly season.

Winter can be a difficult season for many people, especially seniors. The days are shorter and the nights are longer. After the bright sunshine of summer and autumn’s colorful foliage, the winter months can seem dark and bare. Fortunately, there are many helpful ways to embrace the winter months. With knowledge, some helpful advice and pre-planned solutions to some of the difficult aspects of the season, you may find yourself embracing, instead of dreading, winter.
How To Change Our Negative Thoughts to Positive Ones
It is not unusual to associate winter with negative thoughts. Winter brings darkness, cold, and blizzards that make it hard to leave the house. Challenge these negative thoughts by taking a minute to use a mindfulness tool to envision an image of yourself during winter. You may see yourself covered with a blanket or walking and slipping on ice. Now, instead of negative images, think about some positive things that occur during winter. Maybe include a snowman, beautiful images of snowflakes, a cup of hot tea or a blazing fire.
Next, think for a minute about the words that you normally associate with winter. You could take a piece of paper and write down these words or simply say them out loud. You may think of cold, ice, snow, falls, loneliness, darkness, etc. Now draw a line next to these words and write opposite words or solutions to challenge your fears or negative thoughts.
Actions to take 
When we associate the winter season with words like “cold,” “ice,” “falls,” “loneliness” and “darkness,” this demonstrates our dread of the season and the potential risks facing us. As we begin to challenge these fears with solutions and positive words, our anxiety and feelings of hopelessness associated with the winter season will begin to dissipate.
“Cold” is a rational word to think about when the winter season comes to mind. Now, let’s think about solutions to feeling cold. You can make sure your winter clothes are readily available and have an extra blanket and sweater always on hand. Maintenance of your heating system is also a good preventative action to take. If you need assistance paying your heating bills there are ways to get help.
It is natural to fear falling during different situations throughout life. If we think back to childhood, we were afraid of falling when we started walking or riding a bike. Seniors may be afraid of falls during inclement weather. Purchase appropriate footwear with anti-skid materials. Keeping the sidewalks and driveways clear of ice will also help prevent falls. Plan in advance for someone to handle snow and ice removal before the weather conditions worsen. Ask a neighbor or family member, or hire an outside service. Don’t risk extra exertion which can lead to falls or potential injuries. There are also things you can do to avoid falls when walking outside including: using a walker or handrail; asking for assistance; or having someone help with your transportation and transfers. Planning for emergency weather and health situations by having flashlights, extra batteries, emergency health alerts and necessary phone numbers will help reduce fears of isolation as well.
As we continue the process of challenging our fears and replacing our negative thoughts with solutions, it is helpful to look at our thoughts of “loneliness” and “darkness.” There are steps you can take to help improve your mood during the season. Eating nutritious meals and having food stocked in our house can help with a positive mindset. To help make the days more fulfilling, plan indoor activities and find ways to maintain contact with friends and family. Connect with the outside world and close friends/family through Skype, FaceTime or good old-fashioned telephone calls. Staying active is essential to keeping us strong, feeling less lonely and maintaining our balance when facing inclement weather.
Winter can be a beautiful season that does not need to be associated with negative feelings, thoughts and images. Taking preventive actions and challenging our negative thoughts will prove helpful in approaching the winter season in a different way. Winter can really be associated with positive thoughts and a smile!
Marcy Shoemaker is a psychologist at Abramson Center.