Saturday, November 30, 2013

How to Thrive during Long, Harsh Winters

In Chicago and elsewhere, the winter can be long and harsh. For example, in Chicago, the winter usually lasts from December to mid-April (4.5 months), and sometimes it snows heavily in mid- or late-March. However, you can thrive during winter by doing the following.

1. Embrace winter.

Embrace winter and flow with it. In particular, learn to appreciate the natural beauty of winter (e.g. a snowy landscape) and realize that winter is just another phase in the cycle of life. All living organisms, including Mother Nature, experience birth, growth, decline, and death. It is the natural flow of life. It is the Way.

In addition, realize that nothing lasts forever. Winter will eventually end, and spring and summer will eventually arrive. You will eventually get beautiful spring weather and 80-degree summer beach weather. In the middle of winter, you can even visualize hot summer weather.

Further, keep things in perspective: the winters in Alaska, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, etc. are much colder, longer, and harsher than are winters in Chicago, New York, London, Berlin, etc.

2. ALWAYS think positively.

This is especially true when you’re facing adversity or even extreme adversity. If it’s mid-March, zero degrees Fahrenheit outside, snowing, icy, and windy, and you’ve already endured 3.5 months of winter, then you can think either positively or negatively about the situation.

You could think, “I HATE this weather. I hate winter. I hate my location. I hate life. Life sucks.”

Alternatively, you could think, “I value and appreciate this weather. It does wake me up instantly when I go outside. Overall, I value and appreciate winter, and I understand its purpose. Overall, I enjoy life.”

If you’re really hardcore, you could think, “I LOVE this weather. It makes me feel truly alive. I love winter. I love life. In fact, winter is my favorite season. I could handle 12 months of winter. I do not need spring, summer, or fall. I do not need a spring break vacation to California or Florida. That would just make me soft.”

It all comes down to your attitude. Winter is difficult only to the extent that you think it is. It is 100% mental. Break through the mental barriers that you impose on yourself.

3. NEVER complain about the weather.

To the extent that you complain to yourself or others, you are cultivating toxic negativity in your own mind and the mind of others.

4. Surround yourself with positive people.

If it’s zero degrees Fahrenheit outside, snowing, icy, and windy but you surround yourself with really positive people, then you will be in pretty good spirits and not mind the weather. However, if you hang around negative people who constantly complain about the weather, then they will only bring you down. So, avoid the whiners and complainers.

5. Meditate daily.

Over time, daily meditation will increase your focus, discipline, awareness, and presence, and it will help relieve stress and anxiety. Please see my previous post, “Zazen Instructions.”

6. Work out consistently.

Working out consistently throughout the winter will help you stay healthy, happy, positive, and productive, and the weather will affect your attitude to a much lesser degree. Who cares that it’s zero degrees Fahrenheit outside when you’re getting stronger and faster in the gym?

In contrast, if you stop working out entirely in the winter, that is probably one of the worst things you can do for your mental health.

7. Stay busy and productive.

If you’re staying busy and productive, you will not have much time to dwell on the weather. Who cares that it’s zero degrees Fahrenheit outside when you’re getting stuff done, improving, progressing, and growing?

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