Practicing Gratitude in Winter
All this snow really got me thinking. Not that long ago, I feel I lost my childlike love of winter. However, after recently inquiring with myself… I think I got it back.
This realization, that I can and do appreciate winter, is something that I understand as a real-life example of how a gratitude practice truly can rewire your brain and cause you to become a happier person. Many of us know the research and the practice: each morning, write down three things you are grateful for. The research findings report that individuals who do this gratitude practice, in return, truly become more grateful and happy.
Now, I don’t really write three things down each morning but, I do go on a daily moving meditation venture outside. I either hike, walk, snowshoe, or cross country ski a half mile loop through the woods at my house. During that time I breathe, practice mindfulness, and reflect on what I’m grateful for. I know this practice has improved my state of mind. When I start to feel snappy/overwhelmed, I can pretty quickly trace back to the fact that I’ve skipped my daily meditation hike for a day or more. Not carving out time for myself truly does affect me negatively. That, and if I haven’t eaten in awhile. :) I’m a very basic human.
Three ideas for changing your winter mindset from positive to negative:
My switch from positive to negative feelings about winter started with my friend Nora. She LOVES winter. I thought it was weird that she loved winter. Usually people gripe about the hassles of winter - it’s really easy to get into that habit isn’t it? After hanging outside with my winter-loving friend for a few years in the cold, wind, snow, and ice, I grew to appreciate the season. Also, my dog LOVES snow and I cannot help but love winter when I see him running through the snow or obsessively snow-bathing (wiggling in the snow on his back - it’s the CUTEST!!!).
The old saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing”. I get bundled up and get my body out the door. After a bit of movement, I generally find that I’m warmed up and content. The fresh air always feels good in the end. It’s more rewarding and refreshing for me to walk/hike/snowshoe/cross country ski outside or even to shovel the driveway or stack wood outside then to grind it out on the treadmill. I experience a lot of relief and clarity after being outside.
Sometimes I journal about my mindset, or what I’m grateful for. Most of the time, I recall what I’m grateful for on my daily walk. I like to think about the basics that I’m very privileged to have such as a roof over my head and food on the table. I also often think about sunshine and how much I love it or being able to witness my dog bury his whole head in the snowbank while searching for his tennis ball. There are so many things to be grateful for!
I know it’s still early winter, and that it’s generally still new and exciting during this time. I’m not perfect at this whole “loving winter” thing, but I’m definitely trying and noticing a difference. I’m hoping that I can keep up this winter gratitude practice through the more challenging months of late January and February (...and even March in Northern Minnesota if we’re being honest!)
Want to begin to explore your own avenues for finding gratitude this winter? Here are a few suggested journal prompts:
What is one small and manageable thing I could daily to improve my outlook on winter?
What is one negative thing I say often about winter? How could I flip it to a positive thought instead?
What are three things I am grateful for today?
Good luck winter yogis! <3
Bryana Cook (and dog Sunny)