My fifth favorite holiday, Groundhog Day, is here! It is upon us! Despite what Punxsutawney Phil decided, Spring will come eventually, as will some well-deserved sunshine upon our faces and minds.
I know I'm not the only one who struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as "the winter blues." For me, winter is not too fun. I have a low tolerance for the cold and my body just needs sunlight to be happy. I have a cool sun lamp, but nothing beats the real thing.
I think we could adopt some healthy habits as the weather warms. Most of them have to do with simple observations that get us out of our head and into the beautiful world we live in. Here are 6 examples I had in mind.
1. Notice the people around you.
The entire week preceding this semester, I was alone in my apartment quarantining. I had never been alone for that long before, and I realized that I am much more extroverted than I had previously assumed. The first day of class, I was so grateful to see all of these (masked) students walking around on their way to their own classes. For the first time in a while, I didn't feel alone or even lonely, even though I wasn't communicating with these busy strangers. I felt so alive, and the campus did, too. Like a living, breathing organism, OSU's student body was moving and thriving.
This Spring, let's make this kind of rejuvenating observation a habit.
Don't just focus on your thoughts or all of the burdens and things you have to do today while walking to class or through the grocery store; observe the life around you. Think about the lives others are leading in their own mini worlds and how special it is to share this world with so many little universes. Connect with your housemates and friends with the intention to treasure each other's presence. This could prevent you from internally spiraling, as well.
Go outside and observe your surroundings.
Ah, the great outdoors. I have written before how nature is proven to has positive psychological benefits. It is an amazing drug. Not a cure-all for true disorders, but a definite mood lifter. Taking time to go outside can be day-changing even if it's just to your background to feel the sun and fresh air on your face. However, if you do go deeper into nature, explore the life abundant there. Listen to the conversations of the birds; think about the journey of whatever animal left those tracks in the mud; smell the fragrance of the flower that bee is sitting in; listen to the leaves of that old tree over there.
This observation will connect you to the earth and remind you that not only are we never alone, but we are actually small pieces in an unimaginably huge puzzle of billions of life forms. Isn't that amazing?
Some great people throughout the years have understood and internalized this idea well. For example...
"The Earth has music for those who listen" -George Santayana
"In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, -- he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." -Albert Einstein
This spring, let's get out more and take in God's puzzle we are blessed to contribute to.
Keep one day each week to sleep in and rest.
How many times have you said to yourself "If I stay up, I will have more time to study. I don't need the sleep." or "I can't afford to rest right now, I have too many things to do." or "I don't care that I'm too busy because I want to have these opportunities and experiences."?
I have said all of these things, most of them out loud to try and justify my unhealthy behaviors. If we just go and go and go, we aren't really living for ourselves anymore, are we? Can we even appreciate the hard work we do if that's all we ever do?
This Spring, let's learn to say no so that we can have time to rest and catch up on the sleep that allows us to be the superstars we are.
Have you-time; be selfish.
Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash
With the new time we've freed by saying no, let's celebrate ourselves with things we like for fun! Open up a book, download a new video game, start a new painting, learn a new language!
Hobbies allow us to have an external representation of who we are and what we are interested in. This tangible personification gives us an intimate connection with ourselves in a way no work or school-related task could ever compare to.
We must remember that it is not selfish to take care of ourselves. It is not selfish to be alone to recharge away from our loved ones. If anything, it is selfless! By recharging and knowing ourselves better, we are better empathizers, friends, students, workers, and family members.
This Spring, let's find a new hobby or rekindle an old one as we prioritize friendship with ourselves.
Have check-in conversations with yourself.
Woman Looking Up
Everything is instant online. If it isn't, we get impatient and find something faster and better.
Unfortunately, we cannot treat our bodies this way. Yes, our brains are supercomputers, but our complexities are too valuable to breeze past. In this process, we forget about ourselves. Not literally - I mean, I don't think any generation looks at themselves more than mine does.
Metaphorically, we forget who we are and where we are. In a way, the internet dissociates ourselves from reality. I think this is a toxic habit we have unintentionally fallen into. We need to learn to ask ourselves, "How am I really doing today? Is today a good day or a bad day? Why?"
It is extremely hard to even find the questions to ask. Consequently, finding the answers can seem impossible. But it is important to try, anyway. The more we try, the easier it gets.
This Spring, then, let's make it a habit to take five minutes each day to just close our eyes and see what we're feeling and thinking.
It may be easier to do this by meditating. Listen to the sounds in the space you're in; pay attention to the feelings in or on your body; pay attention to what your mind wanders to in these five minutes. Let all of these things happen and understand the space you take up--space you belong in and deserve to take up.
Remember that nothing is forever.
In the case of winter, I must remember that it won't be cold forever. This helps to cheer me up when I worry that I will always be cold or always be away from my favorite hiking spots.
Conversely, when I do get to go back out in the warm sunshine, I must remember that that will go away in a few months, too. This mindset reminds me to never take these wonders and opportunities for granted; I am more likely, then, to soak up every minute in these positive experiences that I can and to live in the moment.
This Spring, let's remember that both good and bad things are temporary, and adjust our internal paradigms, accordingly.
Which of these tips is your favorite? If you have your own ideas you'd like to share with me, please let me know! I would love to hear them.
Until next month, stay bright! -Gabby