Learning to Love Winter

learning to love winter

For as a long as I can remember, I’ve been a committed Winter-Hater.

I’ve complained and cursed my way through year after year of bitter cold temps, relentless grey skies, and unforgiving snowfalls. I’ve probably gone WEEKS without breathing fresh air between December and March (not including a few gulps while sprinting from car to door). I’ve gone to bed, night after night, bitter about the fact that I had to wear a long-sleeved shirt AND a sweatshirt, with an extra blanket over my side of the bed and those slippers you warm up in the microwave on my feet.

I’m not sure how the winter-hating started. Maybe it was a subconscious rebellion against the cross-country move from North Carolina to Minnesota I went through as a 3rd grader. Maybe it had to do with the paper route I had in 6th grade, and the horrible underdressing job that left me with frost-bitten cheeks and hands after one horrible sub-zero delivery. Maybe it was the time I tried cross-country skiing and somehow got wet socks in the first ten minutes of a 2-hour loop.

However it started, the winter-hating just kept growing over the years, until it was practically a part of my identity. Everyone knew I was 100% cold-intolerant—thanks to how obnoxiously vocal I was about it. I had no trouble small-talking with strangers in the winter—UGH, can you BUH-LIEVE this weather?! I was the person who would ask, “Why do we all keep LIVING here?”—but I was never kidding. I really wanted to know. Didn’t anyone else realize that places like San Diego and Austin existed??

And then I had kids, and was introduced to some brand new horrors of winter. There was the wildly painful process of putting on snow gear (and the buying of all that snow gear), along with the coat-on/coat-off car seat drama. Plus, I was a stay-at-home mom, which is wonderful in the summer but a WHOLE DIFFERENT THING in the winter.

Basically, if there was something negative to say or think about winter, I said and thought it. I let my “just get through this” attitude run the show, and you know what?

It. Sucked.

I finally realized (honestly, just this year) that none of it was helping. All the winter-hating was doing NOTHING but making my life harder.

Complaining wasn’t giving me any relief—it was just burying me deeper into my misery. Strengthening my grouchy resolve.

It’s ironic, really, because in all other areas of my life, I’m a huge advocate of thinking a certain way to feel a certain way, rather than letting circumstances dictate mood. I’m a big fan of monitoring your thoughts and words to consciously shape the person you are. Of choosing positivity, and working for it, rather than expecting it to just show up on its own.

But for whatever reason, when it came to winter, I’d always taken the easy road—which was to complain and feel sorry for myself without changing anything. The truth is, I’d never really given winter a chance. I’d never tried to enjoy it, or even to see any good in it.

Finally, this year, I decided to make a change. I made a conscious decision to STOP actively hating winter. To stop acting like I don’t belong in the Midwest (“I’m a beach person!”). To stop victimizing myself because my circumstances were “forcing” me to live here (they weren’t—not really). To stop letting myself think I’d be happier if I lived somewhere warmer (I wouldn’t).

The first thing I did was pretty simple: I invested in some quality outdoor gear. No more going full winters with nothing but a wool pea coat (honestly, I’d be shivering in 40 degree weather in that thing). I bought a new coat during a Black Friday sale—a heavy, knee-length down coat with a fur trimmed hood. I also got some of those wrap-around earmuffs, so I didn’t have to sacrifice my hair for a hat (my super-fine hair takes Hat Hair to a whole new level).

Step two was a little harder: I started monitoring what I thought and said about winter. I paid attention to my inner dialogue, and whenever the winter negativity started to creep in, I’d recognize it and redirect it. When we got our first big snowfall, I tried to focus on how beautiful it made our neighborhood look, rather than thinking my usual thoughts (something to the effect of: “ugh, sh*t’s getting REAL now”).

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I also changed the way I talked to other people about winter weather. I tried to hit the same tone I’d use in the summer: “This heat is crazy! We’ve had the sprinkler out every day this week!” Not positive or negative–just general commentary. It reminds me of a phrase that’s popular in yoga: “observe without judgment.”

Step three of Operation Stop Hating Winter sounds simple, but totally isn’t (especially with kids): Go outside. A lot. Every day, if possible.

Some days, I spend 15 minutes wrestling my kids and I into our gear just for 15 minutes of outside time. But it still counts.

I point their little faces toward the sun (vitamin D, do your thang!), make a snowball or two, maybe go for a “Blanket Walk” (a trip around the block in the wagon with a big, cozy blanket), and call it a day. I swear, the calming effect of the fresh air lasts for hours.

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The last step in my plan is one I’m still working on: embrace winter activities. The only way I can see myself really, actually looking forward to winter is if there’s something I can do then that I can’t do in any other season. I’ve been wanting to try snowboarding for FOREVER, and this year, I’m committed to making it happen. It might be painful (…it’ll definitely be painful…) but who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love.

And if I actually fell in love with a winter activity?? What a game changer that would be.

I’m only a few months into my new strategy (and, I know, it hasn’t been that rough of a winter so far), but I’ve already seen monumental improvements in my Winter Attitude. Instead of letting my bitterness bury me, like it has every other year, I’m actually fighting back.

Maybe someday, I’ll live near a beach. (Or at least, somewhere that never gets below 50 degrees.) That’s still a dream.

But for now, I’m here. I’m right where I belong, and I might as well enjoy it. Not just half of it (the May to October half), but ALL of it.

Thanks to a few mental tweaks and one sweet new coat, it’s honestly been one of my best winters ever.

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