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Creating a Winter Reframe

Winter image with glass ball

Creating a Winter Reframe for Better Winter Wellbeing

During the winter, residents of northern Norway experience some of the shortest and darkest days in the country. And in the settlement of Longyearbyen in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago about 800km north of the mainland, the average daytime temperature in February is around -13°C. Yet research into winter wellbeing1 found that those people living in the more northern parts of Norway experienced more positive emotions and greater life satisfaction in the winter than those in the south, and this outcome was associated with their beliefs and expectations about winter.

So having a positive winter mindset may have a role to play in how we experience winter and could have a beneficial impact on our wellbeing. However, a positive winter mindset isn’t about ignoring reality or pretending that everything about winter is perfect. Instead, it’s about choosing how you approach what’s here, recognising that, as with any season, it’s possible to see both the positives and the negatives, and making the most of what winter has to offer.

So here are four things you can do to help you reframe your thoughts about winter and relate to winter in a new way:

Create a sense of anticipation about winter

Consider what you can enjoy doing in winter that perhaps you couldn’t or wouldn’t do at other times of the year, such as going for a peaceful walk in the crisp, white snow or watching your favourite feel-good movies snuggled under a blanket. Also, think about those things you’ve been wanting to do for ages but haven’t yet got round to. Planning them in for winter ensures you have various things to look forward to during the season. So what would you really love to do? Take an art class? Join an online choir? Read a novel? Knit a woolly scarf? Write poetry? Something else?

Connect with others who have a positive winter mindset

The same researchers exploring wellbeing in Norway suggest that it may be easier to feel more positive towards winter if you’re part of a community of people who appreciate winter’s unique offering. You may even like to journal a list of positives about winter and then swap ideas with a friend.

Embrace the outdoors

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stay warm and cosy indoors. In fact, it can be lovely and comforting. However, spending long periods of time on the sofa can actually negatively affect our motivation and mood. A winter walk can be much more enjoyable than you think and spending time in nature can be very good for our mental health. When you’re wrapped up warm, the cooler winter air can feel refreshing and energising rather than cold and unpleasant. You can even treat yourself to a winter spiced hot drink when you return home (see below).

If you can’t get into nature right now due to COVID restrictions, research suggests that simply listening to nature sounds2 or looking at an image of green space3 can be relaxing and good for our wellbeing too.

Cosy up your life

How could you introduce some cosiness into your life and nurture yourself over winter? Bubble baths, chunky jumpers, books, fluffy socks, fairy lights and diffusers are all popular ways of getting cosy over winter. Or what about buying a selection of winter spices such as ginger, cardamon, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, and creating your own warming winter drinks. There are lots of recipes on the internet for spiced winter drinks such as chai, gingerbread latte and warm, mulled apple juice. You could even create a cosy wintertime tradition with a friend. For example, perhaps you could meet once a month during winter for a warming hot chocolate and a chat in a country pub with a fabulous open fire. If lockdown restrictions prevent this, then take your meetup online and replace the open fire with a soft blanket to curl up in. You can even turn off the ceiling light and use electric candles to create a gentle glow.

Reframing winter doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll spend December to February with a big smile fixed on your face. However, it can help you to enjoy the things you can do, rather than regretting what you can’t, and allows you to focus on making the best of whatever the winter season shares with us.Winter is coming: Wintertime mindset and wellbeing in Norway (Leibowitz & Vittersø, 2020)

© Michelle Drapeau, 2021

  1. Winter is coming: Wintertime mindset and wellbeing in Norway (Leibowitz & Vittersø, 2020)
  2. Mind-wandering and alternations to default mode network connectivity when listening to naturalistic versus artificial sounds. (Gould van Praag et al., 2017).
  3. Autonomic nervous system responses to viewing green and built settings: Differentiating between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. (Van den Berg et al, 2015).

Image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash