I’ve been enjoying the snow. I even enjoyed shoveling it. After all, it is exercise. Most of my activities don’t require upper body strength, so this is one of the few great ways to get an upper body workout while I’m NOT focusing on working out. My dirty little secret is I really hate working out. Even though I’ve done it all my life, it is a necessary evil unless I find a way to enjoy it. Creating a path through the snow to enable me to get out and about easily is very rewarding in itself. It’s one of those small accomplishments that makes me feel like I’ve done something.
I have felt it a little the last few weeks. A low level of sadness has crept in on occasion as I sit here at home with the knowing that winter has just begun. The act of getting out and being outside which is so good for staving off my depression will only become more difficult. I had this same feeling in July in Louisiana. While I love getting outside and enjoying what nature has to offer, my primary driver in being active is to keep my lifelong dance with depression at bay. I’ve been fairly free of it for over 10 years. I have short bouts and ups and downs but nothing like what I experienced chronically my first 45 years. I don’t want to go back there. It is my biggest motivator.
It’s dark when I go to work, and it’s dark when I come home. Yesterday was so cold I didn’t walk Ashok at all. I felt trapped by the cold like I felt trapped by the heat in the summer in Louisiana. And I know that it won’t really be over until March or April. I have a ways to go. Thankfully, the single-digit temperatures are rising, and we’ll be above freezing for several days later in the week. I’m already acclimating, and 35 sounds – and feels – almost warm. 40 degrees is a heat wave in comparison to yesterday. I know that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and I know that it can kickstart something I don’t want.
I joined a Virtual Boot Camp with my friend Jessica “the Bitch” Sprenkel about 6 weeks ago. Exercise is key for me in staying clear of the heaviness of depression. I wanted to stay home last night. It was bitterly cold. My body urged me to stay in and just relax. But my mind reminded me that if I missed Monday’s workout, I’d be behind for the holidays. And I knew that if I started letting the cold get to me in December, I’ll be behind the 8-ball by spring. I pulled myself together and did what I needed to do. And I feel so much better this morning.
Another piece of my mental health puzzle is being social and connected. I am an extrovert, and I need interactions with people in order to keep my energy bubbling. I’m in between now. My besties in Louisiana – while only a phone call away – are not available for coffee or lunch or a walk in the snow. And I don’t have besties here yet. I have some great possibilities, but I’m working on building community. I got on Meetup.com this week and signed up for a Christmas party with one group in Grand Rapids, and a Christmas Eve hike with another outdoors group. Meetup is awesome because it’s an open invitation to meet people. It was critical for me to meet like-minded women in Louisiana, and it will be for me here.
I watched this Ted Talk last night about getting control of your free time.
I loved her ideas about thinking about how you want your upcoming year to look in advance. That seems very motivating to me. I used a similar process when I thought about moving here. What do I want my life to look like up here this time? The last time I was here I was so focused on finding a man that I lost sight of the experience. Now that I am comfortable with being single and know my interests, I can focus on experiencing this area in a different way. That’s why I signed up for ice skating lessons. I want to LIVE here. I don’t want to “make it” through winter.
My exercise, spiritual practice, ice skating, dressing comfortably for this weather, hiking and making meaningful connections are my “paths” to live through the winter. I could trudge through the ice at my door, but I’d rather exert a little extra energy – and maybe even build my adaptation muscles – by clearing the way for success and happiness. By this time in my life I know the formula. Nothing is 100% guaranteed, but I’m in much better shape to make a difference at work, build meaningful relationships and remain healthy if I take care of myself.
What are the things that you need to do – the paths to good health and happiness – for you? Do you find it hard to do them? How do you motivate yourself?