Winter has arrived in Winnipeg! With a crazy snow storm landing in early October, it feels like winter came and left and then came back again. After a little bit of seasonal confusion, I feel that I can safely say winter is here to stay, so let’s embrace it, friends!
This weekend, a few families from our street bundled up and walked over a couple of blocks to Omand’s Creek for some outdoor fun. We spent two hours removing ice from the footbridge, sliding down hills, checking out natural ice rinks, and drinking hot chocolate. All in all, an amazing day.
I’m the first to want to hibernate and hide from frigid temperatures, but I know that actually just makes it harder. I definitely feel the affects of winter on my mental wellness if I’m not being pro-active and embracing it. Here’s what I find helps:
Exercise. This can be indoors or outdoors but incorporating some aerobic activity where I get my heartrate pumping a few times a week definitely keeps me feeling optimistic about life. My favourites ways to stay active throughout the winter are The Fitual, winter running, and Wheelhouse Cycle Club.
Spending time outdoors. Even if it’s reeeeeeaaallly cold, which will happen, it’s still so important to spend time outdoors and breathe in that crisp, cold air. I’m prone to come up with all kinds of reasons to stay in when it’s bitterly cold, so if you see me do that this winter please just refer me back to this post.
Dress warm! Layers, layers, layers. I love wrapping myself up in my MPG Sport Blizzard Down coat, it literally feels like a warm hug. Miles stays cozy in his bright red MEC Toaster Suit and Juliette is in year two with her Gapkids parka. She was very specific that she wanted a black coat with a fur hood just like mom’s.
Make plans with friends. Last winter, we started a monthly pizza night with a couple of other families. It was such a great way to stay connected and enjoy a night out as a family. Making it a pizza night is extra helpful because then no one feels pressure to cook!
Stock up on games and puzzles. Long hours spent indoors can wind up meaning long hours spent on screens if we’re not careful. Having a stack of puzzles and kid-friendly games will get us off our devices and enjoying time together. Some of our favourites are Telestrations, Headbanz and, the classic of classics, Monopoly (or Monopoly Jr.).
There you have it! A few fairly easy solutions to beat winter dulldrums and embrace what can be an unpopular time of year.
You know the that old saying, right? Comparison is the thief of joy. Lately, I’ve been on a real comparison jag, and I can definitely attest to the joy thievery. It’s a nasty habit that just seems to subtly slip in the side door when I’m not vigilant. Next thing you know, I’m longingly looking at someone else’s reality assuming their grass is greener, their kids better “behaved” (whatever that actually means), their success more valuable, and their lives are just generally more charmed than mine.
And frankly, my life is pretty damned charmed. So what gives?
It all comes back to staying in my own lane. I have forever looked at other people’s successes, or perceived successes, and felt somehow inadeqate next to them. Even when what they have doesn’t line up with my own aspirations. Like the beautiful lawyer friend. Or the teacher with summers off to enjoy her family. Or the stay at home mom. The yogi. The athlete. The intellect. All have looked appealing to me over the years and had me wishing I could trade spots and live their life for a while, just to see how it fits. “Maybe if I had what they have, I’d be happier…?”
But then where would I be? I’d be trying to live someone else’s idea of happiness instead of forging my own. And that just won’t work.
I wrote about in a recent post that if I want to find fulfillment, I need to create it for myself each day. It doesn’t matter if I am bagging groceries, living that #momlife, or climbing the corporate ladder, if I’m always looking around at others and comparing my life to theirs, satisfaction will always be at arm’s length.
Sometimes I think I seem to just write about the same thing over and over in this little blog. How to practise gratitude. How to live a life free of fear. How to feel whole and happy. These themes are just so reoccurring in my life. It’s not that I actually have an authority on “how to” do any of these things. It’s more that I’m trying to figure it out as I go along. Writing about it seems to help.
There are days that I feel like the latest bloomer who ever lived. Especially when I see women 10 or 15 years my junior out their KILLING IT in their careers. But then there I go again with comparisons… I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not taken the long scenic way around the mountain. And I wouldn’t trade my past, however difficult it was at times, for anything.
In this world of social media, it almost feels impossible some days NOT to make comparisons. There’s a saying I learned in recovery that goes, “I was comparing my insides to other people’s outsides.” There’s a lot of variability from most people’s insides to what they show you on the outside and even more variables when it comes to what they post on social media.
Practicing non-comparison is vigilant work in this day of Instagram and influencers. I am one who can be easily influenced, so it’s so important that I stay in my yard and admire my own messy, full-of-weeds garden. Otherwise I’m headed for trouble.
Maybe some of you can relate. Just a reminder that your garden is beautiful whether it’s manicured or overgrown with dandelions.
Do you have any bad habits? I do. Several, actually. None that are necessarily harmful or that I worry too much about. I feel I also have good habits and so it all balances outs. I work out and run regularly, and I eat fairly well. So, I’m all good, right?
Almost… but there is one nasty habit that I have to break. Part of me doesn’t really WANT to break it, but I know I NEED to break it.
I spend too much time on my phone.
There, I admitted it. I’m sure it’s probably an addiction (but I prefer to call it a ‘bad habit’). My guess is that I’m not alone with this phone habit, am I? We live in a society of fifteen second videos and perfectly curated Instagram feeds constantly bombarding us with ideas of how we can be better, thinner and more stylish versions of ourselves. And, unfortunately, it’s got me hooked. Part of me figures since we are all basically hooked on our phones, then why should I have to bother changing anything.
The answer is, I think it’s bad for my mental health and stunts potential opportunity for growth. And I don’t want to be stunted.
Moreover, I find myself CONSTANTLY negotiating and putting limits on my kids’ screen-time (I’ve also been known to nag Jason about picking up his phone while we are talking or eating dinner together). In reality, I’m probably the worst for this in my family and (shame on me) if anyone dares to police my phone habit, they’re likely to get a quick snipe back at them! So, I’ve decided it’s time I police myself a little and start building better screen-time habits.
In order to put limits on my bad habit, I know I need to replace it with good habits. With that in mind, I’ve come up with three tactics to put into place to switch the bad to good.
1. Put the phone in a drawer and put on some good tunes.
One of the times of day I am particularly bad for mindless scrolling is after the school/dinner-making hour. Juliette and Miles will usually be playing or watching a show and eating a snack around this time. I tend to enjoy some time chilling out and scrolling my phone before I start to pull supper together in the kitchen. Isn’t that awful?? I could be spending quality time with my kids but instead I’m wasting time on Instagram. I feel a little gross just admitting it!
This time of day organically starts to change as the weather warms up, and we naturally start spending more time playing outside with our neighbours. But until that happens (spring weather can feel free to show up anytime…), we tend to stay indoors more between the hours of 4 and 6 pm. So, rather than stick my nose (and theirs) in a screen, I’m going to put on some music, pull out some puzzles or colouring, and enjoy some time with the kids. Maybe we’ll have a little dance party or handstand contest! I can leave the tunes playing while cooking dinner and maybe even get the kids to help in the kitchen. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that children learn from what they see, not what they’re told. If I want them to have less screen time, I need to set that example. It starts with me!
2. Morning meditation
I doubt that spiritual gurus and wellness coaches have been spreading the word about the benefits of meditation and setting intentions for the day because it’s a BAD idea!
I’ve dabbled with meditation on and off over the years but rarely stayed committed for any length of time. My excuse is always that “mornings are crazy with the kids,” yadda, yadda… But honestly, I spend twenty to thirty minutes upstairs blowdrying my hair, putting on makeup, and looking at my phone every morning. During that half hour, the kids rarely come upstairs. With that in mind, I know I can definitely dedicate five minutes daily to a morning meditation. Five minutes may not seem like much time but it feels like a manageable starting place for a beginner.
In the past, when I’ve played around with meditating, I used the Headspace app on my phone and found it super helpful. My plan is to start using that app again to get me into the habit and to acquire some helpful meditation tools. The narrator, whose voice is so calming and gentle, presents guided meditations of any length you choose. You can also set up the app to send you notifications throughout the day with mindful messages and little bits of wisdom.
3. Read a book
Finally, I am going to start reading BOOKS again, dammit! I used to read every night before bed and now I lay under my covers, comfy and cozy, and I scroll. For far too long, I scroll and peruse images of people I know, and many don’t, doing random things that have nothing to do with me. I waste SO MUCH TIME scrolling! I don’t want to be that person! I want to be the Ali that reads again!
It’s not for lack of reading material that I wind up scrolling. Frankly, I’m just being lazy. I have a stack of books just waiting for me to pick them up. Good books, too! Becoming by Michelle Obama is first up on my list. I started reading it a couple of months ago and set it down after two chapters with the intention of picking it up again the next night… and then, I just didn’t.
On the plus side (and in my defense), I have been reading an excellent novel with Juliette for the last month. Every night we read a few chapters of Wonder. Have you read it? I cry almost every night while reading it to Juliette. Technically it’s children’s literature, but I think it’s a beautiful book for readers of all ages. Highly recommend! They made it into a film with Julia Roberts that we are going to watch when we finish the book. I’ll be sure to have a fresh box of tissue nearby…
My reading goal at one book per month. Maybe I’ll even start a book club here on the blog! Would you join? Leave a comment below and if there’s interest that could be something fun to roll out in the coming months.
There you have it! I am consciously committing to spending less time on my phone and MORE time doing things that are actually good for me. Here’s where the accountability comes in: I am going to report back to you on the blog how I’m doing with my commitment. I promise I’ll be honest! I plan to write quick weekly updates on my progress and, thanks to that awful little iPhone feature that reports your screen-time, I’ll have actual measurables to tell me if I’m succeeding or not.