How to Find Comfort and Joy This Winter
Winter doesn’t need to be a miserable season for people with MS. Here are some ways to seek out and find comfort and joy during the winter.
1. Adjust the temperature
In households challenged by individual temperature needs, it’s okay to clarify that temperature, for a person with MS, is not simply about comfort, but about preventing a relapse.
Even so, it may be impossible to control your thermostat.
If you need, but can’t achieve, a warmer house, warm socks and sweaters, even fingerless gloves and scarves, can keep you cozy.
If the house is too warm, crack the window in the rooms you most inhabit, wear lighter clothing to prevent overheating, and drink cold water.
Note: At night, it’s best to keep a cool bedroom and use extra blankets than it is to overheat your sleeping space.
2. Try essential oils
Pure essential oils can improve mood dramatically as well as help with concentration or relaxation.
Lavender is great to use at bedtime or whenever you are feeling stressed. Peppermint or eucalyptus is a fantastic morning pick-me-up. Rosemary or citrus can improve focus and concentration.
You can enjoy essential oils in a number of ways:
- Pillow or body sprays
- Essential oil diffusers
- Soaps, lotions, or body oils
- Bath product (fizzies, shower bombs, bath salts, bubbles)
- Simple cotton ball application (sniff as necessary)
Safety first! Make sure to use 100 percent pure essential oils. Do not ingest. Also, products that come infused with essential oils may be safer than direct application of pure oils to the skin.
3. Drink water
It can be easy to become dehydrated during the winter. You’ll know you’re dehydrated if you experience dry eyes, chapped lips, cracked skin, and fatigue.
Aside from home humidification, the best way to stay hydrated is to drink water. It could be hot tea, cold water on ice, even water with lemon slices (winter is the season for citrus, after all).
Try splashing water with a few drops of your favorite bitters for added flavor: I like grapefruit, rhubarb, or peppermint.
4. Be productive
Winter can mean cabin fever if we don’t prepare for shut-in time due to the weather. Or, let’s face it, a flu outbreak in town may also force you to self-quarantine.
What you spend your time doing can substantially set the tone for your days inside.
- If you like quietude, try jigsaw puzzles, adult coloring books or crafts.
- Cooking, baking, and making pantry items (jams, spice blends, nut milks, ghee) can be productive and pleasant.
- Knitting, crocheting and woodworking are great hobbies.
- Tend to your houseplants (or start an indoor garden).
- Read some classic novels; binge on celebrity magazines.
- Send cards and letters to service personnel overseas; they need kind words from home!
Pick the things that interest you most, that you will look forward to waking up to accomplish daily
5. Choose your views
If you find yourself in front of a screen for much of the winter, it doesn’t need to be a bad thing.
- Quality television programming does exist. Check out highly recommended dramas, home improvement shows, documentaries, classic movies. Try not to binge, especially overnight.
- YouTube and Instagram are sources for positive and inspiring videos and images (TED talks are really fantastic!).
- Comedy can be found in every form of media.
- Podcasts (screen-free, but media, nonetheless) offer access to uplifting, interesting narrative.
- Social media, in small doses and done selectively, can keep us connected with our loved ones no matter where they are.
Be selective and intentional. And, if media consumption begins to make you feel bad, set it aside. Media vacations are a popular solution, even if only for a week.
6. See the light
Try to go outside for 20 minutes every morning. This helps reset your rhythms, gives you a boost of natural vitamin D, and elevates your mood.
So-called “happy lights” used in the morning can achieve the same thing if it’s too cold or nasty to go outside.
7. Do yourself a daily kindness
Simple, small acts of self-care can be effective for lifting one’s spirits.
- Eat an apple a day.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Do an easy yoga pose to still your body and mind.
- Listen to cheerful music.
- Swap out ordinary hand soap for something with a bright fragrance.
- Look at family pictures.
- Feed the birds or squirrels.
- Get a manicure or pedicure.
8. Reach out to others
Isolation can be our greatest enemy in winter.
Whether you make a phone call to a friend, meet a loved one for coffee, send funny texts to a sibling, or contribute to a live chat online, your interactions with people you admire and respect can go a long way toward bringing you joy.
9. Go outside
Forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) can happen at any time of year. When the weather allows, bundle up and take a stroll (or a roll) in a natural setting.
Be wary of ice and snow, but if the pavement is clear, go for it!
Sitting quietly and breathing mindfully for just 5 minutes a day can be restorative, should the winter blues come calling.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
- Assume an easy posture in a quietly, dimly lit place with a comfortable temperature.
- Shut your eyes, or keep your eyes open and focus on something still, like a candle flame.
- Breathe in for 4 counts. Hold your breath for 4 counts. Release it over 4 counts. Repeat. Focus as much as you can on the breaths, recognizing, then letting go of, stray thoughts.
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