Thoughts that will help you, not just survive winter, but thrive through winter!
It’s getting to that time of year again. You know…when it’s freezing outside in the morning and the warm, cosy doona feels so much more inviting than getting up, getting dressed and braving the elements. The time of year when you hear the rain falling on the roof and it’s cold, dark and miserable. It’s winter.
Some people love winter, but for most people it’s the time of year where dreariness sets in and life can feel like a slog. The motivation and enthusiasm that was so high in January and February as the year really kicked off, has now been replaced with the months that can often feel like a long, hard grind, and our emotions can likewise take a dip from positivity to negative town. People refer to it as the winter blues and research shows that there can be bouts of “seasonal” depression, most commonly bought on by winter. Most of us can relate to the winter blues. In the Church world, this is the time of year where attendance tends to drop, volunteers start to tire and the joy of doing things because we “get too” morphs into the drudgery that we “have too”. How do we beat the winter blues?
Scripture encourages us to be consistent when it comes to living out our everyday lives, as we seek to represent Jesus as His ambassadors in our communities. The circumstances of each of our lives will no doubt go up and down, and we never know what may await us just around the next corner, however there are certain attributes that should be present in our lives despite our circumstances. This is not simply a nice suggestion, but rather this is what God wants and expects from those who follow Him. 1 Thessalonians 5 encourages us in this way: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. In light of these great words here are 5 tips for rising above your emotions to conquer the winter blues this year.
The key part to this bit of advice is always. We don’t always feel like rejoicing, and many aspects of life don’t lend themselves to spontaneous outbursts of joy, but in Christ we can rejoice in all things. I once heard a Christian person say “I just don’t have the gift of joy” What I told him is that joy is not something we need to conjure up…it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. If you can’t rejoice, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh!
Instead of saying “Why God?”, learn to say “What God”. What are you teaching me, what do you want me to learn and apply through this circumstance? Remember what Romans 5 says: “Rejoice even in your suffering because suffering produces…perseverance, character and hope and hope does not disappoint! God is working ALL things together for good for those who love Him!
Prayer is the opportunity to communicate with the creator of the universe. That’s pretty cool. He knows what we think and how we feel so it is important to be honest with Him. Many people find prayer difficult, and if that’s you, start small. What is the first thing you do in the morning? If you are like 99% of the population you probably pick up your phone and check Facebook…or Instagram….or Twitter…or text message…or the news. Here’s one way to immediately change your prayer life. Make it the first thing you do every day. Change your default position. Hit the alarm button and pray.
At Follow we have new connect cards that you can grab at the HUB. On the card, you can write down the name of 4 Pre-Christian friends that you commit to praying for daily. Consider where your relationship with them is at. Is it time to connect, care, communicate or challenge them to commit to Jesus? Pray that God would help you in whichever of those stages you find your relationship. If you don’t know what to pray, this could be a good place to start. You may just be surprised at how God answers!
Rejoice always? Give thanks in ALL circumstances? Who wrote this? Obviously, someone with a cushy life! Actually, the Apostle Paul wrote this. The same guy who was beaten, persecuted, falsely accused, imprisoned, ship wrecked and harassed on account of Jesus. If someone had an excuse not to be thankful in all circumstances, then Paul is the man! How do we give thanks always? I have found that holding the conviction that God is always good helps me to always thank Him. Even if the situation is not always good, we can always consider what good God will bring from this. It is often the toughest scenarios of life that God uses to develop the deepest character in our lives. Thanks God for what we are learning, even in those times.
Journal. Regularly documenting our journey can be a very helpful practice and as we do it, take special care to write down the things you are thankful for. The reality is, in Australia, we should never run out of things to be grateful for and writing them down can be a good reminder that we have more ammunition for gratefulness, than we do for grumbling, as highlighted in the Christian song Count your blessings: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God has done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”
It doesn’t have to be 10 chapters a day but God’s Word is nourishment for our soul. It is living and active and will encourage us to keep growing in our faith and it’s the consistency that brings the long term growth. When reading each day ask God, “What is the one thing that you want me to learn today?” It might be a key verse, a word to meditate on or a thought to ponder that will keep you thinking throughout the day. If literal time to sit down is an issue the YouVersion App allows you to listen to the Bible on your Smart Phone or even through your speaker as you drive to work.
Here’s something that’s helped me. If I’m struggling in the word, I supplement it with a podcast which often stimulates new thoughts and enthusiasm to get into the Word. It could be a sermon from another Church or a leadership podcast, so check out ITunes, find out what suits you and plug it into your car on the way to work or pump it out through your head phones as you do your daily exercise. Take note of the word supplement above. Nothing replaces good time digging into the inspired Word of God.
I know what you are thinking. It’s too cold. No, it’s not. Put a jacket on, get out of bed and exercise. It might be a jog or a gym session or it might be as simple as walking around the block. Research has shown that exercise is incredibly good for our mental health. “Exercise makes you feel good because it releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. It can also get you out in the world, help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation, and put you in touch with other people”. When the winter blues threaten to settle in, get up, and get active. Even a little bit of exercise every day will make a big difference.
And while we’re at it, watch what you eat. Nobody wants a salad in winter, but there are many more healthy options rather than indulging regularly on unhealthy junk food. When we eat too much, we often feel sluggish, and lose motivation, so discipline in this area will be your best friend.
Act in the opposite spirit. I have found it helpful when I don’t feel like doing things that are good for me (reading the word, exercise, prayer, eating healthy food), I act in the opposite spirit. I do the opposite of what I feel like doing, because I am convinced it is the best thing. Don’t allow your emotions to rule you. Rule your emotions.