Even with a lot of holiday cheer accompanying the winter months, many negative connotations also surround the idea of winter. Many people associate this time with coldness, stillness, lifelessness, and dark, short days. It can also be particularly challenging for those in the recovery process—who depend on active and enriching lifestyles—to maintain their mental health and well-being. Changing the way we think about these months can help us maintain a positive outlook that allows us to come out of winter with a renewed sense of self. It is often customary to associate stillness with laziness in our society. However, sometimes being still, self-reflecting, and meditating can be rejuvenating after the summer months when we felt like we always needed to be on the go and doing something outwardly productive. Perhaps, wintertime can be a perfect opportunity to be inwardly productive.
Significance of the Winter Solstice
In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs this year on December 21st. This is the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night. Throughout history, the winter solstice has been a significant time of the year for many cultures, marked by different festivals and rituals. Although it is associated with cold, dark days, many also view it as a time of rebirth. The sun’s symbolic death and rebirth cycle, and the winter solstice’s seasonal significance lies in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.
Since the winter solstice is the longest day of darkness in the year, that means each day thereafter is getting lighter and lighter until it reaches the summer solstice in June when it is the longest day of light. Thinking about winter as a new beginning, a fresh start, and a progression toward the light is much more motivational than always viewing winter through a negative lens.
If you examine these months more closely, you’ll notice that it can be a season to take a step back, think about the past year—what you have achieved and accomplished—and what you’re planning for the future. It is a time to make new resolutions and focus on what is to come. We associate this thought process with the celebration of New Year’s Day, but it is a healthy way to reflect at any time of the year, especially heading into winter. It can be an opportunity to bring more clarity and focus into your life.
Representation in Art
The symbolism of winter in art can reveal the multi-faceted viewpoints we tend to have on this season. Art can also show us the powerful effect winter has on one’s psyche by taking a more positive stance. In literature and art, references to winter may refer to loneliness, pain, death, despair, or the end of something. This season provides a setting for messages that also include stories of renewal, rebirth, and hope. The significance of winter in art as moving from pain and despair to hope and renewal can be an impactful message to carry with you throughout the recovery process.
A powerful depiction of winter in art that carries a positive outlook, is a poem by Robert Frost called “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” This poem depicts a private moment of peace in solitude. The speaker of the poem realizes that to an outsider, it might seem strange to stop and take in the beauty of the woods and the frozen lake on the darkest evening of the year. Yet he still finds a brief moment of tranquility for himself. He ends the poem with, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,/ But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep,/ And miles to go before I sleep.” The setting of the dark woods creates a temporary, pure, and isolated space that matches his mental state. He realizes the beauty in the quiet and the cold, and that he must keep moving forward.
We can learn many lessons from nature as it tends to mirror our mental states. Just as winter equally represents a cold, dark time while also representing renewal, we too can choose to focus our mental environment on the positive, rejuvenating aspects of life in a time that seems dark and still.
When applying these aspects of winter to our daily lives, these cold months usually drive us inward. However, being inside can be a perfect time to immerse yourself in many healthy activities that encourage inward productivity. These can include:
- Being creative
- Meditating and self-reflecting
- Exercising at home
- Reading and writing
- Spending time with loved-ones
The winter months usually come with cold, dark, and dreary days, but they do not have to determine what we think and do. It is important to recognize all the positive things that come with winter as well. These can include rebirth, renewal, meditation, and hope. As with all things, how we choose to perceive things can determine how we react to them. Knowing this can be a powerful insight into making it through the winter months with a renewed sense of self. With a positive outlook, you can do more than just survive; you can thrive through the winter months. At Alta Centers, we know how difficult it can be in the winter for those suffering with substance abuse disorders. We offer various services in a peaceful atmosphere that focuses on treating each individual with the utmost care. If you or a loved one is struggling to make it through these times, call us at (888) 202-2583.
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