January brings with it a new year and our best resolutions to live a better life. But its cloudy days fall immediately after Christmas, the brightest, busiest season.
Indeed, the first couple of months of any new year can be a letdown. To combat the winter blues, I work to lift my spirits and be cheerful. It can be very hard work.
Still, studies show that folks in Nordic countries with months of drab weather are the world’s happiest individuals, so it’s possible to sustain good cheer even in the face of the winter doldrums.
With spirituality in mind – and considering that the dawn of the new year offers a new slate to improve our lives – here are some ways I’m tackling winter blues in 2020.
Sign up for Eucharistic adoration
My parish has Eucharistic Adoration each month. It’s easy to sign up, and I intend to volunteer frequently to be in the Lord’s presence for an hour or two. The silence and peace of adoration can be a balm as well as providing a quiet place to listen God’s voice.
Attend daily mass
It’s often challenging to make it to Sunday Mass, so adding daily worship to an already overloaded schedule can seem impossible. Yet, making an effort to participate in an early morning service midweek offers spiritual benefits that last beyond the 45 minutes one spends in church.
Nurture your prayer life
Perhaps the strongest defense against the winter blues is a deep, fulfilling spiritual life, and that begins with the habit of daily prayer. Whether it means praying the Rosary, studying Scripture, participating in a Bible study group, or learning to sit quietly in God’s presence, nurturing and expanding prayer life is at the top of my list for improving my life in 2020.
Go on retreat
Planning a silent, solitary retreat or participating in a formal retreat weekend offers both spiritual growth and the opportunity to leave ordinary life, if temporarily, to focus on the things that really matter. Several organizations throughout Orange County host retreats on evenings and weekends; seek information from your parish, the Diocese of Orange, or a local religious community.
Volunteering gets us out of our rut and empowers us to help others. What better way to improve our lives and brighten our spirits? Consider ladling meals at a soup kitchen or reading to youngsters or delivering food to needy families – the opportunities to assist others are endless. Consult the parish bulletin for ideas, or contact Catholic Charities, a local food bank, or the St. Vincent de Paul group in your parish.
A brisk, 30-minute walk exposes you to fresh air, sunlight, and new surroundings. If you incorporate walking into your daily routine, you’ll note the subtle changes as winter turns into spring – and that can really lift your spirits.
Work up a sweat
Exercise is scientifically proven to boost your spirits, get your heart pumping, combat depression, help you lose weight, and improve your health. Whether you begin a spring garden by working the soil or practice yoga, martial arts or ballroom dancing, regular exercise offers an escape from the day’s tensions and the opportunity to breathe deeply and stretch our bodies, as well as improving stamina and endurance.