Healthy Mind

My Chicago Winter Challenge: Part II

January 8, 2014

Last post I ranted for about two paragraphs too long about how much I hate Chicago winters. This post is last post’s much more positive counterpart (i.e. less bitching, more solutions).

The challenge is this: How do I stop being so bitter and SAD and find love for Chicago winters? Answer: I try to discover what makes me happy and healthy – without warm weather.

I have picked 7 relatively lofty goals for myself. The only rule is: I have to accomplish all of them before the end of winter – March 19th. That’s 70 days for my 7 challenges. You’d be surprised how guilty I feel if I don’t hold up to the promises I make on this blog (check out my alcohol detox).

Chicago Winter Challenge

  1. Embrace the inside. Accomplish the tasks that I can only do inside – the same ones I would feel guilty about doing on any warm summer day. Write an article to submit to a magazine, organize my closet, read a book next to the fire – just pick something that makes me confident that there’s no place I’d rather be than inside, with my activity.

  2. Explore coffee shops. One of my hobbies is going to a coffee shop to write or read for a few hours. There’s something about being out of the house, with no distractions, to focus on writing (or even Pinterest-ing if that’s what I want to do). My favorite ones are the locally owned spots that have their own character and a menu that you can’t get at Starbucks. My top recommendations are Nohea (great food and almond latte), Cafe Decartes (where the theme is philosophers and literary geniuses) and the Wormhole (all 90’s décor – need I say more?).
  3. Play in the snow. Make a snowman, make a snow angel, make a snow fort, go sledding down a hill on a cheap, questionable plastic sleigh. I’ve been saying this since the first snowfall and still haven’t done anything about it. Now I’m writing it here, I MUST do it (Challenge rules).
  4. Go ice-skating. I’ve only done this a handful of times in my life, and I am not good at it. But I have fun every time I do it.
  5. Get out of Dodge. Love this expression. Sometimes, you just need a change of scenery. I’m not talking about visiting the Caribbean (although – don’t hate me – I am going to Cancun for two days in January); I’m talking about going to another place outside of the city that offers a new perspective on Midwest winter. One of my favorite nearby getaways is Starved Rock. But if I really want to challenge myself, I should try some place different like Sheboygan (the Riverwalk and Kohler Arts Center) or Milwaukee (my co-workers rave about how underrated this city is for food and culture).  
  6. Indulge. If there’s ever a time to treat yourself with good food and wine, it’s in the winter. I believe in healthy eating. But more importantly, I believe in giving the body what it craves. In the winter, our bodies are stressed, our Vitamin D is low and we need more substantial foods than the warmer months. After New Years, I walk a fine line between restraint and allowance because I do want to detox and lose the holiday fat. But 99% of the time, when I restrain myself too much, I end up more stressed, and more likely to overindulge. After those particularly bitter cold, rough days, I am giving myself permission to have a glass (or two) of wine and a handful of dark chocolate chips mixed with dried cranberries (so good).
  7. Accept. Every year, before winter even begins, I get stressed and sad just thinking about it. By the time it arrives, I have entered deep winter depression mode. I find that I’m more negative, uber sensitive and less likely to accept invites from friends to go out. I do believe that, regardless of external circumstances, we control our emotions. However, I am the first to admit that I have the hardest time harnessing them – especially during the winter. That’s why I am making it a priority to try meditation this winter (this was also on my resolutions list). My goal is to meditate three times a week, for 15 minutes, first thing in the morning. I’ve done a little research on beginner’s meditation. But ultimately, I’d like to do my own thing, with a strong focus on appreciation and mindfulness.



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