Written By: Dr. Nardeen Awadalla, Registered Psychologist
What do you picture when you think of winter? Getting up on a cold, gloomy, dark, morning dreading the weather outside? A lot of people experience a negative shift in their mood and motivation when winter comes, and feelings of loneliness can increase.
Now try picturing this; a cozy night snuggled up with a loved one or pet? That’s a much better visual for the winter months!
Feeling “warm and connected” can balance out the “cold and lonely” atmosphere that can easily set in. Feeling connected to others can increase feelings of wellbeing and brighten up dark days.
You can increase feelings of connectedness with most people you come across. It can be a random stranger walking past you or people you interact with in your daily life—coworkers, friends, family members, and partners.
You can prepare for the cold months by adding moments of “warm connection” in your daily life. Here are some ways to increase your connection:
1. Make Eye Contact!
We know from research that when we make eye contact with others, we feel more socially connected. We become aware of our similarities, and it highlights the connection between ourselves and the world around us.
It’s a nice reminder that we’re not alone, we’re all in this together! Keep it brief and sweet; intense or long eye contact can be unsettling if you don’t know the person. A recent study found that around 3 seconds of gazing is the sweet spot!
2. Show your appreciation!
Take a moment out of your day to go over to your colleague’s desk and thank them for helping you out with a question. It can be that simple.
Send a text to your partner and let them know that you adore their random quirk!
Showing your appreciation of others in very direct ways not only makes them feel cared for, but will actually make you feel better too! It may even normalize the act of showing appreciation and you may notice people all around you being more appreciative, which will increase a sense of community and support.
3. Volunteer your time!
This time of year can be a perfect opportunity to give back to the community. There are often events and organizations that need support during the holidays. Whether you’re collecting items for a charity drive or helping a community centre prepare for a fun event, volunteering can do wonders for your mood and feelings of connection.
Not only are you feeling connected to others through interactions, but you can also feel connected to the wider community.
We know that feeling connected to a community and experiencing a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself, can add meaning, comfort, and joy.
4. Schedule “reconnection time” with loved ones!
Winter days can feel short and are busy, so it’s no surprise that you can end up feeling like you’re on autopilot.
It’s important to prioritize time to reconnect with loved ones. Make plans to spend quality time with people in your life.
Quality time is about feeling connected and doing something that is meaningful to both people. This could be scheduling an evening to reflect on and talk about how you’re doing, your struggles and your successes, and your desires and fears.
Quality time can also be involve doing a joint hobby that both people look forward to doing together.
5. Reconnect with yourself!
To connect with others, you have to first connect with yourself. Give yourself an extra dose of TLC during the winter months. Make sure that you have little moments and opportunities for mindful self-care during the week.
It can be anything that gives you a moment to check in with yourself as you’re doing something that feels good for your mind or body. You could have your favourite hot chocolate ready on hand and create a ritual of making it while you check in with yourself in the evening.
Or add a 5-minute stretch to your morning routine and use that time to check in with your body. Once we are aware of ourselves and our needs, we can be ready to engage intentionally with others.
Winter months don’t have to be dreary; they can be an opportunity to invest in relationship and connection. Let’s stick to the cozy, warm, connected imagery of winter. Pick your favourite tip, try it for a week, and enjoy the warmth they bring to the cold days.
If you need more support in feeling connected and well during the winter months, please contact us at Brentwood Counselling Centre today.