We are in the bleak midwinter in Minnesota. The air temperature outside has been in the single digits (Fahrenheit). Personally, I’ve been dealing with additional losses: more MS -induced disability and the death of our dog, Cocoa, who kept me company for 15 years. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling lonely and disheartened. Happily, I can take action to overcome these midwinter blahs, especially since this month’s kind promise is to practice joy for no apparent reason.

Here are five ways I’m practicing joyful connection:

  1. work with the calendar – if I have email check-ins, visits, calls, events or outings to look forward to, it’s easier to get through the lean times. When I’m feeling lonesome, it helps to look ahead on the calendar.
  2. invite others to visit – want company? Invite some! No big productions are necessary. As long as I’m interested in what others are doing, they are ready to sit and chat over a cup of tea.
  3. take a virtual trip – even if I can’t get out, I can see the world virtually. Today I visited Madagascar.
  4. make a call – email and social media are not as connecting as a phone call. Reach out and say hi.
  5. get your body moving – part of what makes for doldrums in the winter is lack of physical activity. Put on some music and dance.
  6. Celebrate (bonus item) – manufacture reasons to be joyful. Try celebrating fun holidays, for example.

Noticing how I’m feeling, I can take responsibility for sculpting the causes and conditions that affect my mood.

Winter can be a time for snuggling in and appreciating the warmth that comes with the luxuries of central heating and hot drinks. At the same time, I need to avoid the tendency to isolate that comes with cold and icy weather.