It’s September, which means that it’s officially Autumn again, no matter how much I try to ignore that fact. The beautiful August weather thankfully tends to linger through September, but there is no denying that the winter darkness is approaching faster every day.
To live in the North is to lead a life of contrasts: during Summer sun doesn’t set whereas Winters are the total opposite; you are engulfed into an endless night for months on end. Most of us living up here are used to this and can cope with it. I used to be able to cope with it…
But then I discovered that things could be better and I didn’t necessarily have to live through the endless night called Winter year after year. And after moving away and having gotten used to the milder changes in the amount of daylight available round the year it was a nightmarish idea to return North.
Because no matter how positive a person you are there is no way that the darkness wouldn’t affect you at all. For a lot of people the affects are milder; it might be a bit more difficult to get up in the morning because the darkness would suggest it’s 3am even if it’s 7am. And then there are those of us who basically need daylight to function at all.
To my body darkness means sleep. There are a lot of us who react similarly to the descending darkness, but there are also many other ways in which the darkness-condition manifests in us Northeners; one of the most noticeable reactions is the incredible increase in complaining that people practice. Finns are quite gifted in complaining any time of the year, but the Winter months bring a whole new gear to the “art”.
But at the end of the day, no matter how much you complain it never makes you feel any better about anything. And we can’t escape the darkness so we need to find ways to cope (OK, yes we can escape but most of us won’t even consider it and I’m in the process of saving money so I will need to survive one more Autumn here).
It took me years to train myself out of the never-ending circle of complaining. Obviously the first step to tackle this bad habit is to acknowledge it, after which you can start thinking about ways and tools to teach yourself out of the habit.
It does take a bit of self control and you, like I, will slip more than often. But as soon as you realize that you’re complaining again, direct your thoughts to something else. Here are some ideas that work for me whenever frustration starts taking over;
The method: Music has amazing power and is a universal language for a reason; By putting on some chill or cheerful music you can create a certain atmosphere to improve the quality of your work day; you can find surprising inspiration; and you can notice your spirit lifting.
The practice: After a tough day at work put on some chill music to the background at home and just relax on the couch for half an hour. Even 15 minutes will do. Or if there’s something really bugging you, that you can’t do anything about (f.ex. weather…), put on some energetic and happy music (Spice Girls works every time) and have a little dance!
It’s very hard to sulk when your apartment is filled with shouts of “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends!” I seriously recommend taking couple dance steps, free style. Because nothing clears your mind better than having a little party of your own.
For bonus effect, get everyone involved; kids, your partner, the dog, and make the rest of the day special for the whole family.
The method: When negative thoughts try to take over, one way to re-direct them is to concentrate on something that requires being focused; like cooking. A TV advert once stated “Good food, better mood!” and it has been proven to be accurate by all nations all over the world. So this is a fail-safe option to go for!
The practice: This is the moment when you can (and should) challenge yourself; take that new recipe, that you tore off a magazine two months ago but haven’t tried out yet, and cook it. Or if going to the store is too much of an effort, go through the contents of your fridge and cupboards and come up with a delicious “left-over” recipe.
It’s a win-win; you lose yourself into the process of cooking and forget about your worries AND as a result get to enjoy a delicious, nutritious meal. Even I, a sworn kitchen-disaster, have tested this method and found it well-functioning.
The method: To properly shake off all the angst about rain slashing your face and the complaints you got from a customer or your boss today, get your gear on and head to the gym. I can’t imagine a better way to let off steam than rage around with a permission. If you don’t own a gym membership just go for a walk or a run, preferably into a park or a forest.
The practice: Depending on the level of frustration you might want to do that tougher routine at the gym to seriously, properly sweat all that shit out. And for the walkers/runners I recommend a forest because I have myself proven its health benefits multiple times; fresh air clears the mind and the smells and colours of a forest have an immediate calming effect.
Especially now in the Autumn I would prefer parks and forests over gym due to the amazing display of Autumn colours. Even if you might be contemplating the issues that currently annoy you, you unconsciously process them thoroughly in your mind while walking.
And when returning home you find yourself more relaxed and might even have realized on the way that the issue isn’t such a big deal after all.
The method: The best cure for risen stress levels forever and always will be animals! This is another scientifically proven method: stroking a dog, talking to a horse or just hanging out with animals lowers stress levels considerably.
The practice: Even if you don’t have a pet some of your friends or family surely do. Pay them a visit or ask if you could “dogsit” the dog for a day or two. Once again, this is a practice I have tested myself and can guarantee that it works! Alternatively you could just go to a zoo or to a local animal shelter to help out with taking care of the inhabitants; walking the dogs, feeding the birds, and so on.
These days there are also options for those who suffer from animal allergies; “robot pets” provide the same health benefits as live animals. Such manufactured pets are still quite costly but they are often used in senior homes and children hospitals to bring some stress-release for the inhabitants.
Directing your thoughts somewhere else
The method: Change is usually a good thing, so by making even small changes in your daily lifestyle or surroundings you can easily direct your thoughts elsewhere.
The practice: Such a simple thing as changing the order of your furniture at home or thinking about where you would like to travel next you can force yourself to keep active or to think about more pleasant things. And if that thought process eventually leads to concrete actions, like you booking a weekend trip to Prague, the issues that an hour ago annoyed you so much have suddenly been replaced by happy anticipation.
Of course these are just quick fixes and if in reality you are a hopeless complainer, a deeper, internal change is required. For this you must be able to stop for a moment and really consider whether the issue really is worth all that energy and time that you spend on worrying about it.
I myself tend to take a lot of heat from bad weather even though I can’t control it. But I’ve taught myself not to wallow in negative thoughts when alternatively I can just admit the fact that I am just fine despite the rain. Everybody complains and that’s OK, but try to remind yourself to stop before the complaining goes overboard.
After all, you have an apartment, you can get by, you have friends and family, you have food on your table. Little things in life are the things that really matter in the end. Appreciating the little things can be challenging in this world of over-consumption, comparison and discontent but directing your thoughts onto a more positive track is actually easier than you might think. If you really want to succeed in it, you will for sure.
What sort of survival tricks do you use to get through the rainy days of Autumn?