I know a number of people that really enjoy winter: the crisp, refreshing cold, the burnished drifts of new-fallen snow, the glistening ice that coats tree branches like varnish of crystal.
I am not one of those people. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of growing up in a place where winter lasts for months, drifts pile to shoulder height, the brief span of daylight is often a dismal gray, and the season’s chill seeps deep into my bones.
Consequently, over the years, I’ve developed a habit of rushing through whatever tasks take me out of doors during the winter so I can get back to the warmth and comfort of home.
Habits, especially entrenched ones, are hard to break. But this winter I started to work on cracking this one.
Working with habits, of course, begins with noticing them—in particularly, noticing the details that comprise them. The most obvious detail I discovered was what happened to my mind when I arrived at a red light (signaling a delay in getting home). As I applied my foot to the brake pedal, my mind tended to spontaneously switch to autopilot. If this reflex led my mind to navigate smoothly in a cheerful direction, that wouldn’t have been a problem.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case most of time.
Often, my mind would go into a Dutch Roll: an uncomfortable sort of aircraft motion (a special nod here to the friend in the airline business who taught me this term), that combines “tail-wagging” and rocking from side to side.
For me, that “roll” usually involved some combination of wagging woefully back and forth through my to-do list while rocking back and forth between annoyance, dread, and assorted grievances.
Most big aircraft have stabilizer systems that help to mitigate a Dutch Roll. As winter very gradually melted into spring, and I saw that I was still “rolling,” I determined that it was time to build my own stabilizer system.
The first step was to take a moment to notice on my breath. I know, breathing is supposed to be an autonomic process; but when I’m on a “roll,” I stop breathing.
A nice, deep breath—the kind that fills my lungs and pushes out my abdominal wall—usually halts the tail-wagging and rocking, at least for the space of the breath.
But what to do next?
Well, I started to notice the nuances: the small, everyday changes in the world beyond my windshield. The trees on the side of the road, for example, were beginning to sprout buds. Bright little blossoms had started to appear on formerly forlorn sticks of forsythia. Here and there children were running down sidewalks, laughing in brightly-colored jackets enjoying the heady drafts of warm air.
Light and color was returning to the world.
No day is ever exactly the same, not moment is exactly the same. Noticing and appreciating these small changes in the external environment, I’ve found, brings a feeling of freshness and spontaneity into my internal environment. I find myself a little more energized, a bit less daunted by whatever lies ahead for the rest of the day.
The Dutch Roll stops and my mind begins to travel on a much smoother course.
And, like the world around me, light turns green.
Photo Credit: Labrador Photo Video/Shutterstock
How do you celebrate Spring? Tell us in a comment!