Asking the clergy: How can faith help with winter blues?
By SYLVIA E. KING-COHEN
Short days, cold weather and long nights can wear on anyone. In the midst of winter, the blues are a common complaint after the excitement of the holidays are over. This week’s clergy suggest ways to combat the long, dreary winter.
The Rev. Keith Hayward, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Copiague:
One of the things that happens with people after the holiday season is a period of depression. It goes along with the change of weather, being confined to home and not having the flexibility or financial resources they had before the Christmas season. And, for many, due to overspending, they have what I call anxiety depression — anxiety and depression. I look at it as the fear of not having enough resources, then that brings on depression.
I would remind people that faith is not seasonal. Faith is a life journey that doesn’t cease unto death. As we apply our faith, we must remember that God has given us a mandate that he doesn’t forsake us. It is a declaration of hope, of security, of love. With these three things in mind, it gives us hope beyond our tramautic events. Faith is a bridge that takes us beyond anxiety depression.
I look to Joshua 1:9 — “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
And, remember that the church is not just a meeting place. It is a source of strength, of fellowship and camaraderie. A place where you will meet people who are going through something similar and may offer you both comfort and practical advice.
Venerable Kottawe Nanda, head monk, Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center, Port Jefferson:
Winter is part of nature. As human beings, we also are part of nature, as are other beings. We should enjoy the beauty of winter. While some say it is boring, dreary, cloudy, try not to think of this time of year in a negative way. Attempt to experience nature as it is. Remember that everything is impermanent. That is the nature of things. The leaves are not only green. They turn brown.
By seeing things as impermanent, one can be spiritually stronger once we realize that life is not only for enjoying and experiencing the mundane things like work. All humans must practice spiritual development. We all should have good fellowship, good behavior.
Meditation is a very good way of combating the winter blues. When you wake up in the morning, take a deep breath and let it go out slowly. Be aware of and observe all parts of your body. Say to yourself, “May I be happy and peaceful.” “May I be safe from anger.” “May I be free from suffering.” “As I am, may all beings be well, happy and at peace.” “May all beings be free from anger, free from suffering.”
Practicing this meditation will make all the days fresh. There is no problem of the day that cannot be managed. How you start your day will influence how your day will go. If you start with good spiritual thoughts, you will have good thoughts all day. Manage the whole day with these spiritual thoughts.
Anger and greed can be seen everywhere. Therefore, we have to fill our mind with good thoughts for both ourselves and others. The calm of winter is an ideal time to develop other aspects of your mundane life, your spiritual life. See winter as an opportunity.
Cantor Benjamin D. Matis, Shelter Rock Jewish Center, Roslyn:
God, in his infinite wisdom, created things to be cyclical. We can remind ourselves that winter will end.I think that having an anchor like faith can really reassure one that this dark, cold miserable time of the year isn’t going to last forever. It is not necessarily the cold that gives people the blues. I think it is the darkness and lack of sunlight. It certainly makes you appreciate the little signs of spring when they come. The crocus is a silly little flower, but you’re so happy to see it.
Prayer and meditation can help when you have a particularly rough day. Whether it is a matter of the Holy Spirit or just brain chemistry, I don’t know. I just know it works. We need to have answers bigger than ourselves when it comes to things like this.