Winters have always been an odd time for me. Not because my mental illness flares up in winter or I have winter depression. It is because of forced inactivity and longer nights that cold weather always brings. I’ve always been one of these people who have a hard time sitting still for long. As a kid I used to pace in our large backyard for hours at a time, just thinking and dreaming up stories and adventures. I did this some even in the winter. Yet I would be counting down the days until spring started and things would warm up. I hated the forced inactivity and being forced to stay indoors then. I still don’t like it much. The only ways I can sit still are by reading a book, writing in a journal, playing an intellectually challenging computer game, watching educational and informative videos on youtube and netflix, or chatting with friends over the phone. Even in my physical downtime I have to be mentally engaged in some activity.
This is even more so in winter. While my home state doesn’t have the snow falls some places do, we do have bad cold and really bad north winds. Even when it’s been dry for several days, it’s tough to go outside because of the cold and the howling winds that are common on the Nebraska plains. This forced inactivity does force me to be more careful about how much I eat since it’ll be tough to burn it off just by walking inside. I don’t have a gym membership and, since I lost 60 pounds exercising on my own in 2014, I don’t think I need one. I’ll probably sign up for one for the end of 2015 if I actually gain weight this winter.
One of the ways I’ve worked against boredom in winter in past years was by reading and writing. I’ve traditionally done more heavy reading in winter months than other months. I really don’t like much on cable tv anymore. I’m one of those people who feels like a day is wasted if he doesn’t accomplish something physically or learns something mentally. So just sitting in front of the tv for hours isn’t an option. I have gotten to where when I’m reading or writing on my computer, I’ll have youtube with a music program playing in one window while I write on another. I’m also getting into free audiobooks and podcasts through youtube as well. I figure if I can’t be outside and doing something, I’ll be inside and learning something.
I admit I often learn things merely to satisfy an intellectual curiosity that demands to be fed on a daily basis. It doesn’t make me any more money (obviously) but it does scratch an itch that won’t go away on it’s own. It also makes for interesting conversation. I don’t really do well with small talk at social gatherings, probably because of my mental illness and natural introverted nature. I’m not the center of attention at parties, but I am usually in the corner with a few other people tossing ideas back and forth.
My intellectual pursuit probably seems pointless to some and intellectual vanity to others. But it is a good way for me to pass the time, especially in winter. If it makes me a little more knowledgeable and better at carrying an intelligent conversation, I will do it. Maybe in a few years, after I achieve my health and weight goals, I can then be doing more physical things to add to the intellectual strength. I’d really like to become my own version of ‘The Most Interesting Man’ from the beer commercials. I never could understand why anyone would voluntary end their learning once they leave school. I know school was boring for many people, myself included. For me, my independent study scratches the itch my formal education didn’t. I do much of this independent study in winter.
We all have twenty four hours in a day. We all have our times of forced inactivity. But forced inactivity can be use for our benefit. Even ancient societies recognized the importance of down time even if it was forced. I use my winters to really increase my mental activity, reading, and learning. It’s either that or allow myself to go as stale and bleak as the winter weather outside.