The glass tipped over

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What a snowy winter this has been so far! Compared to the last few years, with only my own memory as a source, I believe this winter takes the cake. If thinking back decades rather than years, most will remember snowier winters than this one, as do I. But in recent memory, the dumping of snow this season, and particularly in the last few weeks, has been astounding. When standing in my own driveway I feel like I am in a lonely crater, unable to see in any direction besides out into the street. 

Opinions regarding the white fluffy stuff vary greatly depending on who you ask. Some hate it, and some love it. I often chuckle at social media posts in the summer months that feature a picture of a snow-covered street with a caption reading something like “this is coming in only four months”. The humour comes in the form of comments from people who see the photo and act as though their life is coming to a bitter end, as though we weren’t already keenly aware that we live in Canada and that it snows in Canada, prior to the unsolicited guidance of social media. 

Snow has its ups and downs. It can be a pain to clear out of the way, but it’s fun for kids to jump, play, and build in. It is a sign of colder, uncomfortable weather, but is also a symbol of winter fun such as sledding, skiing, and tubing. It reminds us of the January blues, but it’s also associated with Christmas and Valentine’s Day. One could say that the “good or bad” debate when it comes to snow is a perfect example of a classic “glass half full or glass half empty” scenario. For those not familiar with this old bit of philosophy, it’s quite simple. In any given situation, even as the facts remain the same, there will be those who evaluate it in a positive way, and others who see it in a negative way. This leads to the analogy that if a glass is filled to the halfway point with water, optimists will see it as a glass half full, while pessimists will see it as a glass half empty. Unfortunately, I can’t help but notice that people seem to be getting increasingly negative lately. Forget about “glass half empty or glass half full”, it seems that we have just collectively decided that the glass has tipped over. And no, it didn’t have a lid. 

When it comes to mental health, a positive attitude really does go a long way. Being positive is therefore not just about putting on a persona for those around you – it can be an act of self-care as well. 

I have as much reason to complain about the snow as anyone else. Sometime before the last snowstorm, my snowblower stopped working. It’s a minor issue and I refuse to get a new one because I know that “one of these days” I will just fix it, but in the meantime I have been shoveling by hand. It seems that the snow scoop I use is now having to slide up and over hills 5 feet in height in order to dump each load. There is just so much snow that I am running out of places to put it without being able to blow it somewhere! Despite this annoyance, I do enjoy snow. It feels so Canadian. It reminds me of childhood. It’s great to see kids’ creativity when they manage to make forts and tunnels and other frozen architecture with it. Why hate something that is out of our control, particularly when it’s here for at least a quarter of the year each and every year?

While snow is my current example because… well, look out your window – it is only an example. This isn’t really about snow. It’s about negativity and what it does to us. One psychological study showed that optimistic people can actually live 15% longer than pessimistic people. That’s a significant number. To illustrate, if a pessimistic person had a lifespan of 60 years, this study suggests that an optimistic person could live for 69 years. Nine extra years!

It’s time to take back positivity. It’s too cold to take a walk? Put on jacket! There are too many chores to do? Tackle a couple today and a couple tomorrow! Christmas is over? No big deal because Valentines Day and Easter are coming! Shovelling the snow is too hard? At least it means you can make snow angels with your kids and this weekend will be easy to plan with snowy activities!

The snow example remains a good one, particularly insofar as kids can teach us what positivity means. When is the last time you heard a kid complain about too much snow? Sure, it may be because they are usually not the ones shovelling or driving in it, but it could also be because they are so naturally good at making the most of things. Take your family on a snowy hike, or on a ski trip, or tubing, or sledding, or skating. Don’t see snow as a burden, see it as an opportunity. 

None of this is meant to convey that any mental illness can be resolved simply by “thinking positive”. Instead, I want to implore people to once again assume the responsibility for their own happiness. Yes things are expensive, yes there are problems in the world, yes it feels like we must work longer hours for the same amount of money and have less time for recreation. However, none of these things are a barrier to making the most out of what we have. We must play with the hand we are dealt, and perhaps that means not only seeing the glass as half full, but also working to fill it up the rest of the way. Stay safe and warm this winter, but above all else – have fun! 

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