Dear Readers,

Though temperatures have been unseasonably warm, the light continues to diminish as we make our way ever closer to the winter solstice. Despite the joy of not yet having to bundle ourselves up against the elements, we may notice the subtle (and not so subtle) changes in energy, mood and resiliency that can accompany winter months.

Yet, feelings of melancholy this time of year are not inescapable, as Nanci shares with us in this month's featured article. As our brothers and sisters in the Nordic and Baltic regions have long known, laughter and community provide the best medicine.

With joy ,
~ Louisa
  • A reminder that The Center for Mindful Living will follow the OPS schedule in case of inclement weather.
  • In celebration of the holidays, The Center for Mindful Living will be closed the week of December 25th. Our programming will resume on January 2, 2018 .
Ongoing Contemplative Practices
  • Workshop: Sitting Meditation Groups  No Charge
  • Workshop: Mindfulness Study Group  No Charge
Workshops & Events
  • Omaha Meditates 2018: Start off the new year by refreshing your practice (or starting a new one!)
    Facilitated by Aaron Weiner, Dan Weidner and Dr. Louisa Foster
    Monday, January 1, 10 AM - 10 PM
    Please join The Center for Mindful Living and Wisdom House for Omaha Meditates 2018. We'll hold space from 10 AM to 10 PM to sit together and answer any questions about meditation and mindfulness.
    We'll begin with structured programming at 10 AM for those new to meditation with some basic instruction and gentle guided meditation with Louisa. We'll follow that with discussion and silent sitting, facilitated by Dan. If you are new to the practice, this will provide you with an informal way to try it out. Then Aaron will be available for the rest of the day, and into the evening, to answer questions and facilitate sittings in an informal, open house setting.  No need to register! Just drop on by!
  • Mindful Self-Compassion: Moving from Shame to Self-Acceptance
    Facilitated by Dr. Louisa Foster
    Wednesday Evenings, January 10 - March 28, 5:15 PM - 7:15 PM
    Nurturing a strong, positive relationship with our selves is at the very foundation of emotional wellbeing and resilience. This 12-week course will help you to develop the skills necessary to turn toward life's challenges with tenderness and curiosity, rather than avoidance, anger or shame. Research has found that having a self-compassion practice acts as an effective buffer against anxiety and depression. Learning to soothe and comfort our selves in times of distress increases our sense of gratitude and happiness, and enhances all of our relationships.

    This class includes small group exercises, opportunities for private reflection, and guided meditations. You will leave the experience with your own personalized self-compassion practice to rely on during life's more difficult moments. No prior experience with meditation is necessary.

    Tuition is $35 per session (Must commit to all 12 sessions). A monthly payment plan of $125 with a $45 non-refundable deposit is available. A $10 materials fee will be collected the first session.

    Click here for more information and to register.
  • NEW PROGRAM:  Seasonal Affective Disorder Workshop
    Facilitated by Dr. Nanci Nilles
    Saturday, January 13, 1 PM - 3 PM
    Do you wish you could turn into a bear and hibernate all winter? Dr. Nanci Nilles will be presenting a workshop on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the Winter Blues to help you navigate those darker winter months. Join her and learn how to manage the emotional and behavioral changes that for many, often accompany the winter months. You don't need to wait until spring to feel better! Cost $25.

    Click here to register.
  • NEW PROGRAM: 2018 - The Year of YES!  A Year Long Coaching Program to Effect Big, Juicy, Sustainable Change.
    Facilitated by Dr. Louisa Foster
    Weekend Intensive Friday, January 26 - Sunday, January 28, then ongoing throughout the year.
    Have you been struggling with making a significant, lasting change in your life? Does it feel like every New Year's Resolution you've ever made has been abandoned by February? Have you lost hope of ever achieving your goals?

    What if there was a different way? What if you had a community that could support you, celebrate you, and hold you accountable, not only when you established the goal, but throughout the process? Throughout the year

    This year-long coaching program will help you clarify your goals, identify and manage obstacles, and give you the sustained encouragement you need to make the lasting change you've dreamt of.

    Click here for more information about this year long program.
  • Mindfulness Study Group
    Facilitated by Laura Crosby
    Every 1st and 3rd Sundays, 4-6 PM
    Join us as we begin Reflections on Silver Riverby Ken McLeod. This short work is part translation of a revered Tibetan poem on 37 mindfulness and compassion practices and part short reflections on how these teachings apply to life today.

    The Group will read together, so there is no pre-reading or homework involved. Copies of the book will be available for use in the study session or to check-out. There is no charge to participate. Drop-ins welcome at any time - feel free to jump in at any point! While this selection is based on Buddhist mindfulness teachings, the Study Group as a whole is not religiously affiliated. No registration required.
Featured Article
Self Care for the Winter Blues
By Nanci Nilles, Psy.D.

November brings with it shorter days and less light. Many people experience some sort of reaction to this shift. The most severe is Seasonal Depressive Disorder, otherwise known as SAD.

Individuals diagnosed with SAD experience a full-scale depressive episode when the season changes. A larger group of the population experiences a milder version of SAD. Symptoms may include an increased need for sleep, sad feelings, lower energy, social withdrawal, and intense cravings for sweet or starchy food. These symptoms are also known as "the winter blues". For people experiencing the winter blues, it is helpful to create a plan of self care to lessen it's impact.

First on the list of self-care is increasing daily amounts of light. The decrease in light during winter is thought to be at the heart of the winter blues. Some theorize it impacts our hormones and causes a decreased production of serotonin in our brains. Lower levels of serotonin may lead to feelings of melancholy.

Other sources suggest the increased darkness disrupts our internal clock. This disruption leaves us vulnerable to sad feelings and low energy. To combat the winter blues, it helps to light up our homes, especially in the morning and evening. Throw open blinds and curtains to optimize incoming light. Taking a walk outside or a car ride on a sunny day can also improve mood and energy level.

Embracing community is helpful as well. Cold weather discourages going out and socializing. However, consistent social contact can help dispel winter gloom. Therefore, it is important to schedule regular social time with friends and family. Regular social contact can include setting up time to speak with friends by phone, or having a standing coffee date. Sometimes connection can be as simple as greeting others with a smile or kind word as we encounter them in our daily routine.

Practicing good nutrition and regular exercise is next on the list. Winter can make sedentary activities more appealing. Couple this with sweet cravings and it is easy to understand how easily pounds accumulate during the colder months.

To cope with sweet cravings it is a good idea to make and stick to a daily food plan. This can minimize the chance of acting on the impulse to eat a sugary treat. Finding a friend to engage in regular physical activity increases the likelihood of adhering to a regular exercise program. Good nutrition and regular physical activity greatly improves our ability to regulate emotions.

Another helpful technique is to monitor our thought patterns and intervene when we become aware of negative ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches us that some thought patterns influence our perceptions and can actually amplify negative feelings.

An example of such a pattern is "all or nothing thinking." Relating to winter as if the whole season is miserable can only lead to unhappiness. Better to take a balanced perspective and to note its positive aspects for a healthier outlook.

Last, but not least, we can use a meditation practice to support our self care. The cold and darkness of winter encourages slowing down and quiet endeavors-good conditions for practicing mediation. People who meditate regularly report feeling grounded and better able to manage their moods and impulses. Since research shows regular meditation practice helps reduce anxiety and depression, it is likely to ease the winter blues as well.

If you are concerned with how the change in season is impacting your mood and ability to function at home or work, it's important to seek evaluation by a physician or mental health professional. Only a trained professional can diagnose SAD. Its treatment is often a combination of light therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy, and often includes the addition of medication, such as an anti-depressant. A trained professional can help you find the best treatment plan for your needs.
Norman E. Rosenthal 2005 "Winter Blues: Everything You need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder", USA, The Guilford Press.