After a busy holiday season filled with wonder and excitement, January can leave many feeling lonely and sad. Instead of allowing the winter blues to linger all month long, embrace the worst of the winter season by slowing down. Intentionally slowing down can help members become more present and mindful. Use the activity ideas below to encourage your group to slow down.
CREATE COZY SPACES – Before you put away all your holiday decorations for the season, repurpose twinkle lights to add a cozy ambiance to community spaces. Bring more coziness to spaces by placing battery-operated candles and indoor plants on end tables. Add a few plush throw blankets and colorful throw pillows to couches and chairs. Cozy spaces naturally invite members to linger in conversation with one another.
SLOW COOKER WHITE HOT CHOCOLATE – Warm members up this winter by making white hot chocolate in the crockpot with your group. You’ll need 16 ounces of white chocolate chips, eight cups of milk, four cups of Half and Half, 28 ounces of sweetened condensed milk, 14 ounces of marshmallow cream, eight cinnamon sticks, four teaspoons of vanilla, and a dash of nutmeg. Place all ingredients in your crockpot. Cook on low for two and half to three hours, stirring occasionally. This recipe makes approximately 16 servings.
CALMING PUZZLES – Browse through your puzzle collection and select puzzles with a calming picture or design. Place a few puzzles out in community areas for members to encourage members to slow down and work together. If you can’t put puzzles out, create a puzzle library system so that members can complete the puzzles on their own.
GO OUTSIDE – The winter season ranges from mild to harsh, depending on where you live. If you’re fortunate to live in a place with a mild to moderate winter, invite members to go outside for ten to fifteen minutes each day. If winter is colder where you live, consider bundling members up and escorting them outside on the warmer, sunnier days for a few minutes. Spending time outside can lower your blood pressure, reduce feelings of stress or anxiety, increase creativity and memory, boost immunity, and more. Ask members to slow down outside by using their senses (see below).
USE YOUR SENSES – An easy way to slow down is to invite members to use their senses. Ask members to take a moment to name five things they see, four things they feel, three things they hear, two things they smell, and one thing they taste. Incorporate this brief meditation at the end of an activity or use during one-on-ones.
SIP AND SAVOR – Serve hot tea or coffee to your group and ask members to sip and savor. Before starting conversation or reminiscing, ask participants to describe the taste of their tea or coffee. Encourage them to inhale the aroma and feel the steam against their nose. Then, intentionally lead the group in reminiscing about winter. Reminisce about snow days, snow gear, sledding, building snowmen, skiing, and other winter activities. Take your time, allowing each participant to share.
START THE DAY SLOWLY – Use January as an excuse to slow down and revamp your activity calendar. Start the days off more slowly, giving members time to linger over breakfast before jumping into a fitness class or other morning activity. Add more blank space to your calendar, with the intention of filling it with one-on-ones or impromptu activities as the opportunity presents itself.
FIVE-MINUTE MEDITATIONS – Lead your group in five-minute meditations throughout the month. Find a guided meditation on Youtube that you can share with your group, such as this one. Play it for your group and demonstrate the narrator’s instructions. Start the day with a five-minute meditation to remind members to slow down.
FROZEN NATURE SUN CATCHERS – Go out to collect nature items prior to this craft, or take your group on a short nature hike. Find an assortment of twigs, leaves, berries, pine cones, seeds, and such. Give each participant an aluminum pie plate. Instruct participants to arrange the nature items they (or you) found in a pattern in their pie plate. Once they’re satisfied, pour water over everything, so that every nature item is completely immersed. If it’s below freezing where you’re located, place the pie plates outside to freeze. If not, place them in a freezer. Once the disk is frozen, pry the ice sun catcher out of the container. Create a hole near the top and string twine through. Hang the sun catchers outside on a tree for members to enjoy.
FLEECE BLANKETS – Another winter craft that encourages participants to slow down is making fleece blankets. Many craft stores carry fleece blanket kits that include everything you need. Purchase materials and follow the instructions included in the kit.
PJS ALL DAY – Nothing says “slow down” better than staying in your pajamas all day. Plan a PJs-All-Day event, where your group and staff dress in their favorite pajama set or loungewear for the day. Invite members to slow down and watch their favorite classic movies. Serve popcorn and provide cozy blankets for members during the movie.
TURN OFF TECHNOLOGY – As much as possible, turn off technology to encourage members to slow down. Ask members to silence their cell phones at all activities and during meals. As you move about your facility, turn off televisions that are blaring to an empty room. Instead, play relaxing music in the background. Teach members how to turn off notifications on their screens so that they aren’t interrupted as often from their devices.
SLOW PHRASES – Gather your group and ask them to call out as many phrases as they can that relate to the word “slow.” Here are a few to get you started: Slowly but surely, slow motion, fashionably late, as slow as molasses in January, painfully slow, late in the game, slow as a snail.
PRACTICE GRATITUDE – Practicing gratitude encourages us all to slow down and find more enjoyment in life. Invite members to start the new year by practicing gratitude each day. End group activities by asking members to share one thing they are grateful for that day. More independent members may enjoy keeping a gratitude notebook, where they can keep a record of their gratefulness. Remind members that they can be thankful for big things, like their health, or small things, like a hot cup of coffee or warm pair of gloves.
SLOW DOWN, IT’S WINTER TRIVIA
- What is the slowest mammal in the world? Three-toed sloth
- What is the expression we use to describe someone or something that moves painfully slow? As slow as molasses in January
- The slowest car in the world, the Peel P50, can reach a maximum speed of 24 mph, 28 mph, or 32 mph? 28 mph (which is just .5 mph faster than Usain Bolt’s fastest running speed)
- Which mollusk, often found in gardens, has only one foot and typically can move 2.3 inches per minute? Snail
- Although it lives a very long life, which reptile moves at a very slow pace? Tortoise
- Which living mammal has the longest pregnancy? Elephant (an average of 22 months)
- Fortunately, the earth’s tectonic plates are moving slowly. Approximately how many centimeters do these plates move each year? Between one and five centimeters
- What is snail mail? Letters and packages carried by conventional postal delivery services
- Irving Nachumsohn invented which kitchen appliance that simmers food at lower temperatures for many hours? The slow cooker or Crock-Pot
- Which planet is the slowest-spinning one in our galaxy? Venus
SLOW DOWN, IT’S WINTER THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“This is your reminder to slow down. Slow down your talking. Slow down your breathing. Slow down your eating. Slow down your reacting to what others say and do.” ~ Karen Salmansohn
“Slow Down, It’s Winter” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2021 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprint Policy: To reprint or republish all or portions of this entry, please acquire written permission and agree to link back to the original source. You can contact us at [email protected] to obtain permission.