By the time the calendar page turns to February, most people are sick of the dark, dreary, windy and cold days. The nostalgia of the snowy winter days has worn off, and we are ready for summer. But we can be confident that more cold and snow are on the way. The persistent darkness of this time of year can be painfully difficult on our mental, physical and spiritual health. The excitement of the new year has worn off, and perhaps we have already abandoned our resolutions or goals for this year. But when the going gets the hardest, we ought not give up but take the time to find some support.

An unsettling reality for us today is that cell phones and other electronics have become our number one support, and that is a great tragedy. For many of us, the first thing we do to relax is pull out the phone. The reality of this option is that this only makes the darkness of the time of year worse. We sink into a false reality of time passing, and we engage in mind-numbing scrolling. Top on our resolution list should be to refocus on the people in our lives and less on the connections that we perceive through our technological devices. Cell phones keep our eyes down, and what we need most in our lives is eyes up.

Once we can meet our own needs this time of year, we will better be able to see that the suffering does not just exist for us. Especially at this time of year, when so many people are hurting for lack of sun and warmth. If we take a moment to think about someone who is hurting right now, we could probably come up with a list of at least three or four people whom we know could use a kind word or a helpful deed. In this deadness of winter, we are more inclined to shut ourselves in and avoid the gloom, tucked away in our devices. The truth is that the electronics do not make us feel better.

We are called to love our neighbor all year, not just in the summertime when we are feeling good. Wherever we are at in our resolutions and goals for the year, let us take this time now to reevaluate our goals. Do we have self-care goals that help us to be more loving? Have we thought about ways to love our family members more and spend more real time together and less time plugged into electronics? What about our goals to love our neighbors more? Have we thought of those?

When we think of ways to love our family, we need not look back too far to identify some needs. The holidays have come and gone, and the gatherings or lack thereof likely gave us indications of how we can better love and serve those that we know. We can turn our grumblings and complaints into something productive. This time of year poses challenges for so many. So let us band together. Let us join one another in support and encouragement so that we can not only make it through the rest of the winter season but grow in faith, love and charity along the way.

The Church offers beautiful ways to assist us this time of year. For those who struggle with depression and anxiety this time of year, we can partake in frequent confession or even the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Instead of being on our phones, we can dedicate that time to prayer or other acts of service. If we have kids, let us dedicate more time to our children or our spouses instead of our electronics. When we work to grow in faith, love and charity as individuals, we also allow our communities to grow in faith, hope and charity. It is not too late to adjust the goals that we have set for this year. And it is not too late to set new goals. Now is the time to refocus and reset with eyes up, especially looking toward the cross. May the Holy Spirit guide our way and bless our efforts the rest of this winter season.

Andi Bochte