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Some good in a bad winter

Winter wonderland
Winter wonderland

Winter has been brutal.

You already knew that.

The last storm was been blamed for 21 deaths. If that affects you then I'm sorry for your loss.

If you are a teacher or a student or you work for a business or a government - that should cover about everyone - then it's been very hard to get stuff done.

This article is not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy about how positive thinking will chase those clouds away.

If you read this column regularly (thank you) then you know how winter started for this Examiner.

We deal with reality here, but that's the wild part. Reality really is how you perceive it.

Let's prove it, quickly, and then move on.

Imagine that you are meeting a Friend for dinner. Friend is always late. 30 minutes, then 60, go by, and Friend is not answering the phone, so you finally give up, annoyed and disgusted and you leave a nasty message on Friend's voice mail after making a fourth and final call.

Friend is rude and inconsiderate, right?

Imagine that on the same night, you watch the news and see a story about Friend, who witnessed a bad accident on the way to dinner with you, stopped to help, saved a few lives and was injured in the effort, now hospitalized.

Is Friend still rude and inconsiderate? Were you still mistreated? Who owes an apology to whom?

That's a fast and easy way to demonstrate how what we call real is based on our perceptions.

We can easily spiral into “what-ifs” and “it would have been better/worse ifs” forever, but let’s get to why winter is not all bad.

Winter is good for your brain

“Executive functioning” is one of the current buzzwords in education, but the construct is not new. The term refers to the set of self-regulatory skills provided by the front part of the brain.

Executive functioning refers to impulse control, planning, organizing, attention, goals, etc.

In the summer, living is easy, right? Summers are carefree. Rain might ruin your picnic or even knock out your air conditioning for awhile, but you’ll be OK.

Winter places demands on your executive functioning, demands that lead to development like exercising a muscle.

Do I have enough food/gas/heating oil for the next storm? What if I lose electricity? Can my car climb – or stop on – this hill? What work can I bring home so that I don’t fall behind if I can’t get to the office for a few days?

Winter requires good executive functioning and where you lack those skills, a blizzard will force you to improve. It’s good for your brain.

Winter makes you stronger and smarter.

Winter is good for nature

Lyme disease is spread by bites from infected ticks, which means that they get the bacteria from another source (parent or another animal), then bite you. A mosquito bites a bird infected with West Nile virus, picks up the virus, then transmits it to a human on a later bite.

The emerald ash borer, a non-native invasive species that destroys trees, is sensitive to cold.

The bottom line? When spring and summer come - and they will, soon - the low temperatures and high piles of snow now will mean few ticks, fewer mosquitoes, and fewer illnesses. There will be more live and healthy trees, too.

Winter 2013-14 has been expensive and scary and hard and, sometimes, even deadly.

Nothing about this article takes any of that away.

In the end, though, if it's been more of a challenge than a catastrophe for you then you might be able to see some good under the snow.

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