There is a deep quiet to winter that can feel both inviting and unsettling. In this part of the world, our natural environment looks pretty dormant and well…bleak. Despite outward appearances though, there is potent magic brewing underground, nature is just resting and preparing to begin a new cycle – and the same can be said for us too.
Underneath those extra layers and thermal socks…we are but waiting for our time to thrive again. The challenge is – how do we keep our inner embers glowing in the meantime and support our winter wellness?
Embers plural : slowly dying or fading emotions, memories, ideas, or responses still capable of being revivedMerriam Webster Dictionary
1. Think about what winter wellness looks and feels like for you
There is plenty of information out there on keeping our physical health strong during winter, but when it comes to our mental health it gets more complicated. We all have our own challenges and it’s important to try and uncover a deeper understanding of what habits and practices we need to prioritise to keep us supported.
Each of us can get to know our unique self-care love language, whether that is gentle movement, cold water plunges, sofa days, weight training, giant mugs of tea or creative pursuits.
Note down a winter wellness list
Make a note of what practices or pursuits give you a sense of comfort or happiness during the winter. Keep it simple, think of things which are easily accessible for you everyday no matter the weather – a hot water bottle under your feet as you sit at your desk, a bird feeder placed in a visible spot. Then add on any extra things which might require more planning – scenic places to visit or winter activities to try.
Keep this list close and keep returning to it throughout the season, jot down new things which have brought a little extra joy into your day so you can remember them next year.
2. Connecting with nature in the winter months
In the colder months, getting out into nature for long periods can often feel more difficult and less enjoyable, but there are simple ways to connect with the outdoors to help us feel better. Research suggests that twenty minutes in nature can significantly reduce our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Breaking up our day by popping outdoors, even for a few minutes, can improve our mood and reduce negative feelings.
Not everyone has easy access to green spaces, and we don’t all have the privilege of lifestyles which allow for a great deal of free time or physical ability to get outside. Feeling the benefit of nature is still possible though.
Evidence suggests that even looking at the outdoors through a window or seeing images of nature has positive effects. While there are greater benefits if you can touch, smell and hear the natural environment, changing your screen saver to a scenic image or watching nature shows all contributes to maintaining a connection.
3. Understanding and living in tune with our natural, seasonal rhythms
Connection is the word which sums up seasonal living in many respects for me. It’s a way of living which encourages us to develop a relationship with the seasons, which in turn strengthens our relationship with the natural world. Instead of looking at nature as an outside observer, seasonal living encourages us to live our lives as one of the integral threads of nature itself.
To live seasonally is to learn to surrender to the inevitable changes within and around us on a moment-by-moment basis, allowing for those different phases and remembering that there is always movement happening, even when we cannot see it.
Winter is perhaps the season where we need to hold on to that knowledge the most. Deep winter is not the ideal time for pushing ourselves to achieve more and more or depriving and berating ourselves for not keeping up with the pace imposed on us by society/work/social media. Winter is a time for allowing stillness, prioritising rest and embracing a slower pace in the knowledge that Spring in on the horizon.
It can be helpful to build our understanding of how our natural rhythms change with the seasons and try to adjust with the flow rather than battle against it. I have written more here about living seasonally and you can also find a list of useful further resources at the end of that post.
4. Kindness is the key
Winter requires a LOT of self-care and kindness to ourselves, and those around us. This seasons brings a variety of hardships which can’t always be seen on the surface and with fewer daylight hours, many people’s moods take a dip.
A little kindness goes a long way to show support and brighten a dark day. A pick me up text or supportive words for a family member, a cooked meal for a friend, or kind gesture for a stranger is all it takes sometimes to make a positive difference in someone’s outlook and well being.
Find a whole heap of simple ideas here on random acts of kindness from The Mental Health Foundation
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