In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move.
Living With Nature's Cycles
Dark, cold, and oh so very lonely. The winter solstice is upon us. The earth is sending her energy deep, deep down. She's turning inwards to heal, regroup, and recharge. Despite the cultural demands of the season now is the time for us to follow suit. We need to turn inwards and dive deep to regroup and recharge. Fall was the transition between the busy, active summer. Now in winter the goal is to finally slow down to our ultimate resting and restorative pace. We are storing our energy, getting ready to channel it into the new growth we desire for the spring.
The winter solstice brings us the shortest day of the year. As both the sunlight and the temperatures decrease, our bodies call to us to slow down and relax, turn inwards and restore. While instinctually this is the time to rest, regroup and get ready for a new year, culturally this is often the busiest time of year. Social, work, and familial obligations increase. We have projects to wrap up, gifts to buy, cards to send, food to cook. The list never seems to end. This is where the conflict arises. We push ourselves to the limit, stretching ourselves too thin for the sake of love and obligation.
Winter is also the time most of us need additional support. This is the time we need to give ourselves the gift of self love. Now is the time to show yourself the same holiday kindness you project onto others. Tips in this article range from super easy to surprisingly hard. If you put some of them into practice, however, these tips for your mind, body, and spirit are sure to help you navigate the holiday season with a little more ease.
This winter we’re thinking of all things hygge. If you’ve never heard the word hygge you need to look into it. Hygge is a Scandinavian word meaning “finding comfort, pleasure, and warmth in simple, soothing things such as a cozy atmosphere or the feeling of friendship”. I mean, if you wanna learn how to happily navigate winter look to those that experience quite a bit of it. While this is something done all year round, I find the concepts especially pertinent during the winter. Hygge is a lifestyle that embraces simplicity, comfort, presence, and happiness. It also provides us with simple and restorative practices that give us the additional support we need during winter. We’ll focus on warmth, fire, and and all things cozy. Don’t get too excited, however. Winter brings us some really tough chores.
The Home- Setting the Stage
First off, let’s look at our living and work spaces. Your space highly impacts your mind and body. If your space is uncomfortable, or irritating it adds a steady level of stress to your life. Kinda like a constant ache or itch you can't scratch. Fortunately we have some level of control over our environment. There are simple ways to make it extra warm, inviting, and pleasant to inhabit. Easy steps to eliminate stress? Sign me up.
Less Clutter Means Simplicity
In our living with fall article one of the tasks was to declutter your home. Now is the time to finish up that project. It’s amazing how much time and stress we can cause ourselves avoiding annoying chores. I’m happy to throw myself out as an example. So, I’m very good at avoidance. What disaster stricken tupperware cabinet? Every time I wrap up leftovers, however, packaging them is extremely frustrating. It’s enough to make me not want to cook at home, much less meal prep. Last time I cleaned out this dreaded hole of despair I timed myself. It took me 6 minutes to clean it out. 6 Minutes and all my frustration disappeared, not to mention all of the time I’ve saved not having to hunt for matching lids. What insanity is this? We all have those areas that cause us stress. Junk drawers, craft rooms, attic corners, garage shelves, weedy garden beds. Bite the bullet and just take the time to sort it all out. It can be a pain in the ass but you deserve it.
Wrap up Some Projects
If you’re like me you need more than one season to tie up all the projects the busy spring and summer inspire. Guess what? Winter is the time to finish up those projects that have been sitting around. A first step may be to evaluate whether you're really going to do a certain project. I’m very guilty of this. I have projects laying around that are older than my son. Recently I have been making a point to part with yarn, fabric, clothes, and other sundries that I’ve accepted I will never make time for. Not only is this helping declutter my space, it has vastly decluttered my mind. Not only that, with a minimum of effort I now have some new throw blankets. Wrapping up these projects will also make room for new ones that will come in the more active spring and summer.
Channel the Power of Fire to Keep Cozy
There is something instinctual about winter and fire. Since the dawn of us we have gathered around flames as the cold, dark nights settled in. Fire is powerfully symbolic and sacred. Fire is always there to remind us that in the darkest and coldest of times life is always there. Mother nature is always there to provide for us. Fire can be a powerful meditation tool. It is used in rituals, churches, and ceremonies all around the world.
If you have a fireplace, get the chimney cleaned and get ready to use it. If you have a yard, think about getting or building a fire pit. Both of these spaces provide community, clarity, and warmth. If you don’t have access to either of these spaces, treat yourself to a nice set of candles. Burn them often, just never leave them unattended.
Fire isn’t the only way we can keep cozy. Think simple. Warm socks and a fuzzy blanket can do more for you than you think. When you’re looking for something cozy, focus on how it feels on your skin. Think about how it smells. Adding a few drops of essential oils to your laundry can go a long way in elevating your mood. Think of how beautiful the fabric is visually. This isn’t something that needs to be expensive. It’s also possible you already own these things. Use them, be present with them, and appreciate them. Snuggle up with your cozy goods. If you have a fur baby add them into the mix.
Don’t neglect your outdoor space in the winter. If you’re into gardening, now is the time to harvest your winter garden. Hopefully your own winter crops like garlic, leeks, onions, radishes, kale and spinach are flourishing. If you didn’t plant in October it’s not too late. With less sunlight now your plant friends will just grow a little slower. While veggies are awesome don't forget to plant some winter flowering friends to bring you a little color even in winter. Snapdragons, some marigold varieties, pansies, and cyclamen all flower during the winter season.
Winter is also the time to plan and prep your beds in anticipation of spring. Add compost to your existing beds. Also consider planting some cover crops in your beds to add nutrients to the soil. Oats, peas, and red clover are all good choices. Not only will working in your yard during the winter bring you some steady exercise, it will supply you with a whole host of seasonal and local foods for the winter.
Shortest Days and Longest Nights
This can be one of the hardest seasons on our bodies. Shorter days call for us to hibernate. However, tis the season to be busy. Conquering this challenge and honoring your body is paramount to wellness during the winter. Slowing down, eating seasonally, and keeping warm and hydrated are all key points in keeping your body healthy.
Let your Body Turn In
First off, get the sleep you need. Seriously make the time. Less sunlight means more melatonin for you. There is a physical reason you are increasingly tired during the winter. Not honoring this causes your body a lot of stress and can lead to serious fatigue and eventually disease. Getting adequate rest is the number one thing you can do to support your immune system. Honor your body and let it get the sleep it needs.
A big part of getting the rest you need is carving out proper self care time. Determine how much or little time you need to feel well rested and give it to yourself. Taking time for yourself often seems like a luxury. It shouldn't. Getting the time you need for yourself is a part of setting healthy boundaries with the people and obligations we have in our lives. Resetting those boundaries is often difficult but ultimately worth it. Set good boundaries. Take the time you need for yourself.
The fuzzy blankets and socks mentioned above go a long way in keeping you warm and cozy during the winter. Another way to get warm and take some much needed self time are baths. Bathtime is also a wonderful time to meditate and reflect on where you want to go and what you want to do during the upcoming year. We’ll come back to this in a minute. It is also prime time to enjoy a book you’ve been meaning to read.
Take Care of Your Skin.
Cold and dry weather can cause havoc on your skin. Dry, cracking, itchy skin is enough to make anyone miserable. We'll, we certainly got you on this one! Using moisturizer and non drying cleansers is a must during the winter. Olive oil makes for a wonderful cleanser. You can also use coconut oil to remove makeup. Of course our Miracle Salve is a life saver for many suffering from dry skin.
Diet- Eat Seasonally
One of the best ways to support your body during winter is to eat seasonally and locally. The root veggies and seasonal greens supply vitamins and minerals we need for a healthy immune system and boost your mood. These foods are also high in minerals and vitamins like A and K that help build healthy bones. Eat those seasonal veggies. Broccoli, cauliflower, root veggies, gourds, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, peas, leeks, eggplant, and zucchini are all your friends right now. Winter is also the time of year we adopt our heavier diets. Ideally it's not all holiday treats and sugar. This is the time, however, to include more grains, nuts, and healthy fats, and if you eat it meat. in your diet. In essence, seasonal winter foods boost immunity and aid in building infrastructure for your body. Everything we need to be doing during the winter. Staying healthy and restoring. Once again, nature provides the foods that we need when we need them.
In addition to eating seasonally, think of ways to warm yourself from the inside out. Soups and stews full of winter veggies, grains, and warming spices are just the trick. Use that ginger, pepper, cayenne, and turmeric all you like.
Don't forget the liquids. Herbal teas and hot cocoa during winter are a stereotype for a reason. There's also ciders and mulled wine that have become a holiday tradition. Speaking of liquids. Don't forget the importance of hydration during winter. As we become less active it's easy to forget the importance of hydration. We often get dehydrated during the holidays.
Less sunlight and less activity also mean we don't get as much vitamin d as we do during spring and summer. This is the main contributor to seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Unfortunately this comes at a time many of us already struggle with mental health in essence making a bad situation worse. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle pain, and depression. Talk to your Dr about adding a vitamin D supplement into your routine.
Here are some helpful winter recipes for good winter care.
Mulled wine- https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/mulled-wine-recipe/
Chai Tea Recipe- https://www.teaforturmeric.com/masala-chai-recipe/
Vegetable soup- https://www.abeautifulplate.com/slow-cooker-winter-minestrone-with-split-red-lentils/
While this article has highlighted rest, and taking it easy, exercise is still important during winter. With shorter days a shorter workout may be just what you need. Think of ways you can stay fit in a shorter amount of time. A short and powerful HIIT type workout could be just what you need. Alternatively, you may rather embrace a slower pace. A nice yoga routine fits in nicely during winter. Taking walks in the outdoors is also a wonderful way to get some exercise. This will also help you get that vital vitamin D during winter.
Game night anyone? A good old fashioned chili cook-off? Time with friends and family is important during winter. With our ideal slower pace, however, think quality over quantity. Make sure to spend what time you have with those that we have especially meaningful relationships with. For those of us that have a less than ideal family visit lined up make sure you compensate with meaningful chosen family social time. This leads us to boundaries.
Don't forget to give yourself the gift of saying no. There is no better time than winter to start setting healthy boundaries. This is something I struggle deeply with and may be the hardest chore that winter calls us to do. I highly admire those that manage to maintain strong boundaries. The world will not stop turning if you decline some invitations and social obligations. The people that love you will still be there if you cannot do all they ask for you to do. If something feels wrong, or unrewarding, just say no.
Let Your Mind Reflect
Getting all of the extra stuff out of your house isn’t the only thing we need to clean out during the winter. It’s also time to clean out your mental and emotional junk. Setting good boundaries is a wonderful first step that will illuminate a very clear path for you. Winter is the time to reflect on where you have been and where you want to go. It's time to let go of all the things that have been holding you back. Easier said than done, I know. Here are some tools that may help.
Take stock of this year and last.
Take an internal inventory. Mark where you started this year and where you are now. It's very easy to get caught up in wanting to move forward and progress. This is wonderful. It can, however, cause a little discouragement. The age of social media leads us to believe that everyone is so much more out together than we are. It's hard to feel like you're keeping up with everyone else if you lose sight of how far you have come.
Next, take the time to look where you want to go from here. What do you need to do to get there? What's keeping you from getting there? Really do some self reflection and take notes. A planner or journal can really help here. Make commitments to yourself on setting goals and taking the steps you need to get there.
Reward and celebrate yourself.
Tis the season for gift giving. Don't leave yourself off this list. Remember reflecting on how far you've come this past year? Celebrate that and give yourself a reward for being amazing. Perhaps you don't want anything. Give yourself the gift of rest. Cut yourself the slack of gaining some holiday weight. Let yourself sleep in, or let the dishes sit a little longer. So whatever you need to treat yourself to something meaningful.
When in doubt burn it all.
Nope, I'm not kidding. Fire is sacred. Fire is used across cultures and time in rituals across the globe. Lighting candles, gathering around a fireplace, are all things we associate with winter and ritual. Fire gives us warmth. Fire also cleanses.
Ever enjoy a nice evening around a good old bonfire? I always assumed the word was a French, English hybrid for good fire. I was wrong. Bonfire originates from the middle English for banefire, or bonefire. This was a fire used in burning bones, often for ceremonial purposes. This is a fire used to release the past.
Burning away the past is a wonderful ritual for letting go. Simply write down what you don't want in your life, and focus on it. Include all of the baggage that comes with whatever you're letting go. Stress, tension, headache, heartache. Let it all go.
Alternatively, fire can be used to carry your messages to the universe. You can write down all the things you DO want and burn them. The smoke carries your wish to the gods. Tis the season to focus on what you want in your life as well as what you want to let go of. Yup, no time like the winter to have a good old bonfire.
Affirmations For Winter
Affirmations are a powerful tool for setting our mental and emotional state. Here are some good ones that align with winter energies and could very well end up in your bonfire.
There's ever magic to be found, it's in the subtleties of the season I'm standing in now.
No matter how old I grow, no matter how much I've seen, things can still be new if I'm willing to look at them differently.
I give my feelings room to breathe and be because they contribute to my wholeness as a person.
I am allowed to rest.
Darkness isn’t disappointing–it’s a time for rest.
I will protect my energy and set good boundaries.
I welcome the rebirth of new things and keep an open mind to new opportunities.
I am releasing all limiting beliefs, thoughts, and opinions I hold about myself.
Blends that get you in the holiday spirit
As mentioned, winter is a time for all things earthy and warming. Coniferous oils are also a wonderful tool to use during winter. Here are some of our scents sure to get you into the holiday spirit.
Marie Laveau. This warming, and uplifting blend relaxes, supporting our need for rest, and features a number of seasonal plants. Bergamot, clove, and cassia are all seasonal superstars.
Simbi Anpaka- This blend contains some of the most powerful antimicrobial busters in the plant kingdom. It also contains plants that support our respiratory system.
Muladhara- Muladhara is our grounding powerhouse. This blend will take you back to your roots and help you tune in to what your body really needs.
Vishuddah- The Vishuddah, or throat chakra is our communication enter. This blend centers around purity and intention. The festive peppermint come together with evergreen niouli and the mysterious myrhh to elevate your senses and bring in the cheer.
The Crone- The Crone is the oil of no cares. Centered, and grounded, the crone is true only to herself. When you need to be reminded who you are to see your path forward call on the Crone to guide you through the forest.
"That's what winter is: An exercise in remembering how to still yourself then how to come pliantly back to life again." -Ali Smith
Nature is a never ending cycle. The seasons march on with an unforgivingly steady rotation. Living in the seasons and listening to what nature is calling us to do is paramount to our health. Winter calls for healing and recovery. Winter provides us with the time for rest and restoration. Winter is the time to express love, both to others and ourselves. When we fight nature, excess anxiety and dis-ease occurs. It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday madness. Make a point to honor your instincts and your body. Slow down, eat seasonally. Give your mind a moment to gather itself and reflect. Each winter Mother Nature provides us this time. Use it wisely.