Updated: Feb 3, 2020
January. It has a bad reputation: ‘Blue Monday’, forgotten resolutions, a time to hibernate. But I’m here to vote in favour of January, and believe that we can learn from this miserly month and the whole, quiet, winter season. Here I offer some musings and, as we move into February, a few ways to get through the darker days.
Firstly, it is never too late to start
January for me often starts mid-way. The past few years of living in the Netherlands has meant that I end up in the UK for 2-3 weeks around Christmas, and rarely get the head start on the year that I expect. It does, however, offer time to be in my familial and cultural home, reflecting on my past, present and future. The emotional cauldron that bubbles up through this process, often leaves me, frankly, a little confused, but also inherently grateful for all that I have achieved throughout the past year. This staggered beginning to the year, also teaches me that it is never too late to start, and with enough rest, you can step into the New Year a little more hopeful and present.
Finding things to be grateful for during this time can allow you to stay present. No matter how subtle, try writing down one thing in your life, each day, to be grateful for. Then, when you are ready, gently write down any future goals with gratitude and self compassion in mind. For me it is simply important to plant an idea, and observe throughout the coming months which ones take seed and grow.
"Taking any length of walk on a brisk, cold day can act as a reminder to your own resilience. After all, you have made it each day to where you are now, and whatever the climate, you have taken each step in your stride."
When a walk is always a good idea
The inclement weather might often stop you from taking a stroll in January, however, don’t let it get you down! Taking a brisk walk with the season can help you to become more mindful of its qualities and your own strengths. After all, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
Taking any length of walk on a brisk, cold day can act as a reminder to your own resilience. After all, you have made it each day to where you are now, and whatever the climate, you have taken each step in your stride. You may sometimes need some extra padding for comfort and warmth, like a scarf, coat or hat, but these only aid your journey, you do not see them as cheating or a weakness.
So allow your vulnerability, it is human. We can make our own metaphorical hat and scarf to take us through the year. The psychological equivalent to this being a yoga practice, meditation, nap, or whatever you need to help you self soothe and find comfort. As long as you can still move forward and are not burdened by each layer, it can be of benefit.
Sometimes sleep is all you need
I happen to find myself napping about 3 times more in the winter. As a sleepy person I find this time of year is the most challenging! I have found that surrendering to the needs of your body is the most beneficial way to cope. I try to keep a routine as much as possible, but I also trust when my body needs rest. This level of self compassion really helped me last winter, when I was unwell, so I like to remember this if my mind begins to go over negative stories. Maybe you tell yourself ‘I am lazy’ or, ‘There must be something wrong with me!’ If you can relate to this, try questioning it! Are you lazy? I would guess not!
It is completely normal to find yourself depleted, especially in the winter, so by being mindful of your energy levels, and resting, you can help to recharge your creativity and sense of purpose. It may be difficult to discern at times, but with practice, you will find yourself more present than if you forced yourself to pursue a big project too early, or exhaust your body in a high level yoga class.
Finally, practical ways to love the winter
Loving winter can be hard if you are sun-loving and have an adventurous personality. I have, personally, always enjoyed the stillness of winter, yet I still find myself getting impatient, which can be exacerbated by the new years resolution mentality. The way to combat this is to fall completely head over heels in love with the season. Here is a list of just a few ways to love the winter…
Make hot drinks on tap and cover yourself in ALL the blankets. If you don’t have blankets, buy some or knit some and get into the cosy spirit! Extra points if you happen to have a roaring fireplace in situ, although a youtube fireplace video can be just as satisfying.
Take vitamin D. This is a big one for those of us that work in offices or at home especially. It is a simple fix that can really boost your energy levels, and help you to keep your focus through those dreary days. If you are unsure, go to your local pharmacist or consult your doctor.
Appreciate the weather every day. No matter what. Take a moment each day to be in your environment. Look out of the window and watch the clouds change, listen to the the rain, notice the sun break through the clouds and watch out for any rainbows. You won’t see any if you aren’t looking!
Finally, be as present as you can as we only get one winter a year. So be here today, in your own body, sensing the season. Know that each moment is a opportunity to rest, receive and renew, not always in that order.
I will be posting a meditation for any time you might be feeling overwhelmed soon, so if you need any extra support during the winter months, you can try it out and see if you can find more rest or clarity within your day.
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All the best,