So are you a Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter person? As we head into the Winter months here in the UK, does that fire off a feeling of dread and a need to hibernate for the darkest, coldest months of the year? Or does it get you excited at the thought of life slowing down for a while, of getting cosy in fluffy, comforting layers with mugs of hot chocolate and lazy days in front of favourite films, or candle lit dinner get-togethers with your favourite people?
I for one, use to be the former. Am now experiencing an odd transitioning following a number of winters spent far away in hotter, exotic climes and this year I'm facing the Winter head on, right here in the UK. The thought of short, dark days and endless rain and grey clouds still threaten to drag me down, but I have to admit, slowing down, getting cosy, dimming the lights and eating warming, uplifting foods (especially some great British roast dinners!) is extremely inviting this time around.
So how can we ensure we lean more towards embracing the Winter and feel good, live well? Here’s some of my favourite tips that I hope you’ll find some joy from too.
1. WRAP UP WARM
It goes without saying that feeling cold and damp does not a happy bunny make. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, it’s just bad clothing.
So dig out your favourite thick, fluffy jumpers, thermals, snug slippers, bright scarves and heat-sealing hats – and let’s not forget the waterproofs! And if you don’t have all you need, try an afternoon of charity shop hunting for some new additions to your wardrobe that won’t break the bank and helps recycle unwanted goodies.
Have fun by adding bright colours or patterns to lighten your outfit – and your mood as you get ready to face the day!
Originating from Denmark, where the Winters are notoriously miserable (!), the practice of Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is something we really need to adopt. If you’ve ever enjoyed reading a book cosied up in a blanket inside a warm home on a rainy afternoon, then you’ve already had first-hand experience of what hygge is all about. It’s finding comfort from spending quality time with loved ones and by yourself during the colder, dark days.
Set up your environment to be soft, cosy, warming and inviting, with blankets, candles, nourishing home-made food, soft lighting and music. Enjoy the art of relaxing and invite friends over to share delicious food and easy conversation, providing comfort and connection with one another. Or find comfort and ease in our own company, enjoying some downtime alone perhaps without distractions of the TV or a To Do list, curled up with a good movie and a mug of heart-warming hot chocolate. It is less about splashing the cash and more about familiarity, joyful connections and peaceful solitude. A delicious way to recharge, replenish and recuperate through the Winter months (or any time really!).
3. GET OUTSIDE
Fresh air, moving the body, open spaces to open the mind into the world of possibilities and opportunity. It’s hard to get all that in one hit being stuck inside. So follow point 1 (suitable clothing) and take yourself out every day if possible even if it is a quick 10 minute walk or sit in the morning sunshine feeling grateful for another new day or squeezing in a quick stroll in your lunch break. These little recharge moments will refresh and invigorate your mind and body leading to more productivity, clarity and good energy. If it’s raining, don your waterproofs and wellies and splash through the puddles like you’re a child again. Regaining and maintaining our playful, younger selves is so important as we age and feel the burdens of life and expectations (more in point 6). As an added bonus, remember to look up while you’re out and about (when safe to do so of course!) which gives an instant natural boost to mood and energy. Find appreciation for the moody, dramatic skies and lashings of rain just as much as you do when stepping out into a fresh blue-sky morning. Enjoy the bird song, the wind blowing fresh air into your lungs, the crunch of snow underfoot.
Notice, become aware, appreciate all as it is.
4. VITAMIN D
We all know about the lack of Vitamin D in our bodies particularly in Winter, when the UK sun isn’t strong enough to help us produce it, which can lead to all sorts of unwanted ailments (low mood, aches and pains, poor sleep, getting sick more easily, inflammation and fatigue to mention a few). So it’s important to ensure you get enough when it’s no longer possible to get it naturally from the sun. Other sources include a small selection of foods (certain fish and mushrooms, fortified orange juice, plant milks, dairy and cereals, beef) and it’s also a hormone that our bodies create. Whilst taking synthetic supplements is no substitute for getting our vitamins and minerals through more natural methods, they can certainly help support and boost our reserves when needed. Look for good quality, high potency and opt for the D2 type which is made from plants if you’re veggie/vegan.
5. KEEP UP SELF-CARE PRACTICES Yes I know it is tempting to just head straight home after a stressful day of work, open the wine and/or chocolate box and retire to the sofa to unwind and switch off. Whilst embracing the Winter as a wonderful time for rest and recuperation, giving into negative self-talk and taking the ‘easy option’ so we can duck out of planned activities and schedules, can not only can lead to feeling worse about ourselves afterwards for not keeping the commitment, but potentially also comes with the dreaded after-effects of overindulging – which then in turn leads to us feeling we are useless and don’t deserve more and turn to the wine and choccos for comfort. Wash and repeat. So if you’ve been on a good roll with going to the gym 3-4 times a week, have recently started up a weekly art class or have been invited to a catch up with friends, try your best to keep it in your diary as a non-negotiable and only allow yourself a one-off pass when you really need it. Part of improving resilience and good feeling towards ourselves is sticking to the commitments we have made to doing things that ultimately bring us joy, growth or improve connections with others.
If of course you really can’t face it or need to bail for whatever reason, do what you need to do and go easy on yourself. Note what was driving you to opt out and work with what answers come up to see if there are patterns or particular circumstances (or people!) that made you want to avoid going and if there are ways around it going forward. Ultimately
6. MAKE TIME FOR FUN
More than ever, during these dark, cold days we need to keep the light coming in from playful activities and mindsets. Watch comedies, play board games with loved ones, try interactive theatre, play with your younger family members or kids – or pets! – get out the arts and crafts bits and pieces and make something just for the pure fun of creating. Pick up a musical instrument, go to a karaoke bar… whatever makes you laugh from the inside out, helps get you out of your head and into the present, helps release stress and your serious side. Learn to laugh at yourself. Look for the funny. When appropriate of course ;)
7. REFLECT ON THE PAST YEAR/S
Another wonderful past-time, whilst snuggled in your slipper boots, sipping on a creamy hot chocolate or mulled wine, is to spend some time thinking about the past year and reflecting on all that was good, and not so good. Allow yourself time to feel all the ups and downs as the building blocks that have strengthened you and got you to where you are now. What brought your joy? What made you unhappy? Why? Noting these kinds of questions and considerations down in a journal or on a bit of paper can be particularly useful as it helps to unlock some deeper awareness and emotions linked to the past events that we can then learn from. Go gently with anything difficult or upsetting and talk it through with a friend or therapist if you need to. Understand that everything that happens to us is instrumental in helping us grow and learn more about ourselves, what we will accept and what we won’t, what we can control and what we cannot. It’s all life’s lessons and building blocks and a lot of it is deep and can often need unpicking with a trained expert, so do call on someone if you need to.
After the reflection, you may wish to expand on this is by thinking about the future and moving into the new year with an idea of all the things you’d like to do or achieve. Fill a page (or more) with as many things that have brought you joy, things you’d like to try that you think you’d enjoy (especially those things you’ve been wanting to do but have put off!) and how they can be brought into your schedule with ease. We can often make our lives better purely by limiting what doesn’t work for us and bringing in more of what does. But we have to be aware and clear of what they are, so this can be very useful going forward.
As an added bonus, you might also like to sit quietly for a few minutes or so, perhaps with a candle or nurturing fragrance from an oil burner, picturing how you’d like to see yourself in the coming months and years – your ideal life. The trick here is to really feel the happiness glowing inside you, feel your utter contentment with how your life is going, enjoying a strong, authentic connection with others, the absolute fulfilment from working in a role you absolutely love, or any other deep desire you have burning inside you. In the weeks and months that follow, take a moment to recall that wonderful feeling whenever you need some motivation to keep you going towards that life you dreamed of and desire.
Hope some of this will be of help to you!
Be well, inside and out x