I’m sitting in my kitchen looking proudly at the rice pudding I just made, ready to completely embrace the coming of winter. I know so many people that are having a hard time right now or will be in the coming months. While I’m no expert at this, I have found a way to not only survive but thrive during the long dark days of winter.
For some people winter is their favorite time of year, all the holidays, skiing, snowboarding, skating, to you, the much hardier than I, I salute you, Cheers! For the rest of us that don’t like the cold, we spend all our time inside. The shorter amount of day light, disconnected from nature and less contact with others can be a very hard time filled with a sense of detachment, isolation, loneliness and depression. Some are dealing with the feeling of anxiety as their kids go off to school or when the older kids head for college leaving a house empty for the first time in many years. I cannot pretend I have the cure, but I do know what works for me and that we have more power than we think.
For years I took St John’s Wort in the winter. I began taking it in October and would begin to ween myself off in March. This worked for a while, but I began to feel powerless having given all my power over to a flower. I decided one year that I wouldn’t take it and a friend asked if it was my ego that was making that decision….it was and so I continued to take it. The following year it never occurred to me to take it and I hadn’t thought about it till mid-January. What happened in the time between being so aware and fearful of winter to not even giving it a thought was a shift in my thinking. That’s it. That sounds so easy doesn’t it but believing that it is simple is setting yourself up for a letdown when it becomes difficult. It will take work on your part.
If you’ve spent some time focusing on your dislike of winter, it’s going to take some time to shift the way you think about winter. Every time you focus on the negative you create a bigger, stronger connection in your brain. Think about how the Grand Canyon began, with time and repetition on the same area carving away the earth, it became deeper and deeper. Imagine how much time it would take to smooth out the banks of the canyon but with a plan, intention, self-awareness, patience and vigilance you can do just that. With practice you can begin to carve a path of positivity and smooth away the negative.
For me it was realizing there are a few things about myself that were hard to swallow. I had a habit of drama so if something was unpleasant in my life, I focused on it and invited more drama in, creating that bigger deeper grove. When Todd and I moved to the east coast it wasn’t because we wanted to live here necessarily it was because we wanted to be closer to family. Some place in the hidden corners of my mind I did not allow myself to be comfortable and as ridiculous as this sounds it wasn’t until recently, I finally bought proper winter attire! So, taking a hard look at why you don’t like something can be the key to shifting your mind, seeing ways you‘ve been keeping yourself stuck and begin creating a positive path.
Once I got a long winter coat and realized I didn’t have to freeze my ass off every time I walked outside was the key! Ok fine, it may seem obvious but sometimes we can’t see what’s right in front of us. From that point it became clear that my focus was not on making it better (keeping drama) but on staying stuck. Now I knew where to look so I started to think of all the things I didn’t like and what I could do to change that. The two big ones for me were not spending enough time outside and lack of sunlight. Getting better clothes was easy enough and while I still don’t really enjoy any outdoor winter activities, I can be more comfortable walking the dogs and embracing that more instead of complaining. A friend of mine goes for a walk after dinner every night no matter what, it began as forced then it became a healthy habit she enjoys. There just isn’t a lot of sunlight in the winter and I can’t change that, but I can try to spend more time outside and when I’ve had enough of that curling up in the sunspots with the dogs will do just fine. Of course, it couldn’t be that easy, there had to be more. I started to break it down further. Besides my yoga practice which is the most essential practice for my physical and mental health I really didn’t do much else with my body in winter. If I wasn’t going to be moving my body to walk to the store or ride my bike to the studio, go hiking or gardening and all that that entails I had to find a way to move. Last year I tried rock climbing and loved it! I am not a fan of heights but the concentration, the deliberate movement and feeling every muscle in your body working is exactly what I longed for. Still this isn’t enough. I had to continue to look at all my habits that kept me stuck. I became very aware of my food choices and made sure I was eating enough food that was alive and vibrant. I also make sure my feet connect with the earth and yes even in snow. Once I began to look at the habits I’d created, seeing their opposites/solutions was easy. Then it was just a matter of acting and remaining vigilant. The physical solutions were easy fixes once I figured out what they were but now came the mental. It’s not fun to work on ourselves but the reward is worth every uncomfortable moment. Once again taking an honest look at myself I could see the areas I needed to change.
What it all comes down to is this - We all have our reasons for not liking winter but if you can start to ask yourself why you can find the solution. Honesty and curiosity are the most important factors here. If you skim over the scary truths, you won’t get very far.
Lastly, I start my prep work. I remind myself of all the things I love about fall and winter. So, in my best Julie Andrews voice (be very glad this is written and not me singing), these are a few of my favorite things.
Jeans and a t-shirt or shorts and a sweater. Fires and flannel shirts. The smell of wet leaves. Hot coffee on a cold day. Warm body, cool face. Snuggling on the couch under a big blanket with Todd watching a movie surrounded by dogs. The colors of autumn. Mashed potatoes. The first snow. Hot shower on a cold morning. The quiet on a snowy night. Pumpkin pie. Snow angels. My cold feet on Todd’s warm feet…hehehehe makes me laugh every time but oddly enough not him.
These are the things I’ll focus on, the things that bring me joy. I will soak in those good feelings with all my senses till I feel it in my bones. It’s true what they say, energy flows where your focus goes. Be purposeful with your focus and bring the light in.
You will always have things in your life that aren’t your favorite and somethings you just can’t fight. You can’t change the seasons, you can’t change a lot of things but the one thing you have complete control over is how you react to them. Take your power back!