Prepare for Winter, Transition with Ease
Perhaps like me, you greet the fall season with ambivalent feelings. I love the fall colors, the arrival of honey crisp apples and the warming stews and soups. I am not delighted, however, by the upcoming cold, ice and decreasing daylight hours.
As the summer fades, so does our exposure to daylight, the sun and for many of us in the northeast, the outdoors. It is scientifically proven that not getting enough sunlight impacts our Vitamin D levels and thus, our bone strength. We stop moving as much. We don’t like going out in the cold, and walking can be hazardous when there is snow and ice under foot. This impacts our bone health AND our mood! Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression brought on by low light levels, is a real issue for many. It’s no wonder we approach the winter months fearing the cold and the dark!
This blog is meant to provide useful ideas to help us shift from inner dread and resistance to creative curiosity and viscerally effective tools. Here we go!
Obviously, heading south to warmer, sunnier climates is one approach to beating the blues. Sadly, it’s not one we can all opt for. I lived through two winters in Oslo, Norway back in the day. And, I can vouch for the ill effects of low daylight on one’s emotional stability. In the middle of winter, even at the sun’s brightest, there was only 3 to 4 hours of twilight. Way north in Tromsa, there was even less light. It was dark all the time. Thus depression, alcohol and drug abuse were all too common, and finding motivation for even minimal self-care activities was near impossible.
So if you can’t relocate to warmer climes, then one solution for those in limited daylight regions is to use Light Therapy Boxes. These are proven to help with SAD; however, there are many versions and some may work better than others for certain individuals. It’s important to speak with your health care practitioner before purchasing a light therapy box to review things like light intensity, safety features, cost, style and other important considerations.
A Few more suggestions…
Begin a New Creative Project
When spending more time indoors, creative projects that feed our soul and keep us inspired are incredibly helpful. Sign up for a drawing or writing course online or at your local community college or adult education center. Want to be more fluent in Italian or Spanish for that big trip next year? Now’s the time to start! Maybe you have a home craft project you’ve been thinking about that you now have the time and motivation to tackle. At the very least, these activities will distract you from the raw, cold weather outside.
Lighten Your Load
“Fall cleaning” is as equally powerful and timely as “spring cleaning”. It’s not necessarily something that I’m eager to do, but I find that calling on a friend to help me makes it way more fun and definitely helps me get it done. Hint: designate three areas to help sort your stuff: keep, giveaway (donate), sell. If an item fails to spark joy for you or you haven’t touched it in over a year… that’s right: put it in the giveaway or sell pile.
Reflect on What Supports YOU
Ask yourself: “what will bring me more joy and ease in the coming months?”
- Maybe you would find it nourishing to take warm soaks in the tub – go wild – add bubbles and some lovely aromatherapy oils!
- Cultivate community, not isolation. Organize a neighborhood “healthy” potluck gatherings (have everyone choose one of the great recipes found on Dr. Hyman’s website!
- Start up Family Game or Movie Night.
The possibilities are endless. Simply, add in more of what lights you up! Turn on that creative headlight and let it shine.
Keep in mind that help is often best found in combining approaches. For example: Eat warmer, moister foods and keep moving: join an indoor spa/gym and get a buddy to go with you…truth is company is way stronger than willpower!
Lastly, I want to remind you that the darker, colder months also have a powerful rebalancing quality to them. Even when trees and animals go into hibernation, growth is still happening. The growth is just focused inward. So taking time to pause and focus inward each day, even for a few minutes, helps us “ride the wave” of the winter experience.
So, make a conscious choice to start your day in a positive way. Here’s how…
Take 1 to 20 minutes each day to meditate upon waking to set your day on the right path for success. Attune your inner compass to your “true north”. That is, set your attention to head in the direction that supports your values and priorities. Note: this is not the time to tick through your “to do” list. This is meant to bubble up what bolsters you and focus on that. End your meditation by thinking of 5 things you are grateful for. Go one step further and jot them down to reflect on later. This immediately enhances your ability to be present and creates an inner sweetness in body and mind.
If you’ve gotten this far, before you head into what’s next in your day, I ask you to simply take a few full deep breaths. Pause. Then decide how you want to move forward into this day. Choose to take care of your body and mind by choosing actions that build your energy, not drain it.