Staying bright and light over winter

 

I’m always experimenting with ways of making life lighter and brighter, with ways to live more in my flow, with more ease and grace.

Now, you may well think after an incredibly long hot summer, think a couple of days at 46 degrees, followed by 3 weeks in balmy warm Bali, that landing back into the depths of winter could have an unsettling effect on me yet here I am bouncing into winter with vigour and curiosity.

 For many the onset of winter brings on the blues. The winter blues are very common and I have friends who most definitely experience a mood shift during the colder, darker days of winter. It is called SAD – seasonal affective disorder – and is a recurrent type of depression associated with the change in seasons. It typically starts in the fall and persists through the winter months.

Life doesn’t have to be hard, though sometimes, I know I am making it hard just by my approach, the way I choose to surf the highs and the lows. And that is not to downplay those times in life when it really is a struggle when emotions override us yet this is all part of living the intricate complicated tapestry of being human. I also know that it doesn’t mean avoiding, ignoring or burying my head in the proverbial sand when things get sticky, tough or even downright horrible. I guess what I am talking about here is how to cultivate a day to day, moment to moment feeling of being light, bright and in the flow.

In general, believe it or not, I am a cup half empty kind of a person that is my default or it has been for a lot of my life. It may well have changed in the last ten years after lots and lots of yoga and meditation as I feel more optimistic, more excited about life and overall just happy to be alive. This was most definitely not the case in my twenties and thirties where I would oscillate between everything was flipping amazing to my world is about to collapse right now. However, like I said it is my default and that is a very useful thing to know about yourself so that you can recognise and not buy into your own tendencies. Goodness, sometimes I even laugh at myself for being the way I am.

So change the way you view or the way you are describing the current situation to yourself can really up tempo your life. Once winter rolls in, I have discovered that changing what you are saying about the cold shifts how you feel and cope with the cold.

THE COLD MAKES ME FEEL ALIVE

rather than

IT’S SO COLD.

Instead of complaining I am celebrating the winter in as many ways as possible:

Winter Solstice –community, friends, ritual, altars,

Nature’s Cycles – garden time, nature walks, fire time, retreat

Lunar cycles – full moon and dark moon celebration and intention setting

Yin/yang – hibernate/ignite; rest/activate

My plan is to see winter through loving eyes the eyes of softness to deeply nourish myself without turning into a sloth. So far it’s working well even through an absolutely hideous head cold which I chose to see as a sign to rest and heal deeply. Yes, that’s right getting sick is what everyone does from time to time so go with ot. No need to soldier on. Stay home rest and recuperate.

Move

Winter is a time of hibernation, it feels natural to rest more, draw inwards, eat warmer, heavier foods and spend more time snuggled up in front of the fire or under blankets. Nature is speaking directly with us as leaves fall and nights draw in. We can and should rest more in winter after all the nights are longer and the days are shorter until the winter solstice and then the days slowly get longer as we spin on the earth’s axis closer and closer to the sun for summer.

Honour that natural reclusive, inner facing time of insight and reflection. Yet consider yin and yang and make sure you balance it out please add a touch of fire into your winter. That’s right while snuggling up next to the fire is lovely especially with a hot chocolate in hand, it so very important to stoke your internal fire and circulation through movement and sweat. Light your inner fire, ignite from your core and keep both the digestive fire and the fire of your passion alive and burning steadily through winter.

In my yoga practice, I work slowly yet steadily on strengthening my core using the pairs of spinal movements – twisting, left and right (super great for digestion), side bending, left and right, forward and back bending, and of course, lengthening and its friend compression (gravity does a lot of that for us) so I focus mostly on lengthening or tractioning my spine.  

I work with really honing in on my deep transverse abdominus muscle in simple core work, I move with the aim to actually get a sweat up and move winter stagnation before it settles into my bones. I also like to throw in a  couple of high intensity interval training workouts to keep the motor running.

  • Find a yoga class where they focus on igniting the fire without exhausting you
  • Dance to your favourite music
  • Walk

 

Sweat

It is so important, essential to keep our body and internal landscape moving and our fire (agni) going. How much and what time of exercise depends on so many things – health issues, your personality type. Do your best to keep up some kind of regular program of exercise. If you’re not able to sweat without feeling depleted could you find some make extra time for a sauna, stretching (perhaps in front of the fire) and massage to keep everything flowing. Remember my autumn nourish me where I talked you through self-massage.

It makes you feel better, I promise.

Hydrate

It can be harder to remember to drink water in winter and more challenging if you’re in a building with heating on. The truth is you need to drink a lot more water than you think. In winter, drink it warm or at least room temperature and now could well be the time to explore the wonderful world of herbal teas.

Diffuser

If you’re using a heater or fire at home put a large bowl (or two) of water nearby to bring moisture back into the room. I use an aroma diffuser to add mist back into the air. I spray my face with rose water throughout the day just like you would for your houseplants. At the yoga studio, I have a small botttle of distilled water with lavender in it and  I spray it around before and after each class to add moisture back into the room after having the heater on.

Fresh Air

Open the windows and let the air circulate and bring mossture and freshness in from the outside – draw in the oxygen from the trees and release the stale air out.

Refresh your whole house change the sheets, the towels, clear out the fridge of stale food and all those jars of stuff you never eat and replenish your stocks with fresh, organic inspiration vegetables. Fill a big bowl with fruit and place it on the table with a fabulous bunch of flowers. Go on it will change the way you feel. If you get really inspired declutter your pantry!

 

Eat well.

I have a real love of food, growing vegetables and cooking, however, I am not qualified in anything other than my own joy and love of all things food from planting the seed, to harvesting and cooking. There are so many diets or different schools of thought about what we should and shouldn’t eat.   

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Keep a food journal if you are not sure how certain foods make you feel and be really honest even about those food you gravitate towards and know deep down aren’t doing you any favours. Treats are treats not everyday food. Indulge but know when to stop. Watch yourself and notice if certain situations or people trigger certain food choices.

I feel better when I include some raw foods in my diet though by no means can I tolerate a whole raw diet as it really makes me feel bloated – listen to your body and I work better with a mix of both cooked and raw. Raw can mean anything you like I love playing with vegan cakes, raw pizzas, cauliflower rice – you may not. For you it could be simply adding different salads to lunch or dinner, juices or smoothies.

Eat Really Great Food

Eat foods you really love. Buy organic whenever you can. Use fresh herbs on top of soups, or a small raw salad with your roasted vegetables

Breakfast

Winter Quinoa Porridge

Winter Brown Rice Congee

Activated Buckwheat Granola

Winter Acai Berry Bowl (dairy free)

Lunch and Dinner

Super Green Soup

Pumpkin miso soup

Sweet and sour chana dahl

Have fun and here’s to with coming out of winter with a smile on our face.