Mindfulness During Winter
Jackie Hillegers shares her top tips for taking advantage of the changing season to prepare our bodies and minds for renewal.
Nature never fails to amaze me with its advanced preparation for each season.
Autumn has officially passed the baton to winter with a sudden drop in temperature and having completed its annual mission of turning lush green leaves into a pile of surface crimsons, auburn or amber, it can now take a backseat.
This is all part of mother nature’s renewal process, as crisp fallen leaves eventually break down, depositing nutrients back into the soil preparing for the new growth that will come with spring.
We can mindfully think of our own bodies in terms of seasons and spend time in winter doing prep work on ourselves. Imagine each of your unwanted thoughts or stuck emotions as a leaf; visualise that leaf changing colour, which could represent losing its control over you as it makes its way out of your body, allowing room for more positive thoughts.
Did you know that around 90% of our energy is used on suppressing our trapped emotional baggage? So use winter as an internal method of preparation for all the growth that is coming your way in spring.
Spring can be the time that you work on sprouting new ideas, welcoming new beginnings and working on positive growth. Get back to joy, playfulness and self-connection as you awaken from your static state.
Like a seed you must persist in allowing the unknown to happen, relinquish control and step out of your comfort zone. When we become too comfortable, we forget to push ourselves in order to grow. Each season has a reason!
That is not to say that the winter blues will not tap us on the shoulder and the more time we spend at home or inside allows the winter blues to creep in.
Our moods can dip and our thoughts tend to deepen. A lack of the sunshine drug Vitamin D may be one of the reasons, but just remember that by practicing mindfulness and making ourselves aware of when our moods are feeling low, we can also change them.
Winter has so many exciting mindfulness practices we can embrace. Some examples are:
MINDFUL EATING – We tend to eat less salads and more hearty foods during winter. Simmering soups or slow-cooked meals can release aromas throughout the house, creating a sense of comfort and homeliness. Use your five senses when eating and appreciate how and where your meal has come from. Eat small mouthfuls and chew your food to enjoy its flavours. Food can be so much more enjoyable in winter when we take the time to appreciate it from all angles.
REFLECTION TIME – There is nothing better than getting into warm pjs at the end of the day and snuggling under a blanket. Instead of turning on the TV or scrolling through your phone, try to get into the habit of lighting a candle, turning on soft music and spending time deconstructing your day and unwinding.
You can practice exhaling your unwanted thoughts, choosing moments in your day you were proud of or thinking how grateful you are for your loved ones. Positive thinking can reduce depression, pain and helps build a greater resistance to illness.
STRETCHING AND YOGA – Yoga, pilates and stretching can be a relaxing way to start or end your day. Give your body the attention it needs and use this as a relaxing way to say ‘thank you’ to your body and mind.
HOT CHOCOLATE OR TEA – There is nothing better than wrapping your fingers around a mug of steaming hot goodness. Sitting outside in the fresh air or gazing out a window in the morning is mindfulness in action. The steam from the hot drink warms your nostrils and each small sip can be felt internally, making its way through your body.
Sipping hot chocolate around a firepit with floating marshmallows is next level!
NATURE WALKS – Winter is a beautiful time of the year to walk. Without leaves on the trees you are more exposed to the sun which can increase your Vitamin D levels. Why not micro-dose your outings by taking smaller and more frequent walks and engage your senses to see, smell or hear what is happening around you.
If it is raining outside you can still forest bath at home. Your brain does not know the difference between visualisation and reality so if you imagine walking through the forest, assisted with forest music, your mind can believe you are actually there!
Winter can be an excellent time to perform much-needed maintenance on ourselves.
Take the time to shift your awareness into winter maintenance mode; create your own mind fertilizer in preparation for growth; use gratitude to savour precious moments; rebel against negative thoughts; and practice well deserved self-care to remedy your low mood.
Preparation is key so don’t think of winter as cold and depressing, think of it as taking the time to work more on ourselves so by spring you are ready to bloom.
- Work extra hours in winter, and have more time off in summer
- Spend winter at the gym or pilates studio getting beach-ready
- Listen to podcasts, music and meditations
- Educate yourself in a new language or activity
- Plan your vegetable garden in advance for Spring
- Journal or work on yourself – everyone can improve
- Enjoy relaxing and organising hearty pot-luck dinners with friends