Seasonal Balance: Winter
Warmth, Light, and Connection
With a few weeks of the new year behind us, we can all take a moment to reflect on how challenging it can be to create new routines, keep things simple, and put ourselves first. Try to look at this challenge as a good thing and remember this quote from Fred DeVito, "If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you." Change is never comfortable and rarely something we find comfort in, but that doesn't mean it isn't needed. Remember to repeat Gretchen Rubin's Secret of Adulthood, "What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE."
Take note that what we do everyday might have aspects that remain consistent throughout the year, but you may also find that your mood and energy levels change with the seasons. Right now we are deep into winter with cold temperatures, bare trees, and long nights. It seems obvious, but it's likely that your activities are different in the winter months than they are in the summer months and with this your daily routines and self-care needs may also differ as the seasons change.
When we look at the year and break it into the seasons, this can be a simple way to break down our yearly goals or intentions into smaller action items that will lead to the eventual goal. Remember you likely set a goal or intention for the year, so it should take the whole year to achieve or maintain that goal. Each season provides different challenges and opportunities throughout the year. Winter in northern New England can be especially challenging and certainly isn't the easiest time to find motivation -- cuddling under some warm blankets maybe near a fire or wood stove is far easier than finding motivation to get moving and do a workout, right? While you have your own goals and challenges for the year, take a moment to reflect on how you can break that down into smaller action items and get to know how your mood, motivation and time available might change with each season.
Although winter means different things to each of us, there are long nights, freezing temperatures, and dry air among other things for all of us. This time of year can be a challenge for many different reasons that might be psychological, physical, or energetic in nature. Check out the list below for things I do and intend to do in order to find some balance during the cold, dark, and dry winter months.
- Make and enjoy warm, hearty meals. My grandmothers were great cooks and the winter was sure to be time for filling stews, homemade soups, and slow roasted meats (or any other complete protein) and veggies when we visited. Not only are these types of meals good nutritiously with lots of oils, root vegetables, and proteins, but the smells that these meals give off while you are cooking is enough to soothe the soul. AND if you can enjoy these meals surrounded with friends and family you are sure to nourish yourself and loved ones on many levels.
- Drink tea and warm water. Continuing with the trend of warmth, try drinking your water warm (either room temp or heated to 160º) and sip on tea throughout the day. I love drinking my water warmed (with fresh chopped ginger added to ward off germs) and my consumption of chai tea skyrockets in the winter months.
- Light candles or enjoy some time by a fire. With so much darkness and cold, spending some time around a flame or fire can have many healing benefits in the winter months. Not only can the flames be mesmerizing, the heat and light they provide are soothing throughout the winter.
- Talk to your doctor (or PA or NP) about your vitamin D levels; this will require a blood test and you should look to see where in the range you fall. Sunlight naturally provides our vitamin D, but in the winter months, and sometimes year round, we don't get enough UVB rays for our body to produce adequate levels. Vitamin D plays a major role in many systems in our body including our skeletal, muscular and immune systems; vitamin D also affects our skin (psoriasis has been linked to low vitamin D levels) and cognitive function. New research is coming out year after year about vitamin D's role in almost all systems of our body and its role in disease prevention.
o Check out these resources for more info and to be informed when talking with your healthcare provider:
- Make time to connect with friends and family (and maybe it's with a warm, hearty meal). During winter we can feel isolated and lonely especially after the holiday hustle and bustle so early in the winter season. Maintaining social connection throughout these long, dark months can really make a difference. Plan some weekend getaways, host a dinner party or potluck meal, or pick up the phone and reach out to those you didn't get to see this holiday season.
I hope some of these activities and recommendations are helpful in the months ahead. January and February can feel like winter just drags on. So try find balance from the cold, dark, dry season with warmth, light, and connection as you continue your new routines and habits working toward your 2017 goals.
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