How to feel more connected to self during Winter
Winter invites us to go within and it can be hard to boost your mood during winter. The stark beauty of the frozen landscape contrasts with the warmth inside. The crackling fire beckons us to sit awhile and stare. Steaming mugs of hot chocolate, silence, and stillness. Slowing right down. Winter says “There is magic to be found by tuning inwards”.
On the surface, it seems like winter is a time of dormancy. Trees that have lost their leaves appear dead. Fields once abundant with grain lie fallow and frosty. Animals hibernate.
But the truth is, nature is still alive with activity. It’s just that the activity is slower, underground or hidden from view.
The naked trees have drawn all the energy from their leaves and absorbed it back into their branches. Fungi are sprouting on the forest floor to recycle decaying plant matter into nutrients for Spring. Even animals that are hibernating need to spend their energy intermittently waking up.
This is why winter is the perfect time for us humans to go within. It’s the ideal season to honour introspection and self-reflection.
Coping Better With Winter to improve your mood
Winter (especially in colder climates) can be tough. From the frigid temperatures to the lack of bright sunlight, winter can make us moody. Which is why cultivating practices that build calm resilience are especially important.
Being calm and being resilient are actually two sides of the same coin. Because the textbook definition of resilience is ‘being able to recover quickly from difficult conditions’. The key word here is recover. So while you may think of resilience as another word for ‘tough’, a critical element to resilience is the ability to stay calm.
Calm is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the branch of the nervous system that acts like a brake in a car. It helps keep the body calm. You activate this calm through practice. You literally become calm and resilient by regularly soothing your nervous system. Every time you experience calm, you teach your mind and body to become more calm naturally. So if you’re struggling with winter, now is a great time to practice slowing down and tuning in.
Tools For Tuning In
The ultimate tool for tuning in, meditation is a powerful and effective practice for building calm resilience. And winter is a wonderful time to practice candle gazing meditation.
Also known as ‘trataka’, candle gazing meditation requires a quiet, darkened room. It’s best to set up your candle at eye level. Then simply sit with your eyes open, gently gazing at the candle flame. As you gaze at the candle, breathe gently and deeply. With each inhalation, focus on the sensation of the light. With each exhalation, feel your body relax. As your focus deepens, the room will fade, your thoughts will still and your only awareness will be of the flame. Continue meditating for as long as you like.
When your meditation is done, close your eyes for a few minutes to integrate this calm feeling.
Breathwork is a great alternative to meditation. Especially if you struggle with overthinking, trauma or anxiety. One of the easiest and calming breathwork techniques is called ‘2-1 Breathing’. With this breath, you focus on exhaling for twice as long as you inhale. When you lengthen your exhale, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the calming arm of your nervous system.
To begin 2-1 breathing, simply inhale for a count of 2 and exhale for a count of 4. As you breathe, focus on letting your belly expand on the inhale. And then fully relaxing on the exhale.
You could dedicate a few minutes to breathwork each day. Or you can use this simple method any time you feel stressed to quickly come home to calm.
Journaling is a fantastic tool for tuning in. It can help you process stress, quieten your mind and get you out of mental loops. Journaling can also help you come up with solutions, connect ideas and gain a bigger perspective.
When you journal, you can pour out any emotion or thought without the fear of being judged. It’s a quiet, safe place for you to reflect. There are so many ways to journal. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as taking your thoughts and spilling them onto the page.
Try taking three blank pages and writing whatever is on your mind in ‘stream-of-consciousness’ writing. You might be surprised and delighted by how much better you feel after getting all your thoughts out of your head and onto the paper.
Eating seasonally is a fantastic way to honour the earth’s rhythms and nourish your body at the same time. You can take this nourishment even further by practicing mindful eating. Choose a meal where you know you can sit down and take your time. Even if meals with kids feel frantic, modelling mindful eating can be a great way to show them how to slow down and be calm too.
Remember, we learn to become calm by experiencing calm.
To practice mindful eating, practice savouring each bite. Notice the flavour, temperature and texture of your food. You could even pause between each bite to take a few deep breaths. Mindful eating can bring immense pleasure simply by tuning into the experience of delicious food.
By going within, winter can be a rich and rewarding season. It’s simply a matter of slowing down, learning to soothe your nervous system and taking the time to tune in.
And when you do, you’ll not only be cultivating the calm resilience to cope better with winter, but also every season of your life.
So which one of these practices really stood out to you? And when will you carve out a time to practice it?
About the author:
Tahlee Rouillon is a music composer, CEO and founder of the Seekers’ Sanctuary. She creates soothing meditones® music to help people feel effortlessly calm.
Tahlee has been described as ‘the voice of an angel’ and a ‘musical genius’. She’s obsessed with dogs, forests, good food, and laughing out loud. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner and co-founder, Harley.
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