Today is the first day of winter. The Winter Solstice, as you know, is the shortest day of the year. As we enter the cold and dark season in the midst of a busy holiday season, it's important to put self-care at the top of our to do lists. Here are some ways we can get the most out of Winter and even if it is not your favorite season, ways you may enjoy it better.
1. Keep Warm
Baby, it's cold outside! Keeping warm is an obvious choice here. However, it takes more than donning your favorite sweater and turning up the heat in your house. It is also important to keep warm on the inside. Eat warming foods. There is a reason cinnamon and ginger are popular spices this time of year. They are warming. Drink hot water with lemon, hot tea, and chai. Eat hot meals and soups. Now is not the time for salad every day.
Sit in the sun or go for a walk. If you can brave the cold get some sun on your face, even if for 5 minutes. If it's really frigid sit in a sunny window when you take your tea break. The sun will generously give you the vitamin D you need to ward off seasonal depression.
Take aromatic baths or steams. Add essential oils like eucalyptus, rosemary, pine, juniper, ginger or ylang ylang to a steaming bowl of hot water. Drape a towel over your head as you breathe in the steam. This will help your respiratory system, clear nasal congestion and help your skin glow. If you have a spa near you with a eucalyptus steam room make a monthly appointment. (PS. My birthday is in January- gift idea!)
A common New Year's resolution is to get more exercise or go to the gym. Don't bite off more than you can chew but do remember to move. I'm guilty of the excuse "it's too cold outside" to keep me sedentary and cozy. In the long run though winter will seem long and depressing if we avoid physical exercise. Go for walks, ice skate, ski, keep your yoga practice going. Allow yourself to feel guilt free if you tone it down by doing gentle or restorative yoga. Allow yourself to start out with gentle or restorative yoga if you've never practiced before. Winter is a time of looking within and for rest. There is nothing better than a restorative yoga public class (or at home) on a snowy day followed by hot chocolate. Especially, if you can't skate or ski like you used to!
3. Use Your Time Wisely
The days are indeed shorter! It's dark out probably before you leave work. Winter is a time when the earth quiets down. It may not feel like it now with the holidays in full swing but it is time to limit action. This is one of the reasons why the holidays feel stressful. We are in a sense fighting the natural rhythm of this time of year. We are lighting up our houses, our yards, and attending parties. When it feels like too much, tone it down. Prioritize your time so you can rest this season and renew in the spring. Do your exercise, see your friends and family, get outside, but do what is most meaningful to you. A huge component in self-care, no matter what the season is in handling life balance.
4. Reflect. Look within.
Meditation. Long walks. Journaling. Taking time to catch up on your reading list. I love that winter allows me time to think. With the new year approaching, we often think back on the past year. Did we do everything we wished? Did we achieve our goals? How could we do better? Take the time to assess and learn. Don't beat yourself up for not sticking with your resolutions. And take the time to plan for the year ahead. Set realistic goals and resolutions. I prefer to set intentions instead. I visualize what I'd like in my life and how I'd like to be in it. Sometimes I make a list other times I just imagine. It's best to keep those wishes grounded by being really careful of how you word them. For instance; instead of saying (thinking) "In 2017 I'm going to do yoga everyday" try "In 2017, I'm going to make my yoga practice a priority. That practice includes meditation and self-care not just classes". I bet the second wording will be achieved more than the first when we're back here next year.
5. Lean In
Appreciate the season. Lean in to winter and its beauty. I grew up on the coast of Maine. I have a love/hate relationship with Ol' Man Winter. It's a serious and often annoying season if you're from the North (all that snow!) but it is also amazingly beautiful (all that snow!). I grew up in a town that was hyper active in the summer with tourists and all kinds of fun to being a complete boarded up ghost town in the winter. Unlike living in New York City where the energy hardly ever stops, winter in my home town forced itself on you. I learned to find ways to appreciate what it offers. The quietness, the solitude, the silvery light... Find ways to appreciate it and you may find yourself missing it once it's gone!
Happy Winter and Happy Holidays!
Photo credits: Karen LaPorte