As the days become shorter and the light levels drop to murky, when we get colourless grey days of rain, and drizzly days of fog, or when we get chilly days, when we have to wrap up warm and ‘defrost’ the car, then life can start to both look and feel a little drab – or as they say here in Scotland, a bit driech, meaning dreary, dull and depressing. Now obviously I’m coming at this from a UK weather perspective, but hopefully some of it can apply to those of you who still get a feeling of dullness during the winter, where there is a closing in, a hibernation feeling, a waiting it out until Spring feeling. Perhaps that’s why many people put their energy into buying for Christmas so early, to make sure they engineer some sparkle for the festive break. But this break is all too brief, and the onslaught of a long January can be harder to endure because the Christmas ‘high’ is over, and there are no strategies to fall back on to soften the hard edge of January, as winter has still far to go.
So instead of trying to just survive winter, let’s look at how we can thrive instead, looking after the mind, the body, and the spirit as we go.
- Outdoor exercise. Get outside for some exercise whenever you can, to boost your serotonin levels. With good levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain, you will more likely to be positive, confident, flexible, and easygoing. With low levels you can become negative, worried, irritable and depressed. Getting out will also expose you to more light. A lack of light can exacerbate seasonal affective disorder (SAD, winter depression), through causing reduced serotonin, and reduced vitamin D, all of which can make you tired and depressed. So get yourself out, maybe take some music with you for some emotional ‘colour’, and change your mood with the feel good factor that exercise can bring.
- Lighting. This is linked to above, but I’m thinking more about internal lighting in the home. When I was a girl, during the sixties and seventies, my parents thought a central light bulb glaring down into a room was sufficient. But I hated it for the oppressive artificiality it gave (being the ‘sensitive’ type of course ;>)) and I swiftly learned to embrace lamps and spotlights for cosy corners in my own home. So make the most of your lighting, maybe make a few changes for winter. If you work at a desk at home, consider investing in a daylight lamp to sit a couple of feet in front of you while you work. These emit bright light which mimics natural daylight, and are used to treat SAD by raising those mood enhancing neurotransmitters. You just switch it on and let it do its thing.
- Warmth. I’m thinking of two kinds of warmth here.
First, the physical. It’s pretty obvious to wrap up warm, but what about really enjoying it? It’s now you get the chance to wear your fabulous collection of scarves, your knitted hats or your furry Cossack ones, your fingerless mittens, and what about your gorgeous collection of boots?
And secondly, there’s psychological warmth. Think cosy, cosseting, patchwork throws and crocheted-cushion time with plenty of delicious colour to spice up the winter grey. Hot chocolates, chunky soups, meeting friends for a chat in your favourite café, making your home just that extra bit welcoming, before the Christmas tree goes up. Maybe put some fairy lights up in your bedroom, if you’ve never done it before. You can put glitter in your life without Christmas.
- Work. Winter is the perfect time for creative people to up their productivity, to immerse themselves in it, to nurture it. The driech weather outside can mean less procrastinating over your work, less resistance, fewer possible excuses, fewer distractions by those spring and summer attractions. You can get stuck in, finish current projects, plan new ones, get your creative ‘house’ in order, which is very therapeutic in itself, tidy your in-tray, sort out your files or tidy your studio – you’re setting yourself up for the new year ahead, you’re taking control of it, instead of letting it creep up and take a chaotic control of you.
- Nature. Yes, winter weather can be really gloomy and dim, engendering low spirits. But it can also be icy sharp and crisp, with frosted fields and atmospheric mists, with stubble fields to crunch your way through underfoot. And the lower angle of the winter sun brings beautifully dramatic lighting contrasts, great for art and photography, with long stretched shadows and the stark silhouettes of leafless trees to enjoy and those crimson sunsets. You can relish these highlights of winter to nourish your spirit.
And don’t forget about using the nature of winter for creative ideas…
So just some ideas on thriving instead of surviving through the winter, and I’ll come to winter again, for seasonal musings, and thoughts about Christmas later on.
(Top image courtesy of pixabay; sunset photo, Lynne ; watercolour pic, Lynne)