25 Nov Embracing the Season Ahead
Winter officially starts this week, although it may feel as if it’s been here for a while!
If you are someone who would rather switch the calendar to Spring as we approach the season, then it might be worthwhile considering how you can embrace the months ahead in a way that brings pleasure and enjoyment.
For many in the northern hemisphere Winter is a season to be endured rather than enjoyed, brightened up by festive celebrations, which make the darkness bearable only until the light returns. It is perhaps worth reframing the view we hold of Winter and embracing it for the joys and magic it can bring if we allow it. Winter reminds us that everyone and everything needs some quiet time.
It’s not surprising that the darkness and cold is something many people do not anticipate with excitement. The Winter does indeed pose challenges. Even our understanding of what darkness is and the meaning we make of it has negative connotations. Darkness in movies is something we associate with fear and sadness. We rejoice when the sun appears in Summer and bemoan the presence of rain and cold. On the TV the meteorologist smiles when delivering a sunny forecast and almost apologies when the low fronts appear! Compare the vibe of people jetting away on their holidays in Summer to a dark, dreary day in the office in Winter. We plan our holidays for the Summer and we need to ride out the Winter to get there. In our psyche how good or bad any day is generally factors in the weather and the light!
As with everything very often it’s the meaning we attach to it and the lens we are seeing it through that is the challenge.
As the daylight hours shorten, reduced exposure to sunlight results in a disruption to our body clock as well as a decrease in the production of certain hormones which impact mood, appetite and sleep. Our bodies’ natural response is to spend more time resting. However, slowing down for many comes with resistance and with feelings of guilt. For many, it means attempting to maintain a similar schedule and feeling guilty when unsuccessful. We can reframe this season as a time we live differently, but different does not necessarily mean less well. It means different expectations. We can find ways to adjust, while at the same time doing the things we need to do and want to do in a different way, and perhaps in less quantities.
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) sometimes known as ‘Winter depression’ is a condition which impacts many individuals as the seasons change. Symptoms include low mood, reduced energy, less joy and lack of interest in activities that would normally bring pleasure. SAD is diagnosed in individuals when symptoms are persistent and show evidence of changing with the seasons. Approximately 1 in 15 of the UK population are thought to have the condition. However, many more than that can relate to the impact of the shorter days on their body and experience some symptoms of SAD in a milder, less persistent form. Being pro-active in our approach can have a massive impact on our Well-being.
- Embrace the outdoors – Get outdoors when you can, even if it is in the rain/snow/wind. Regular movement is good for our physical health and has a positive impact on mood.
- Tackle the discomfort head on – Identify what it is that is most challenging for you about the season and find a way to enjoy it. If you hate the cold buy a new warm hat or a coat that you feel good in. If you hate the dark get out and see the magic of a night sky on a clear night. If you dislike the dark mornings, make yourself a nice coffee or play a favourite tune to accompany you on the journey to work. Whatever it is you dislike about the season embrace it and find a way to find joy in it in the here and now. In doing this we learn a valuable skill we can apply to any area of our life in any season. Perhaps this is the difficult colleague whom we struggle to work alongside or the task we regularly avoid. When we can explore our discomfort and figure out how we can change our approach to it we have the power to change our experience of that situation and so the resultant feelings/impact it has on us.
- Get Creative – Make a book/movie/music bucket list for the Winter. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy them.
- Take it down a gear : Life is not a race and it is good for our body physically and psychologically to embrace the opportunity to slow down and rest. This does not mean stopping our normal practices. Continue to exercise and move. Continue to eat healthy. Continue to socialise. Continue to do whatever normally helps you feel good. Consider how you can maintain your practices, perhaps at a slower pace.