The current winter is one of the hardest I can remember. It has been parsimonious with sunny days, but more than generous with snow and frost. It’s traditionally the season that I find most challenging in terms of staying rooted in my mindfulness practice.
But there are quite some things that help me brace the cold, dark days and maintain a positive mindset. Here are my favorite rituals for the winter season.
1. Build a snowman
When was the last time you built a snow man? For most of us it’s a tradition that transports us right back into our childhood days when we could spend hours outside playing in the snow until our fingers were frozen, our cheeks rosy, and our noses running.
The perfect snow for a snowman is neither too wet and nor too powdery. It should be packable, meaning it should stick well enough to form compact shapes that won’t fall apart when lifted or put together. Try making a few snowballs first to check the consistency before you go ahead with the biggerst parts of your snowman.
It is especially entertaining when you are creative and try building your favorite yoga pose. My upside-down snowman looked amazing in his handstand, don’t you think?
2. Get crafty
Studies have shown that all activities that involve the concerted, repetitive movement of both hands work well to align the two sides of the brain. This is why knotting mala beads is one of the greatest pleasures for me. But also needlework like knitting and crocheting can work just like a meditation. And it’s not for grandmas only.
You may be forced to stay inside more often in winter, but instead of looking on your smartphone screen as a way of unwinding and relaxing, why not start a knitwork project this winter? You could make a quilt, socks, cushion slips or mittens – the possibilities are endless.
In addition to the satisfactory effects of working with your hands, you also get a tangible result when you have the final product in your hands (which by the way makes a wonderful gift for your loved ones!).
3. Get out of your head and into body
Winter days can be cold and dreary, and make you feel like there’s nothing to do but stay inside and cuddle up. But as the saying goes: “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.”
Even if you feel like holing up inside until March, bring yourself to go outside and get moving. The crisp winter air will help to get out of your mind and into your body. Whether you just go for a short walk or some more intense exercise like jogging, make sure you get moving and focus on feeling instead of thinking. And I promise you: the warmth of your four walls will never feel better than when you get back inside after some movement outdoors!
4. Find stillness
Winter is traditionally a time for slowing down. Nature comes to a rest under a thick blanket of snow and stillness,
Use this time purposefully and with awareness for the special quality of the season. Enjoy moments of stillness and consciously slow down. Nurture body, mind and spirit with practices that reflect the stillness of the season: read the book that has been resting on your bedside table for so long, try some guided meditations and visualization exercises to improve your imagination, or just sit in silence and watch with awareness what thoughts and feelings arise within you.
Connecting and being fully present with yourself will not only soothe your body and mind, it will also bring about a deep understanding of your innermost beliefs, wishes and values
5. Catch light
When the days are short and sunshine is scarce the general mood can be gloomy and dull. This phenomenon called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly known as “winter blues”, is a common problem for many people during the dark months of the year. It is known to be caused by the lack of sufficient daylight which is biochemically involved in the production of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D in turn stimulates the production of an important feel-good hormone, the neurotransmitter serotonine. Reduced serotonine levels come along with the typical symptoms of a mild depression such as irritability, lack of motivation, low energy levels, fatigue and general lassitude.
To restore your levels of positive hormones get off of the sofa and out into nature. Even on a cold and unpleasant day the daylight levels will be generally high enough to stimulate vitamin D production. If it’s a sunny winter day, even better. Take a walk and practice some conscious breathing while absorbing the rays, or find a place to sit and meditate in the sunshine. Even just ten minutes of direct exposure to daylight can significantly improve SAD symptoms and literally brighten up your mood.
As a wise man once said:
Happiness can be found even in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on a light.