At the end of January the Christmas festivities seem as far away as ever, the aroma of the pine needles has long since dissipated, and let’s face it – it can feel like a long slog until spring. It can be difficult to remain upbeat during winter with its bracing weather, short days and dark evenings. Our immune systems are often not at peak performance, and Seasonal Affective Disorder is not uncommon, and not at all trivial!
Since returning from an extended trip in warmer climes, the colder weather has taken on a bit of novelty value for me, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how inherently beautiful winter actually is without the twinkling lights of Christmas. I believe it’s important to recognise the uniqueness and character of each of the seasons so that we can move from one to another mindfully and without resistance. After all, the seasons will continue to come and go whether we like it or not, and why can’t we try to enjoy all of them?
For me, the key is in being present in the moment, focusing on winter’s gifts rather than what it might be lacking. After all, isn’t that what we want for people to see in us too? Instead of dwelling on what I’m not able to do on the allotment because of reduced daylight hours, I’m enjoying the opportunity to spend even more time with friends and family. I’ve begun to notice the blue hues of winter’s crisp days, the delicate snowdrops peeking through the soil, or the statuesque, bare trees. I’ve been conscious of taking a moment to appreciate the chance to wear a cosy jumper while cradling a hot drink or bowl of soup with both hands and breathing in its warmth and aroma.
There are a few practical ways that I’m personally trying to practice being present and connected to the people and the world around me this winter. There’s a couple of Instagram accounts that I’ve been following intently because their of their stunning winter-y vibes like @creativecountryside by Eleanor Cheetham, @matts_wanderings and photographer @anniespratt. Taking a bit of inspiration from them, I’ve been enjoying going for walks through one of the local parks making sure I have my camera and looking more deeply for things that I can photograph myself. Things like ivy trailing down a weathered wall or a close-up of the detailed bark of a tree are things it would be easy to otherwise overlook. The walk is then of course followed-up with a lovely long soak in a warm bath with a scented candle and a steaming cup of tea! I also love trying to find new, cosy coffee shops or pubs (especially ones with a roaring fire) where I can catch up with friends or inviting them round for a hot chocolate or spiced cider.
Possibly my favourite way to celebrate winter, and perhaps the most obvious, is by cooking something nourishing that I can take my time over, tasting, tweaking and nurturing as I go. Soups and stews are perfect for this and the end result can be so wholesome and hearty. My favourite books for these kinds of recipes are Gizzi Erskine’s “Slow” and Georgina Hayden’s “Stirring Slowly” – the clue is in the titles really! Both books do such a good job at celebrating each and every ingredient and making the cooking of each recipe such a pleasure. Gizzi’s curry soy miso ramen with roast butternut squash, tofu & kimchi and her “Planet Friendly Bolognese” are great recipes to try and happen to both be vegan too. Georgina’s book has a section of “Low, Slow + Hearty” recipes with a delicious black dhal and a venison, wild mushroom, celeriac-topped pie. My mouth is watering just thinking about them!
Finally, I’m trying to do more of what I guess I could call “intentional movement”. By this I mean moving my body in a way that is deliberate, with awareness of the space my body occupies and awareness of my breath, and not the zombie-like autopilot we might fall into on the way to the office. I find that yoga is a really effective way for me to do this, but another example might be going for a run where I really think about my posture and form, the rhythm of my breathing, and not how far or how fast I might be going. This intentional movement means that I’m not just huddled in a ball under a blanket throughout the winter, but reinforcing my connection to my body, maintaining my internal flow of energy, and hopefully keeping my immune system boosted.
I hope that there’s something here that might inspire you to embrace the beauty of winter in a new way. What are you grateful for at this time of year? What do you do to make the most of this season? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!