Welcome, Winter! Honoring the Cycles of the Natural World
It’s the Holiday Season! Most people have one of two reactions when they hear this phrase: dread or excitement. (Or maybe a little of both!) For some people, this time of year is full of fun: baking, wrapping presents, decorating, sending cards, and shopping. For others, the darker and colder days mixed with the anxiety of gift-giving, parties, and to-do lists can feel depressing and overwhelming.
These two reactions seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. However, they are both identical in the way that they actually push against the rhythm of nature.
“What!” you might be thinking. “It’s the Holiday Season! That means fun! Parties! Busy busy busy! Lights! Tinsel! Joy!” On the other hand, all of the aforementioned things might make your anxiety skyrocket. All of these things, in reality, are ways we force our bodies, minds, and spirits to rebel against the natural cycles of the world.
Before the invention of electricity, humans relied on the sun, candles, and oil lamps for illumination. Life cycles revolved around being able to see through the use of one of these three. Outdoor work began at sunrise and ended at sunset, bringing the work day from an average of 15 hours at the summer peak to about 9 hours in winter. Without being able to extend the amount of work time in the winter, people retreated to their homes at sunset, where they would read, sew, play games, and tell stories. Bedtime came earlier due to poorly insulated homes and the resulting desire to warm up under the covers.
However, with the invention of electricity, everything changed. People began to work longer (sometimes MUCH longer) hours, and stay out after sunset eating, drinking, and shopping. Instead of sleeping more during the winter season, as our bodies still prompt us to do, people began sleeping less. And when we’re not out and about, we are often in front of a device of some sort: tablets, televisions, phones, and computers have replaced the traditional activities of reading, story-telling, and games. Add in the business of preparing for the holidays, people might even be getting less sleep than they do compared to any other time of the year! It’s no wonder that we feel so stressed, worried, and ill during this time of the year.
It’s time to get our bodies back into the natural rhythm it craves. Now, I would LOVE to say that you should all work less during winter, but I know that is rarely possible in the real world. Even so, here are a few ways to invite some comfort and joy into your life while tuning in to your body this season.
- Think Hygge. Hygge is a way of life that embodies coziness, simplicity, and being present. What evokes these feelings in you? Try to incorporate one activity into your day.
- Work fewer hours. If your supervisor is flexible, or you work for yourself, consider shortening your current work day to reflect a more natural day. You might try working dusk to dawn for a few days and see how your body reacts.
- Go to bed earlier. Bears have the right idea! This time of year is perfect for hibernation (or semi-hibernation!) Instead of staying up as late as you usually do, try going to bed earlier. This is more in alignment with the natural rhythms of the season.
- Turn inwards. The longer nights often evoke a sense of depression in people. We crave sun! However, try seeing the setting of the sun as an opportunity for you to turn your attention inward. As soon as the sun sets, be present and really listen to your body. What do you need at each moment? Try to honor that as much as possible (hopefully without technology!)
- Take a technology break. Without the opportunity to be outside as often in the winter due to colder temperatures and the dark, many people stay inside with their technology. Television viewership in all forms is significantly higher in winter than in summer. We play games on our phones instead of with each other, or, even worse, WORK during non-work hours on computers! This winter, try cutting out technology each night, even if it’s only for five minutes.
- Engage in self-care. If you are taking a tech break (YAY!), you might want to introduce/amp up some self-care. Take a bath, meditate, give yourself a massage or facial, read a book that makes your soul happy, or do your nails. Try to find activities that do not involve technology and really honor your body.
Truly listening to and honoring the cycles of nature does not need to mean changing your entire life. Rather, small changes can bring your heart, mind, and spirit closer in line with the peace and comfort of the season.