When you think of Winter, what picture comes to mind?
- Snowy mountain tops surrounded by a forest of pine trees
- Sunny beaches of the Caribbean where there isn’t a snowflake for miles
- A log cabin in the woods with a background of woodland critters
- Dull dark grey and dismal snowy mush
- Mountains of snow piled up to your ears
- Calm quiet peace of mind
- House projects and family time
- Movies, lots and lots of video games and movies
- Good food and good people
- Pure despair because nothing is green anymore
- Excitement and intrigue because Spring is just around the corner
No matter what your vision of Winter may be, we all have good and bad experiences with the season. For us in the Midwest, there are often mixed emotions – excitement for the holidays paired with 3 (or more) months of browns, greys, and beiges that are never-ending. Some years we are blanketed with the most perfect and beautiful snow that we’ve ever seen, giving opportunity to be active outdoors. Other years, we have very dry Winters with little to no snow, no humidity, no playing outside because it’s just bitterly cold and puts a frown on your face.
Winter is a season that encourages us to move inside and be less active, allowing us to take care of ourselves and our needs, what I call “me time”. It is important to take care of ourselves because we cannot give what we don’t have; if there is no “me time” to rest and recover, then we burn up all of our supplies and energy reserves. When we have no energy, then we have no compassion nor capacity to take care of others. Often times, individuals have come to believe that doing anything for yourself is selfish, which is not the case, and it took me a long time to understand that; something that I’ve struggled with personally and have adjusted my perspective towards.
In a society of constant stimulation, always moving, and trying to get everyone on the same playing field, we often forget about ourselves and the importance of listening to the body. There is a delicate balance of working on achieving goals and moving forward coupled with sitting back and enjoying all the work that you’ve already done. We are humans, not gods, and striving for perfection is idealism, not reality. Having and achieving goals is SUPER important and at the same time, understanding that things will happen in their right time is truly what guides us. We all have gut instincts that give us guidance and we all need to follow the direction they point us towards.
Winter turns us inwards for reflection – to understand what has happened and how we’ve been affected by the changes we’ve undergone. This is a time to look at the major events of our lives and digest why it happened to us, what lessons did we need to learn, how can we use these experiences to evolve into the next version of ourselves…this is a season to help us listen to our body’s needs. By nature, humans like to push themselves, often too far, and the number one way we are told that we need to slow down is by sickness – whether viral or by other means. Bodily mishaps aren’t just about slowing down, but as health improves, it is a reminder of how sweet life can be and all the joys that we forget about after being consumed by our fast-paced lives.
This consumption takes a draw on our kidneys, adrenals, bladder, and reproductive organs. Over time, an exposure to high volumes and intensity of stress will draw from our vital life force, our soul…slowly sucking away our will to live, drive to create, and enthusiasm for what is joyful. To replenish our vitality, we pick up practices of self-care such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, outdoor immersion, journaling, cooking/baking, and simple activities like thinking about your day while bathing/showering/falling asleep.
Winter self-care is to replenish the Yin: moisture, hydrating the tissues, grounding energy, satisfying the spleen/stomach, and kidneys. Towards the end of Winter, transitioning into Spring, we feel the rise of Yang: drive, enthusiasm, creativity, energy to GET OUT THERE AND DO STUFF!!, satisfying the liver and heart. The purpose and results of practicing Winter reflection is to get to know yourself a bit better, understand a little more about you that you didn’t realize was a part of you.
By recuperating, living in this Yin status for Winter, we build up our energy so we may express it during Spring, converting it into what we love over Summer, and restarting the process again in Fall, where we begin the die back from the excitement of Yang. Remember to take a moment and do what you love.