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Boosting your winter well-being

Before Christmas, a friend popped a question on Facebook asking for advice on how people make the most of winter. And then today on radio 5 live I heard a discussion on whether February is worse than January (a simple question that generated some passionate responses). The days are short, the mornings and evenings are dark, the weather can be grim. I popped a few thoughts on my friend’s Facebook post, and have since pondered a few more, so I share them here as a simple reminder of how to boost our winter well-being:

For me it’s about enjoying those things that suit this season better than other seasons. I love lighting scented candles – just one small candle in a jar on the kitchen side makes me smile and they don’t have to cost a fortune. Twinkly lights are another big plus for me – I’ve noticed how many of our neighbours have left lights up after Christmas – and again it doesn’t need to be a big display. We have small, table top jars with lights in that I pop on when getting up in the morning and when I get home from work at night.

Nice textures that give me a feeling of ‘hunkering’ down and self-care: a snuggly scarf (and hat if it’s really cold); throws and blankets, comfy pjs and a snuggly cardi for potting around the house. Having the occasional special hot drink; syrup in a coffee; mulled wine/cider or hot chocolate treat. It may be totally different enjoyment treats for you but it’s something about low-cost self-care and self-soothing.

Being outside can help decrease anxiety levels, stress and even anger but can feel a challenge in winter. Getting outside when its light, especially if its sunny, can boost our mood, and if its not possible in the week due to work schedules, making sure our weekends include an outside activity. And even if the weather isn’t kind, maybe we should take Billy Connolly’s approach who’s known for quoting “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothing!” It’s interesting the impact that lockdown had on this: sitting outside cafes wrapped up in many layers to get out of the house changed my view of being outside in the winter. And if the weather really is too awful or you haven’t got the energy to fight it that day? Hunker down and lose yourself in a book, an uplifting film, cooking up a storm – whatever is your ‘at home’ treat. And if you’ve got to go into work – wear your favourite snuggly socks, tie, trainers as an act of self-care.

Even when I’m working from home whereas usually I’d work at a table or the kitchen island, when I feel the need to hunker down I’ll work in a comfy chair with my feet up, laptop or reading materials on my knee, snuggly socks and jumper.

I also do a quick gratitude journal – dailyish but without being rigid about it. I’ll sit in my favourite chair with a drink, my journal and a sparkly pen (another small thing that makes me smile) and jot down a couple of things I’m thankful for that day even if its simple things such as nice coffee, hearing a bird sing, frosty patterns, seeing a snowdrop peeping through etc. And every day I’m grateful for a roof over my head, a warm home, connections with others.

I was fascinated by other people’s suggestions on the original Facebook post I mentioned: one person advised “seek out beautiful sunrises at locations round about.” And even if we can’t get out we can make sure we can see beautiful things: when I came down this morning I noticed a faint pink glow around the edge of the blinds – so I opened them fully rather than leaving them closed as I often do, to enjoy the pink sunrise and soak it in. I popped a photo on my Facebook which generated lots of likes – we all appreciate beauty and it can be nice to fill our feed with beautiful things when life is so challenging.

Other suggestions included keeping connected with friends, listening to a vinyl collection, visiting old graveyards, seeking out bars with cosy open fires. And if we’re somewhere where we can see the sky – make sure we look up regularly, day or night, something beautiful can catch our eye and make us smile – a star, a clear moon, an animal-shaped cloud, a hint of pink.

So maybe our winter wellness is about doing things that come into their own at this time of year rather than hankering after the things of summer. And maybe it includes recognising its natural to slow down a little. I look at our pets who curl up and sleep more. And where we have to keep going to make the journey a little warmer and lighter. As Brigit Anna McNeill describes in her reflection on winter we can be left feeling that winter is cruel “whereas in actual fact winter is kind. She points us in her quiet soft way towards our inner self, towards this annual time of reflection, embracing the darkness and forgiving, accepting and loving.”

Keep on boosting your winter well-being and it will soon be spring!