It’s a beautifully sunny day here in Cambridgeshire, and it’s wonderful to feel the rays of the sun on the skin. But on foggy, soggy, dark and gloomy days it’s often easy to forget the beauty of winter. We can find our mood slumps, maybe experiencing winter blues, lethargy and even seasonal depression (SAD).
Over the years I found ways to cope, and even thrive, through what used to seem like never ending dark days of winter – appreciating it as one of our wonderful seasons with many gifts instead of something to endure.
Here’s a few ways that I learnt to find my way through dark days. If you find winter a struggle maybe pick one or more of these to help guide you towards brighter days ahead…
Simply remembering that the sun is always shining, even when we can't see it.
Noticing the signs of life around us – even in the depths of winter when nature seems dormant there are tiny signs of growth. Look closely at trees whose branches seem so bare, and you might actually notice tiny buds are already emerging – ready to burst into leaf in spring. Maybe a glimpse of bulbs pushing their leaves through bare earth, reaching for light. If you don’t have a garden, you could grow some bulbs indoors (amaryllis, hyacinth or indoor narcissus are beautiful), and watch their progress as the green shoots begin to appear and eventually flower. Or treat yourself to fresh flowers. Cornish daffodils start appearing in the shops from as early as January, and can bring a joyful glow to dark days. (If you’re fortunate enough to travel to Cornwall in the later winter months you might see fields of yellow shining from afar in the sunlight).
Getting outdoors into daylight every day – even on the days when you don’t feel like it a 5 minute walk in fresh air and daylight may be all it takes to give yourself a boost. Once you’re out you might find yourself venturing further than first anticipated. You could even take this time to practice a walking meditation.
Dark mornings are hard! I like to diffuse an uplifting essential oil like orange or grapefruit to help motivate me in the mornings.
Embracing the more restful energies of the season, enjoying some time to slow down and creating a little cocoon to nurture yourself. Curling up on a dark day with a cosy blanket, and a book or creative activity is soothing for the soul. Sometimes we just need a duvet day to recharge our batteries!
With time, you can learn to be more aware of your energy levels and honouring your inner rhythms. Tune into your body and your intuition - do you need to rest, or do you need to energise a little? Life is about balance, and we often need a bit of both to come back to a place of equilibrium.
Wake Up lights can be useful, as they mimic sunrise and wake you with light. Great if your alarm wakes you before dawn (and if we get out of bed before sunrise at this time of year you can often be treated to a wonderful real-life sunrise).
Invest in a SAD lamp – best used from early in the season as soon as the days begin to shorten. The light of a SAD lamp simulates sunlight and helps to trigger the release of hormones that lift the mood. Some companies offer a free trial so you can see whether this works for you. (SAD lamps may not be suitable for some conditions e.g. glaucoma, headaches, and are not recommended if you’re taking medications or supplements which make the skin more sensitive to light e.g. acne treatments, St John’s Wort. You should research and seek advice from your doctor before using a SAD lamp).
Plan in advance – if you know you’re susceptible to seasonal mood changes prepare your ‘winter toolkit’ ahead. Begin to learn what works for you – noticing subtle improvements in energy levels, so that you can be ready to use those strategies next year.
Seek professional advice, particularly if your symptoms stop you from carrying on with normal day to day activities and it feels difficult to cope. If you’d like more information about SAD check out the MIND and NHS websites.
Remember, nothing is permanent. The seasons are always changing and soon enough the brighter days of Spring will be here. As we reach the Winter Solstice on 21st December, the light returns gradually – each day feeling a little longer and a little brighter, until suddenly we find ourselves in the full beauty of Spring, nature once again bursting forth around us after a season of rest. Remember that you too are part of nature – with seasons of rest, seasons of darkness, seasons of vibrant energy and seasons of light. Whatever season you find yourself in currently, there is always light shining bright within you.
A helping hand...
Our latest class in the Online Studio is designed as an antidote to winter blues, with a practice leading to camel pose (ustrasana) to energise the body and lift the spirits. Remember, if your energy really is very low, then the class ‘Hibernate’ is a good alternative if you need to nurture yourself with something more restful.
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