Winter can be a difficult time of year to look after yourself, especially if you live in the colder parts of the world. It's easy to forget that there is still so much beauty and wellness to be found outdoors. We just have to wrap up warm and explore!
I follow an artist, musician and filmmaker (Jonna Jinton) who makes immensely beautiful videos from her home in the very North of Sweden. In Summer the days are long (in June the sun doesn't even set!) and in Winter it is mostly completely dark. I'd heard of it but never really understood the implications of living in such an extraordinary place with such extreme temperatures, with long periods of light and dark. In some videos, Jonna has described what she has to do to combat her body and mind's natural tendency to hibernate in the Winter. She practices regular yoga, leaves her home to walk through the snow to combat Winter fatigue and prioritises self-care. Seeing the realities of learning how to live in the extremes has been incredibly inspiring for me and many others.
Whilst here in Aotearoa, during the start of Matariki our Winter days aren't quite so extreme, there is still a very real sense of people tending to hibernate. The thing is, a lack of sunshine on your skin can really mess with both your physical and mental health. Not enough Vitamin D has been connected to depression, your immune system, certain cancers and bone loss so it's pretty important. Getting outside and making a regular effort to connect with nature, disconnect from technology and reconnecting with the real world has huge benefits. As someone who personally lives with recurring depression, getting sun and exercise is an important part of my day-to-day mental health management. Making the time to even just go for a walk in the local park a few times a week during the colder months gives me a chance to recharge my batteries and reconnect with my mind.
I also make the time to find spaces of time to take things more slowly, listening to what my mind and body needs. Even just taking the time to have a bath with my Manuka Honey face mask or sit and have my morning coffee without my phone in my face makes a noticeable difference to my general daily mood. We all know the activities that make us feel like we're looking after ourselves, it's just about carving the time out wherever you have it. I even know some people who schedule it on their calendar like a self-care appointment with themselves.
However you choose to find joy and pleasure in the Winter, I'd recommend a shift in attitude on how we speak to ourselves and others about the colder weather. If you can find ways to enjoy and connect with activities that you can only do during these months, perhaps you'll spend less time dreading Winter and more time enjoying the now. After all, the beauty in practising some Winter mindfulness is that your life will benefit from all the positive energy you're directing towards it.