How to Thrive, Not Survive, Through Winter

Long, dark days, colder, wetter weather and increased exposure to bugs, coughs and colds all mean it can be much harder to keep afloat, mentally and physically, during the winter months. It can suddenly seem a Herculean task to keep up our exercise and healthy habits as we snuggle down for evenings of comfort food in preference to battling the sleety rain and biting winds to head out to our yoga class or that evening run. We may catch more colds, feel stagnant and stiff and generally begin to feel a bit run down and as if we are losing our sparkle. So, how can we ensure that we not only survive but THRIVE through the winter months?

Get Outside Every Day –
This is essential all year round but is particularly important during the winter when the daylight hours are short. Too much time inside with electric lights and central heating can leave us feeling headachy and tense. Hitting that outside, bracing air head on will leave you feeling invigorated, awake and completely refreshed. Whether it’s a quick lunchtime stroll round the park or a dark, after work jog, getting outside will always leave you feeling better. Key to enjoying this is to fully embrace the weather. Learn to enjoy the rainwater on your face. Notice the headlights in the surface of the wet road and the earthy smell of damp trees and undergrowth. Let that whipping wind make you feel giddy with being alive. Imagine it blowing away tension, anxiety, stress and frustration. Use your outside time as a way of both grounding and connecting with the outdoors as well as an exercise in mindfully embracing the beauty of the present moment, no matter how biting, cold or blustery it may be. Wrap up and get out regardless, making sure that when you return home you can go full-on cosy. Going for all out comfort afterwards to reward your efforts means that you’ll soon be lacing up those trainers in happy anticipation of not only the refreshing, healing benefits of nature, but of the fairy-lit, cosy wonderland which you’ll be coming home to.

Use Essential Oils –
These little, powerhouse miracles can help support us physically and emotionally through winter. One of my essentials is definitely peppermint for an amazing uplift during that afternoon slump, either inhaled from the bottle or from a roller bottle across the back of my neck. Peppermint is also wonderful for clearing congestion. When my chest is tight or I have a cold, I place one drop of peppermint into my palm, rub my hands together and then deeply inhale. Miracle! Any of the citrus oils, orange, lemon grapefruit etc are great for providing a shift in negative emotions, give you an energy boost and can really lift the mood when diffused on a winter day. The company I use has a range of ready-made blends for the winter season, oils that will help protect from seasonal threats and that can be used at the first sign that you’re coming down with something. (For more information about these oil blends please get in touch)
But my absolute favourite oil and my go-to every day, is lavender. Lavender is all about calming; for the emotions, the nervous system and is the perfect sleep aid. I use it to help ease anxiety and rub it on the soles of my feet before bed. And I have never slept better.

Feed your soul – Hygee (Tons and tons of this) –
If anyone knows how to thrive through the dark months, it’s the Danes. And hygee is their blueprint. We don’t really have an equivalent word in English. Think cosy, comfort and friendliness, anything that brings about deep feelings of contentment and joy. Candlelight, blankets, roaring fires, slippers, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, fairy lights, bowls of soup and bonfires. Hygee is rarely solitary – it is a gathering of friends and family to ride out the dark and cold together, revelling in the enforced time indoors, using it as an opportunity to do all the things that dark, cold nights afford. Board games by the fire, family movie nights under blankets, gathering for long, comforting meals round a candlelit table. Or, putting on all the woollies – the jumpers and hats and knitted mittens – and going outside to light a garden fire, drink warm, spiced wine, eat a bowl of chilli and listen to the sparks and pops of burning wood.

Sleep and Rest –
Winter is the season of rest and restore. Fields are fallow, plants lose their leaves and colour and wildlife lays low. In our frantic, 24/7 world it is easy to forget that in the past, when we followed the rhythms of nature more closely, we too would have slowed down during the winter months, retiring from work at dusk and going to bed early. Winter can be a truly nourishing time for inner work and reflection if we allow ourselves to slow down and honour the season of rest. Living seasonally and cyclically allows you to gift yourself a fallow time, a time of hibernation and renewal. Journaling, meditation and setting goals and intentions are all wonderful things to embark on in the winter months. Let your yoga practice slow down and become deeper and more restorative. Devote some evening time to reading, studying or a long-forgotten craft project. Create a relaxing bed-time routine. Diffuse some oils, work through the bedside bookstack, write your intentions. Luxuriate in slow living and resting your body and mind.

Connect with the Moon –
Ok, so this one might seem a bit out there. But bear with me. I have been following the moon closely for many years now. I always know what phase she is in, when she rises and sets and where exactly she will be in the sky at any time of the night (or day). Not only is lunar awareness extremely grounding and humbling, it creates a wonderful sense of connection; between us and the universe but also between ourselves and other people. Don’t you just love the thought that any human (or wolf!) gazing up at the night sky, from anywhere on the planet, is looking at exactly the same moon as you. During winter, moon-gazing gives you the perfect opportunity to get outside. To fully embrace the darkness and find the beauty there. If nothing else, it gives you a nightly blast of refreshing cold. But going out every night helps you create a ritual and rituals are a wonderful practice. Rituals provide an anchor, some stability and create space for deeper practices to emerge. Rituals can help us navigate time in a focused way; using the moon cycle to help us find productivity, action or reflection over the course of a month or supporting us through the long winter season. Once we are familiar with the moon’s cycle, we can then use key points of that cycle, the full and new moons, to journal, set intentions and take the steps we need to bring about lasting change.
So, there are a few ideas and practices which may just lift you and help you fully embrace the season of darkness and completely thrive in it. Good luck and please let me know how you get on x