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Wintering: What it is and how we can invite it in.

Welcome to the mid-to-late-January funk. Can you feel it? The days are short and time is slow. The air is cold and snow is piling up on the rooftops, the windowsills, the cars. Not to mention the excitement of the holidays are over, and we’ve got three months until the first day of spring. You may notice yourself feeling sluggish, sad, unenergetic, flat, and even isolated. I’m here to not only normalize these experiences, but also name them: you, my friend, are wintering.

Most species on earth prepare for the transformation of winter through adaptation. Whether it is to conserve energy, rest, rejuvenate, or get things in order; trees shed their leaves, birds fly south, bears hibernate, chipmunks gather food, wolves grow a thicker coat. And humans… well, we pretend it’s not happening and carry-on living. Seems unnatural, right? Even worse, when our minds and bodies signal us to slow down, we punish ourselves through guilt or shame or the notion that we are not doing *enough*. In her book, Wintering, Katherine May writes:

“We must stop believing that these times in our lives are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. They are real, and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite the winter in. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how.”

One of my favorite quotes as an eco-therapist is, “as the seasons change, so do we.” Stop beating yourself up for feeling tired or unproductive when everything around you is telling you to slow down. It is, quite literally, the season of rest. Instead of resisting, invite the winter in. Here’s a few ways how:

  • Embrace the hygge!

The Danes spend a lot of time in the cold and dark. Which is to say, they are familiar with ways to cope with winter. “Hygge” is a Danish word that captures the mood of coziness, comfort, and contentment. Think home-cooked meals, a knitted blanket, good friends around a crackling fireplace, and a good book with a cup of tea. While it’s not necessarily a lazy lifestyle, it does connect with the idea that our hustle culture is totally unhealthy. So wrap yourself in that cozy blanket and sink into simplicity.

  • Hot/cold exposures

Speaking of Scandinavia, if you need a more active approach to rest, try incorporating more saunas/steam rooms/hot baths AND cold showers/cold plunges into your routine. These activities are easier on your muscles and joints and produce incredible health benefits including a decrease in tension, inflammation and stress, and an increase in energy, immunity, memory and mood (among other things). It’s all in the science!

  • Organize your space

Whether it’s your email inbox or the junk drawer, use this time indoors to declutter the space around you. Studies show that cleaning and organizing can reduce anxiety, energize, increase self-efficacy, and create a sense of self-confidence!

  • Rest, seriously

If bears and birds and chipmunks can do it, why can’t you? Listen to the world around you and find your winter adaptation. Take a nap or an extra-long shavasana. Hit the snooze button or tune-out with a silly show. Do nothing. Seek time to truly rest and rejuvenate. We don’t always have to be productive. It’s very normal for things like guilt and discomfort to arise when we stop that grind, especially in today’s hustle culture. But, as nature has taught us, this season will pass. Life will bloom and brighten up and get busy again before we know it.

Instead of pushing the winter out, invite it in!

Written by Carly Schaller, therapist and eco-therapist at Grit Therapy

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