I’ve been enjoying seeing the signs that the seasons are changing, from the burnt orange leaves to the dew and frost on the grass in the early mornings.
As we start to get a sense of nature starting to slow down, it’s timely to reflect on whether how we live in the modern world – the long to do lists, the busy schedules, the overwhelm – is working against the natural cycles of the seasons, nature and just being human. Are we expecting to follow the same schedule and routine, no matter what the season (of nature, or our life) and, that it is unchanging?
For many years I resisted allowing myself to truly follow more natural rhythms. It meant I stopped listening to my body and willingly shackled myself to a structure, timetable and to do list that I felt and believed was necessary to be ‘successful’ in the business world and my personal life.
My story is not unique. It took me a while, many stops and starts and some significant health issues before I truly made regular rest and stillness practices, access to this deep intelligence and remembering in my nervous system, part of who I am.
During the wind down into winter, I’m reminded of the Danish term “hygge” (pronounced ‘hyoo-guh’). This is often interpreted as fireplaces, warm beverages, and snuggly socks. I’m certainly all for that, whatever it takes to send the signals to our nervous system that we’re safe. To the Danish, however, hygge is more an idea about creating an atmosphere or experience and enjoying the moment, slowing down, being contented and having a sense of wellbeing, not so much about the ‘things’ we surround ourselves with.
Any time you take for rest is time invested in a deep sense of wellbeing. I have created, incubated, and hatched my own meaningful winter self-care and comfort plan. It’s my own version of hygge. Some of the things in my plan seem like the tiniest of things and can take the greatest of discipline for me, yet reap the greatest rewards. It’s taken years for me to refine what I need, and to keep my plan simple, to consciously choose things that give me the greatest of pleasures when the nights are longer, the days not as bright and the temperatures are low.
- I regularly practice my deep intentional rest practice; it feels so nourishing and necessary at this time of year. Find out more about the sessions I offer.
- Drinking plenty of warm fluids during the day in the cooler months – favouring warm water with a slice of citrus or sprigs of mint over caffeinated drinks to keep me topped up during the day so that I am staying hydrated. Personally, I try to stop drinking just before dinner so that I’m not called by nature in the middle of a cold night, interrupting my sleep.
- Dimming the lights in the mid evening helps my body and mind register that it’s time to start being ready for sleep (and produce the right internal balance of hormones to help that happen).
- My hot water bottle becomes my BFF, dressed in the softest, sometimes most outlandish of covers, being refilled several times a day when I am at home and carried around like an old, well-loved and worn teddy bear to keep me warm and comforted.
- Evenings become quieter and any music played is gentle to induce a more restful response in my nervous system. I will bury myself in a good book or something quietly creative.
- Rubbing scented oils into my body in the mornings helps keep my skin supple and moist in the colder weather.
- Finding people and ways to be able to laugh out loud and celebrate, to balance out the more measured and quiet times.
- Especially in winter, I dial back and slow down multi-tasking behaviour. When I eat, I just eat. When I walk, I just walk. I try to be present to the one activity I am engaged in, in that moment.
- Nature, even on a bleak day, becomes a form of quiet exploration, to reconnect with the earth and the stillness of the season. I feel lucky to live in a place where winter weather doesn’t prevent me from physically being able to get outside, unlike some parts of the world. I gently remind myself of this when the heater becomes a little too enticing and do my best to revel in finding out how many layers I need to dress in to stay protected from the elements when I venture out.
- Making my warm drinks from leaves, fruit or herbs, in a pot, like we did when I was a child. I circulate my favourite drinking cups to enjoy them from.
It’s often the small things done consistently, those tiniest of shifts, that reap the greatest impact on our wellbeing through winter. Your self-care hygge plan will be different to mine as you understand best what healthy boundaries and nourishment look like for you.
Whilst I know it can be really challenging in a busy life, please do consider allowing yourself to truly follow more natural rhythms. Slowing down and turning inwards can be the greatest gift to ourselves during winter.
What could be part of your personal hygge plan this winter? A tip from my experience? Start small.