As you pry yourself from your duvet each morning in January, it’s easy to see why animals choose to hibernate. January is home to cold, wet, dark mornings and evenings. There’s less sunlight to give us that much needed boost of vitamin D, and the festive glow of Christmas celebrations are further away than ever. Not to mention that the financial costs of Christmas celebrations are still to be paid and payday has never felt so far away. Moreover, January bombards us with advertisements promoting New Year’s resolutions, gym memberships, and the relentless push of diet culture.
There can be a lot of pressure to feel good at the beginning of a new year and it can be filled with a level of expectation that just can’t realistically ever be fulfilled. Although January is the beginning of a new calendar year, it is still winter and in the natural world, winter is a time for slowing down and preparing for regrowth in Spring. In today’s fast paced world we tend to ignore winter’s call to slow down. Instead, our focus is on doing as much as we can, as fast as we can. But choosing to ignore nature’s call may be a huge mistake.
In her insightful book ‘Wintering’ author Katherine May encourages us to listen to nature’s call by slowing down. Wintering, she says, is a way to get through tough times by chilling, hibernating, and healing. She says that in today’s fast paced world, slowing down, relaxing in your spare time, and getting enough sleep and resting often seems like a radical act now, but it is essential.
Embracing a slower life
There are huge benefits in slowing down in winter. There are immense benefits in slowing down during winter. Historically, people closely aligned their daily routines with the changing seasons, rising later on dark mornings and going to bed much earlier when night fell. Winter might be easier if we stopped fighting our instincts to slow down and embraced it instead.
In Scandinavia they are much better at embracing winter than we are in Ireland. In Denmark, they have ‘Hygge’ (pronounced hoo-guh) which places a focus on taking time away from the busyness of life to relax and enjoy life’s quieter pleasures. Winter is the perfect time to adopt Hygge into your life, whether it’s spending more time with loved ones, reducing screen time, relishing a nice meal, or cuddling up with a good book.
Getting out in nature is important
Another way to look after yourself this winter is to spend time in nature, and experts have long championed the benefits of it. In Norway they call disconnecting in nature, ‘Frulitsiv,’ and even have a ‘library’ where people can rent out outdoor gear during winter. Even getting outside for five minutes in nature is helpful. The key is not waiting until you ‘feel like it’ because the chances are you rarely will. That means wrapping up and braving the elements. Remember there is no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothing! You don’t need to live in a rural area to enjoy nature – local parks, gardens, or indoor plants can also offer benefits.
You don’t have to make resolutions
Many people use January as a time to reflect and plan for the upcoming year and write down reflections on the year that has just passed and make goals for the upcoming year. But try to do this without putting pressure on yourself to set unachievable goals which simply set you up to fail. Also, try not to shame or guilt yourself for the things you did or didn’t do. Remember, if you choose not to make any changes, or make new resolutions that is perfectly okay too!
Don’t forget it’s still winter!
January may be the official start of the new year, but it’s also an integral part of winter. Embracing the winter slowdown, taking cues from nature, and adopting a more deliberate, mindful approach to life can make this month more manageable and set a positive tone for the rest of the year. So, indulge in the warmth of Hygge, spend time in nature, and approach reflection and goal-setting with kindness and understanding. Remember this slowing down won’t last forever! By March, Spring will have arrived the sun will be rising earlier in the morning and setting later in the evening preparing us for the longer days of summer.
If you are finding things difficult at the minute, check out our supports page which has lots of links to supportive organisations. www.bit.ly/mhisupport