Winter is a time of stillness–a season when much of the natural world turns inward and gets quiet. Colder temperatures, coupled with shorter days and barren landscapes, have a way of silently urging us to turn down the volume and slow the pace of our lives. Our inner knowing tells us to root down, securing a sanctuary for sustenance and deep rest for the coming days.
During this slow, dark, internal time in our seasonal cycle, it is natural to hold on tightly to the comfort and warmth of our nests–conserving our energy for warmer months that hold the potential of growth, expansion, and activity. Like all animals on Earth, our human behavior is affected by changes in our environment and, if in tune with our bodies, we pay close attention to its cues. Honoring this receptive and nourishing time of year is part of living a mindful, balanced life. However, it’s important to notice when we might be veering off the path of deep listening and, instead, into unhealthy lethargy and stagnancy.
To prevent myself from getting entirely swallowed by my comfy abode in the thick of winter, I rely on the deep healing benefits of connecting with nature. It keeps me in communication with my body and continually nurtures me back to balance. Not only do I feel more vital in both mind and body when I prioritize this relationship, but I have the inner satisfaction of knowing I’m taking my wellbeing into my own hands.
Here are some tips for staying connected to nature in winter to ensure my well-being:
Put on some layers and brave the elements. Convincing ourselves to face the cold isn’t always easy. It’s not exactly a soul-soothing experience when our inclination is to stay cozy. The shock of the cold sends our nervous system into survival mode, which immediately sharpens our minds and bodies. Therefore, it takes a bit of will and the faith that it’s rewards will be worth it.
Aside from the simple pleasure of experiencing familiar places with fresh eyes and opening all of our sensory channels to take in the beauty of the changing landscape, just a few minutes a day outdoors offers a host of health benefits. It has been proven to improve our moods, reduce stress, and increase our Vitamin D exposure, which is essential to our physical health.
A simple 15-minute walk in the cold, crisp winter air–to take deep breaths and pay attention to the sounds of nature– can have a dramatic effect on your day. Try catching the brilliant color palette of a sunrise or sunset~adding color and inspiration to the, often, drab winter landscape. Or enjoy some night-time stargazing. Constellations move across the night sky from season to season. Some, such as Orion and Pleiades, are more visible in the northern hemisphere during winter, for instance.
To fully embrace nature’s healing power, it’s always best to actually get outdoors whenever possible. However, bringing elements of it inside is the second-best idea. One of the most common ways is to fill your living space with houseplants (as well as bring your outdoor potted plants in for the winter). If you’re like me, placing plants around the home brings an immediate sense of peace and harmony. Not only do they enliven our spaces with their beauty, freshness, and pops of color, but they allow us to plug back into a relationship with nature when we choose to care for them.
Another way to stay connected to nature’s rhythm in winter is to get your hands in the dirt. Repot those house plants. Create a succulent garden or terrarium. Grow something from seed for fun. Consider planting a culinary herb garden in a sunny kitchen window. Nothing feels more nature-aligned than growing, ourselves, what we put into our bodies. Dill, thyme, oregano, chives, sage, and rosemary are a few easy-to-grow options that are great for cooking (and second as an aromatic experience to lift the mood).
Cooking seasonally simply means that you eat what’s grown locally and what’s in-season. Eating with the cycles of nature connects us to the land and its harvest. Not only does it taste better from having time to fully ripen, it also promotes balance with the earth’s resources, and supports better health with more nutrient-dense food. As nature would have it, most places have a bounty of winter-grown foods, such as delicious fruit and hearty vegetables that you can incorporate into your diet during the colder months to match your seasonal needs.
The human body depends upon daily exposure to natural light to boost our energy, mood, and metabolism. During winter, when we spend more time indoors with artificial lighting, our bodies do not receive the natural cues it needs to maintain our healthy circadian rhythms. This influences our sleep-wake cycles, digestion, eating habits, hormone release, body temperature, and other important bodily functions.
Spend time in brightly-lit spaces during the early hours of your day. Keep your curtains open, clear the window sills, and make these spaces inviting by arranging furniture to sit in sunlit spaces. Try placing a bird feeder outside a sunny window for some window-gazing. Watching the birds in the sunlight, learning to identify them and their unique songs, can give us a positive sense of enduring life.
When the winter season keeps us indoors, it becomes quite easy to default to excessive screen time for entertainment (television and video games) and connection (social media). While satisfying and effective in small doses, it can also lead to a sense of disconnection–from our ourselves, each other, and our environment. Get creative. Winter is the perfect time to savor the little live’s small treasures that can get overlooked when life speeds up again–game night with loved ones, good reads, art projects, and new recipes.
Enjoy your winter. Let us know if you enjoy these tips.