In some seasons we flourish yet in others, life does seem so much harder. Winters can be long, cold, and dark. The inherent nature of winter can make it difficult for us humans to endure happily. I prefer warmer climes so the cold, grey starkness of Winter it is not the easiest time of the year for me. Like many I always look forward to the end of this season. From around October to March, as the longest season ( it actually can be half of the year) it certainly feels like an eternity!
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression, caused in the main due to the reduced daylight, which lowers the Serotonin levels. (The key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness) Its prevalent in the UK and Northern countries. Showing the importance of light on mood and health. There is nothing more uplifting than a blue sky or depressing than a grey one. When days are dark its emotionally tough on many people. The people we come in contact with might be struggling in ways that we cannot comprehend.
When we talk about the winter of your life, it’s the last (dark) section of your life, when perhaps fewer exciting things happen, the slowing down of your life, before dying. Whilst we look forward to the renewal that Spring brings, the joy of spending more time outside in Summer and Holidays, even the rich beauty of Autumn. It’s harder to look forward to Winter with the same enthusiasm. Yet of all the seasons, Wintertime can be the most insightful and the best time to put our houses in order, so to speak. As a time of reflection and a slower time to recuperate from our busy life’s. We often fly to warmer climes during the Winter months, but is this actually the best way to combat the season, to push it away rather than embracing it?
The world of nature doesn’t try to fight Winter in the same way we do. Animals adapt by withdrawing and hibernating. Now whilst we don’t have the luxury of staying in bed for several months, as great as that would sound at 7am on a cold, dark morning, we can at least try to see the pleasures of this season rather than only the negative points.
Many colder climate countries plan for the winter months. In Finland, in the regions of Lapland, generations have spent Summer and Autumn, hunting, freezing and collecting and foraging for berries and mushrooms, as the growing season is short. The entire cultivation process has to be completed two months faster than in the warmer south, before Winter sets in. Food, is preserved in advance and stored away for times when there is less abundance of fresh food. This is how our ancestors would have lived before the times of polytunnels and imported foods. Eating only seasonal foods. Some well-known chefs like Tommy Banks, are returning to this with a farm to table approach using preserved foods for the Winter menu.
Hot drinks and foods have a way of soothing our souls and warming our bodies on cold, dark nights. Keeping it healthy most of the time, with thick homemade soups and stews but allowing for occasional indulgences too like hot chocolate with warming spices like cinnamon, can be such a treat.
Hygge, became a lifestyle trend in the UK in 2016 and whilst you can be forgiven for thinking that this is just a marketing term to sell us more stuff, like blankets and candles. Hygge is as Danish as æbleskiver and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence it means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. Its very much a way of life for the Danes and we could learn from it too.
Our bodies need more sleep in winter, and allowing the body and brain to relax is looking after our health. Our ancestors survived without electric lights and modern conveniences, so had to adapt to the seasons. They slept more in the Winter and less in Summer.
Rather than complaining about the cold weather, how about finding pleasurable activities, we would not normally have time for like craft projects, reading or staring a new hobby. For many of our ancestors, Winter was the time spent on making clothing or rugs or items that could help them earn money. What was made in the winter was taken to town in the spring for selling or traded with their neighbours.
So, snuggle up under your blanket, with a cup of something warm, light some candles and get lost in the pages of a book you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or if you’re feeling more social, cook and invite your friends over for a board game night.
Perhaps wintertime is not so bad after all, and we should give gratitude for the down time!