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!

Making Your Home a Haven

These are unprecedented times, when everyone in the world is being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. This can create a lot of anxiety for everyone. So it’s important that you create a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere, whether you have returned to lock-down or if you’re just practising self-quarantine or shielding. These enforced stays at home make us realize the importance of been as comfortable as we can in our homes. This is the place to be totally ourselves. Homes can have the power to heal also, I feel another blog post forming!

There are different steps we can take to do this, often without a great deal of effort or additional expense. As I have mentioned before, keeping clutter down to a minimal does make for a relaxing environment. Its difficult to relax probably with piles of stuff that needs moving etc.  A mini-makeover can make a big difference to a room. Throw out or remove any old or uncomfortable cushions, if the pads are ok but the covers are old, just change those. There are lots really interesting designs available on the high street look at TK Maxx or Ikea. Charity shops, eBay and Gumtree can also offer bargains. If you like making things why not have a go at making your own covers! (Old curtains can be re-made as cushions) As we go into Winter, rich colours and tactile fabrics like fake fur, velvet or plaid can give a cosy warm feel. Throws and blankets are lovely for snuggling up with and will also cover an old sofa, so are a design feature as well as been practical.

The Danish culture of Hygge, is the happiness of staying at home combined with the satisfaction of enjoying time at home. Hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. A real value is placed on well-being and family life. Perhaps this explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.

Lighting, particularly as it starts to get darker at night, can really change a room. Fairy lights are lovely and shops are starting to stock Christmas decorations many of which are far to nice to only use for a couple of weeks. Candles can add additional light but also fragrance and are a wonderful treat to both yourself and others. Scented with a fir tree scent or pine helps to embrace the Autumn and Winter time. But there are many wonderful scents available, personally I think that better quality soy candles using natural ingredients are better for you and the environment. These do last longer too, so can often work out as better value in the long run.

I always think that the best way to personalize your home space is to hang pictures or photographs on the wall. I like to have pictures of my loved ones but images of your favourite places, holiday memories or positive messages, can be uplifting too. Why not have a go yourself and paint your own canvas? You can attach wallpaper to canvases by using a heavy- duty staple gun, just make sure you pull this tight so it doesn’t bag at the side.

Adults and children’s alike will get a lot out of bringing plants into the home. If you’re new to having plants indoors, start with something easy like a large, statement piece that doesn’t need to much care like a Cactus or Succulent. Plants can have healing properties as well as looking great. I love flowers but these can be more expensive in Autumn and I like to use natural rather than artificial, so plants can be good value as with some care they will last for a long time.

As, I mentioned in my last post many people are still working from home and having a separation of work and home space is important for a balanced lifestyle. Creating a dedicated area for exercise and meditation could give you a place to retreat if you are feeling stressed. Playing music, lighting candles and an uncluttered space would help you to become calmer. We can all benefit from personal space and time.

It’s important you have a bedroom where you feel you’re safe from the outside world. Simple pre-bedtime routines like not watching TV or doing work and reading instead will help you feel relaxed in your bedroom. You may even want to consider updating your overall bedroom aesthetic at this time, and creating the bedroom you’ve always wanted. Choose a tranquil colour palette which really resonates with you or investing in new bedding so you can unwind in your bedroom.

Its vital that we all practise as much self- care as we can. Giving ourselves peace and a place to relax is so important in uncertain, chaotic times.