There are many sweet moments winter gifts us with, we just need to be open to receiving. Warm drinks that seem to taste better, rich conversations with hearty food, longer sleeps and time to just be are a few of the reasons I’ve been cherishing this season so far. If you are one to feel despair about the short days and long nights, I’m right there with you. As a photographer light is everything to me, so something about it getting dark at four o'clock never felt too sweet. As I’ve come to be more mindful about the beauty of the seasons and how unique they are, I feel a shift in perspective churning inside of me. I’m now savoring each moment of daylight. Embracing all aspects of winter can be a challenge, I get it. I’m working on learning to love the slow pace that this season invites and seeking the ways I can implement that in my daily life. If you’re wanting to do that too, you’re in the right place.
Winter sits in the middle of fall and spring, seasons of release and renewal. This period of time acts as a pause for nature, and as we are a part of nature, for us too. Animals hibernate, veggie gardens are covered in leaves to sit before spring, and trees stand bare awaiting the time to grow again, but this moment is simply about being. There seems to be a universal calling to slow down and tend to oneself. Winter is an invitation to turn inwards - to reflect, meditate, be, and nourish what we may have neglected in the busyness of our everyday lives.
Slowness lingers in the air. It is a human experience to be physically and mentally impacted by it. This time of year I seem to hit snooze more than any other season and I think that's my body telling me how much I crave long nourishing sleep. I read this line of writing by author Lynn Shattuck who says, “When the light begins to wane, when our bodies ache to curl up in bed with a book, it’s okay to listen.” My body has shown up for me tirelessly this year, I must give it some rest and replenishment and do so somewhat guilt free (a work in progress), and so do you!
In the darkness of winter, it's important to check in with yourself. Here are some questions that can prompt reflection. What is your body, mind, and heart calling for right now? Do you need more sleep? Some time in nature? A long conversation with a friend? Time to yourself? Throughout this season, that one little phrase, “what do I need?” is an important one to keep asking yourself. I’ve been experimenting with some ways to let winter in and practice slowness like waking up when my body wants or reading by the fire. With these action items, I’ve been slowly feeling my heart growing a little in size for this season. A good reminder; you don’t have to love winter to know how to make the most of it. Practice what connects with you.
Some ideas to embrace slowing down this season:
Get creative. When we make time to slow down, our creativity can become richer. Making art puts us in the present. Winter is a good time to deepen our relationship with creativity; to explore, play, and give it more time. Practice creating in the medium you love, and do it for no purpose other than to simply create. Whether it’s five minutes of painting, a photo walk, or a bedtime writing sesh, let your creativity flow and have fun doing it.
Make intentions, not goals. The pressure for getting your life in order in the new year with a whole list of goals to accomplish is very real. Resisting that pressure is challenging but rewarding. I much prefer setting intentions rather than goals. Intentions feel more open, malleable, and doable. They aren’t fixed paths, instead they are invitations for a path forward in which we can adapt as we go. Setting intentions may look like ‘explore creativity’, or ‘lean into self-care’ or ‘connect more deeply with nature’.
Celebrate the simple joys. Carl Honore who wrote “In Praise of Slow” shared, “The central tenet of the slow philosophy is taking the time to do things properly, and thereby enjoy them more.” Bathe in the beauty of the mundane. The morning ritual of making coffee, waking up slowly to the sound of rain, the brightness of snow or even rays of sun, getting into reading or journaling, or savouring the sound of walking on crispy frosty grass. The feeling of dullness this time of year can make us forget the beauty that exists too. There are moments awaiting appreciation in every corner of life; slowing down a little helps us notice them.
Connect with nature. Despite the urge to stay inside our comforting walls all day everyday this time of year, it is important that we continue connecting with nature in one way or another. Short outings, time by the window observing the birds, or some deep breaths on the front porch; there are many ways to feel nourished by mama earth without going too far or braving the elements too wildly.
Nourish yourself and others. Winter is a time of nourishment, whether that’s good food, meaningful company, time for new knowledge, or deeper practices of self-care. Find joy in the act of nurturing yourself, like making your favourite soup and savouring the experience of cooking it. Notice the smells, the warmth it creates, and take in the taste slowly with no distractions. Believe me when I say, those few simple actions can truly change the taste of soup. Along with the good feelings we get by filling our own cup, never doubt how good it feels to give too. If you take the pressure away from gifting, and instead give in simple ways like baking some cookies, or writing a personal card, or checking in with a friend... it tends to our hearts as much as it does theirs.
Make your space feel good. The essence of the classic Danish term hygge is to make everyday spaces comforting and cozy. We tend to spend much more time inside our homes during winter, so making them feel inviting can do wonders. I’ve been loving simply lighting two candles beside me while I work, adding extra plants to my room, or putting on the ‘TV fireplace’ and listening to the sound of wood crackling (bonus if you have a real one).
Experiment with shifting the modern mindset that has led us to believe that taking pauses means backtracking yourself, and instead see it as a necessary ingredient to all that we do. Winter reminds us to fully engage with the art of slowing our pace, holistically nourishing ourselves, and making everyday moments precious rituals. So here’s an ode to winter and the lessons it comes with. Let’s take a collective breath, and do our best to savor it, the best that we can.
Written by Asalah Youssef (she/her)