For many of us, autumn and winter can be a whirlwind. With the September back-to-school feelings following a relaxing summer, we rush to set goals, power on through to Christmas and tick as many things off the to-do list as we can before the year ends. I don’t find it surprising that many of us collapse into a state of hibernation come the festive period. December, with its frenzy of hype and consumerism combined with the longest school term, can leave even the most organised of us burnt out and needing a break.
Paired with short, dark, cold days, the tiredness can feel never-ending and after the merriment is over, January weighs heavy on us with its grey dankness. It is supposed to be a time of year to consider fresh starts, new beginnings, setting resolutions and battling with habits that in this gloomy time when we all need the small things to comfort us, we are loathe to relinquish. However this date is, after all, just one calendar day’s difference so instead of a hard end/beginning, I find it much more helpful to operate in a less linear, less abrupt way, using a more circular calendar, embracing the seasons as they come round, the highs of the solstices punctuated by traditions and activities.
I know that SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a common trait in this country, and it makes the sunny days that we know are just around the corner seem so far away. The NHS estimates SAD to affect approximately one in 15 people in the UK between September and April, and its effects can be particularly severe during December, January and February. One of a number of things I have found to help with SAD, is to make sure we embrace the dark season with all that it brings. Exploring the winter landscape in the hours of daylight to blow the cobwebs away, only makes that cosiness more special when we get back home, and noticing the little changes nature is steadily sharing with us every day, simply highlights that this isn’t a time for the doldrums, but instead a time for simple curiosity as things come back to life.
I find myself drawn to gardener and writer Monty Don’s words this week, as he also makes note of the changes that nature is slowly exhibiting; ‘Snowdrops, aconites, hellebores, catkins and most gloriously of all, the early irises are all coming into flower. The garden is coming alive again – and so am I.’ I felt the same just the other day when a beautiful patch of snowdrops illuminated by winter sunlight stopped me in my tracks and reminded me that as always, winter will end and spring will come again.
Until then, I am embracing the opportunity to be cosy with one of our recommended books, under a luxurious throw in front of the fire. Now is a good time to worry less about ‘being frantically busy’ and instead enjoy the slowness to catch up on our reading list, old friends and creative pursuits. Just spending a few hours with a coffee and magazine, or browsing an art gallery inspires me to look for the benefits of this season before life kicks back into high gear.
Let’s not fight these winter months by wishing our lives away and making impossible resolutions that do nothing more than make this month utterly miserable when we ‘fail’, but instead strive to accept the season - and as I am often encouraged to do by coach and great friend Julie Leoni - ‘simply go with the flow’.
I would love to know, how are you doing this January? What do the seasons mean to you and how are you truly embracing what they offer?