How To Approach Wintertime If This Season Has You Feeling Down
Winter can be tough, especially if you live in a harsher climate. Days are short, nights are long, and the cold can get in the way of your typical pastimes.
In her new book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, author Katherine May explores how to get the most out of this sometimes difficult time of year. We reached out to May to learn more about how to reframe winter as more of an opportunity and less of a drag.
Reframing the way we look at winter.
Winter, or "the dark half of the year, as it was known in Celtic cultures," May tells mbg, "has always been associated with gestation." It's the time of year when the "world is pregnant with promise," she adds. Adopting this mindset can be a helpful way of thinking about it.
"It's linked to thinking about, and sort of absorbing what happened in the summer—and processing it," she explains, so you're ready to go back out into the world come spring. And on top of that, winter brings us solitude. "It invites us to spend some quiet time in our own heads," May adds; something she greatly appreciates.
"I massively value the way winter changes my mindset," she says. "We can't be outside as much, but I really enjoy the lack of pressure to be involved in so many social gatherings. It can be hard to withdraw and get some solitude in the summer. I think we should learn to value the change of pace."
A helpful reminder: Nothing—not even winter—is permanent.
The seasons are cyclical, and the sooner you can accept that, the better. "It's not permanent," May stresses. "We shouldn't seek to skip that really necessary phase because, actually, that's where change happens."
Rather than resisting winter and its downsides, she has learned to focus on what the season does offer: respite, reflection, and a "gestational period" when we can plant seeds for the vibrant days of summer. "[Winter is] where we can really start to imagine new lives and new worlds—and we can't do that if we don't stop first," she adds.
A note on connecting with nature.
And remember, just because it's cold doesn't mean you can't connect with nature and get outside. "I always say you need to get the hang of the way that daylight works in the winter," May says. "So try to see the dawn and the dusk outside. Try to get the rhythm of the days in winter."
When we get as much sunlight as we possibly can during these short days, she says, "the world begins to feel an awful lot better." Plus, the more you expose yourself to the cold, the more you'll get used to it. "We spend a lot of time in very warm houses, pretending winter isn't there. And actually, if you can get out a little bit every day and let your body gradually adapt, it really makes a big difference."
If that sounds like a stretch, May offers a popular English expression: There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. "If you've got your base layer worked out properly and you're warmed up, nothing can really defeat you there," she says. (Psst—check out our guide on staying warm outdoors if you need more tips!)
The bottom line.
Moral of the story: Many of us resist the winter season when we'd be far better off embracing it for what it is. "I think the biggest thing you can do to get the hang of winter," May says, "is to encounter it as much as you can."
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