Winter. The very word brings dread.
The word is synonymous with cold, dreary, yucky and the death of all of seemingly every thing that lives. Some places have the promise of beautiful snow, which can be nice but still gets old fast – really fast. So we just survive it. We try to focus on the holidays and spending time with family. We buy and wear cute winter clothes and tell ourselves its fun. And we make lots of snowflake crafts in hopes that the kids will make it through winter without someone – either parent or child – losing their minds.
But what if there is another way?
There are several popular posts going around about how the Danes celebrate Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) and I found the whole concept utterly fascinating. Last year I implemented a few of those techniques – cozy blankets, lots of candles, nourishing foods – and it really did make the winter less miserable. But I was still counting the days until spring. So this year I’ve spent some real time reconnecting with nature. I’ve spent time trying to understand the seasons. I’m at a point in my life that I am tired of fighting mother nature, whether that is with the weather, my child’s behavior or simply trying to tame my unruly curly hair. I’m done with all of it. I am determined to work in sync with this beautiful world I call home.
But how does that change winter? To answer that question we need to recap the other seasons.
Spring is all about new life. Birds make their nests, cows and horses have their babies, flowers start popping out of the ground. Everything about spring screams life and new beginnings. What’s not to love about spring?
Summer is warm and fun. The grass gets brighter, more flowers come up, gardens start producing those beautiful tomatoes and peppers and we can all enjoy going with less clothes and spending more time near the water. Summer is an easy favorite.
Autumn is a time of change and joy. For many people this is the best season. The temperatures from the hot summer cool down, the leaves change into vivid colors and we can start wearing our super cute boots and jeans! Autumn is the best!
And then just about the time we have fallen in love with autumn, everything dies. The trees shed all their leaves, the grass turns brown, the flowers die, the gardens closes shop. The temperatures start getting cold and it seems to be dark right after lunch. The kids start going stir crazy because its too cold to go outside and they spend hours on end cooped up in the house. Its such a tough time.
In my opinion, winter is arguably the most important season of the year – both to the plants and to us. Winter is when the plants send their energy into the roots and let the tops die off. Its when the plant takes a rest. Without winter, we would have no spring. Think about that. Granted, there are some gorgeous places in the world that do not see winter and they have beautiful vegetation all year. But that won’t work for all plants. Some of them need downtime. The earth needs downtime. Just as humans need rest, so does mother nature.
And speaking of humans… we need rest too.
That, my friend, is what winter is for. Winter is for soups and stews and wonderful earthy veggies like carrots, potatoes and winter squash. Winter is for cozy nights in front of the fireplace wrapped up in a warm blanket with a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate. Winter is for spending time together as a family playing dominoes and drawing beautiful art.
Winter is for rest.
The other seasons are so busy with working in the garden, caring for baby animals, jumping in the pool and riding our bikes. The sun is up so late in summer that most kids have to go to sleep when the bright rays are still streaming in their windows. There is little room for rest in spring, summer and autumn.
But winter! Winter is for working on our inner selves, Just as the plants send the energy to their roots, so we should do the same. Its a time for being introspective. A time for peace. A time for bonding with family. Why not? You are already held hostage by the early dark evenings! Its a great time to read a book together as a family or write in a diary. Its the perfect time for being still, turning off the electronics and just being.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Winter no longer sounds like a punishment.
The problem is that we don’t allow winter to be winter. We cram in holidays, trips to see family, school and church plays, holiday parties and more – in our attempt to “survive” winter. We think that if we can just pretend its not going on, then it isn’t really happening! And maybe we will make it through these cold, dreary months.
But think about it. From a health standpoint, when do people get sick most often? Winter. Do you know why? Because we get less fresh air, less vitamin D from the sun, and we load up on sugary treats and bad-for-us food. And ultimately everyone gets sick! Instead of feeding ourselves nourishing soups, stews and root veggies, we pig out on cookies, sugary drinks, and extra breads. In a time when our body desperately needs to rest, we not only deny its request for rest, but we push it to its limits.
What would happen if you went without sleep? We all know that we should stay awake for approx 16 hours a day and then spend 8 hours a day resting. What if we decided that our rest time was dreary and dark? What if we chose to spend our resting time baking and eating cookies and going to parties, how long would it take our bodies to shut down? Not long.
16 hours of play, 8 hours of rest = 8 months of play, 4 months of rest.
Do you see it??
The secret to embracing winter is to appreciate what its purpose is. Rest and inner work. Instead of fighting it, give in to what its asking. Attend a few less events, spend more time doing peaceful work indoors, snuggle up to your family, eat those perfect nourishing winter foods (and way less cookies!)
With this mentality, I have absolutely fallen in love with winter. I encourage you to take this time in winter to rest so that when the first flowers open their blooms, the first garden seeds pop out of the ground and the first baby animal is born then you too can come out of your winter cocoon and embrace the new seasons of life(spring), fun(summer) and joy(autumn) and be ready for the season of rest(winter) to come back around again next year.