Right now in Melbourne we are half way through one of the coldest winters we have had in years. Melbourne winter is notoriously chilly, wet and windy and unlike other countries we have no Thanksgiving, or Christmas, New Years or winter festivals to lift the spirits.
I've also noticed personally that winters seem to coincide with some experience of loss or hard times emotionally that make the days feel even darker. An emotional winter.
When I was 19 I propped open my Girlosophy book to a beautiful ocean picture the Camus quote "In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer". I would read it daily like a mantra hoping it would start to feel true. This was during a particularly isolated time in my life and I really did not want to deal with the hard feelings.
Maybe it's a rebellious streak or maybe just my human nature; but whenever I try to force myself to squash negative thoughts and become super confident and happy, I end up feeling tense and eventually swing wildly back the other way beyond the place I was trying to avoid in the first place. Denying what IS just causes more struggle, shame and frustration.
Can't fight the feeling
Like dieting, when I try to be strict with myself and control my intake against my natural cravings, I last a short time then go a bit silly eating whatever I was trying to avoid, until the pendulum swings back to center. By fighting my natural appetites, I end up exhausted and frustrated, and usually chubbier than before. . No bueno. What I try to do now is accept feeling sadness and loneliness as a part of the human experience and have a wallow if I need, letting the emotions run their course. And then pass.
Get closer to your inner self
I was walking through the park when I spotted a tree, which I took a photo of and sent to one of my friends, who knows about some current personal difficulties, telling her "I relate to this tree." I meant bare and spent, and a bit creepy looking. Quick as a flash she replied "Waiting for spring in order to bloom into magnificent beauty and life?”. (You too need a friend like this.) Yeah okay, she is right and now I’m old enough to know it. I think in the winter we need to do a bit more than wait though. I think we need to do the inner work on ourselves to keep a strong spirit and a firm foundation within our self in order to not get carried away by the blissful surges of summer. To remember who you are when no one else is paying attention.
If summer is the honeymoon phase, winter is where true intimacy (with yourself) is created.
Sail solo through the storm
Hard and lonely times in your life are inevitable, we all have times where we have to navigate a storm alone. But there is a plus side; this is the best chance to build your confidence as a competent solo sailor. You need this experience to have this confidence. You need this confidence to be able to choose what you will accept in your life and what you will not. If something is not working for you, hoist your main sail and sail away. You don’t want to be scared of going on your own if you need to. You need to know you can do this throughout any season of your life. You will be fine. You have packed your rations and have learned to read a map. There will always be something new on the horizon.
Here is my list of tips for embracing winter as a time to spend in your own company.
Envision your dream life. Downlod this "Make it happen" template to guide you draft a plan to envision your dream life.
Write down what your ideal life would look like.
Write where you are at now in relation to that ideal standard.
Write what is needed to take you from B to A.
Simplistic, yep. Works for me. If you really can't bridge the gap, try a new perspective on your situation. For example, I have to do all the bloody housework = I make this house beautiful with my own two hands, exactly how I like it.
Love letter. Write a love letter to yourself outlining everything you like about yourself. From your eye colour to your patience in traffic ( ha ), everything you can think of. Use beautiful stationary and actually post it to yourself. It's so nice to receive snail mail that isn't a bill or a fine.
Sip of wine. Make some mulled wine and sip in front of a fireplace. Just one though, or you will pay for it tomorrow. One gives you a buzz, two becomes a depressant.
Cook something slowly that will envelop your house with comforting aromas all day, such as vegetable curry or Matt Moran's worth the work lasagne. Try this red lentil soup recipe, make sure to add the chilli butter.
Take good care of yourself. Relax in the sauna and spa at your local pools and enjoy the glowing skin afterwards. Get a massage! Make sure you get the hot stones. I swear it’s the best way to physically release negativity. Do a self-care challenge for yourself.
Be a pet lover. Adopt a kitten, so warm and snuggly and adorable.
Sleep & music. Try sleeping with underwater relaxing music playing. I love this Tim Janis video on YouTube.
Go for a run in the rain. Invigorating! Jump in a steaming hot shower when you get back.
Swim. Swim laps in a heated outdoor pool. The contrast between the heat and cold will awaken the senses.
Walk on the beach. It's a different experience in the cold, but the ocean is proven to reduce our stress and anxiety whatever the weather.
Before you know it, it will be spring, you will be starting to feel the difference when you wake up in the mornings, the lightness that has been absent throughout winter. You will start seeing small signs of beautiful growth and you can feel it in the air; the birth of something new and magnificent for you.
But make a pledge to your winter self, to remember the time you spent as special, and that you will be back with open arms next winter, to be there for yourself, come what may these next few seasons.