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Wellbeing in Winter: Embracing Time for Doing Less, Being More, and Reflecting on Living Well

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the blessings of winter. With shorter days and cooler temperatures, this is the season slowing down, laying to rest, and beginning anew.

We kick off the new year thinking about resolutions, many of us revving at the starting line ready to race off into the year without a vision or a plan to inform our next move. The urge to start fresh is intoxicating, a do-over that wipes the slate clean before we mussing up the year ahead by over-committing, micromanaging, and reacting instead of responding consciously to what the moment offers.

The cold months of winter are a signal from nature to slow down and root into what matters. If we aim to move into our year with the intention to make choices that honor our values and remain loyal to our vision, we need first to pause to reflect on where we've been before determining where we are directing our energy and attention in the year ahead.

Winter invites us to do less, and be more. By turning our energy and attention inward, we find a cozy retreat within. Here is winter's subtle gift in time that allows for quiet reflection and future visioning. As the days grow incrementally brighter, we have time to attune our curiosity to what we look forward to creating in our verdant and vibrant days ahead come spring.

By embracing rest, we give ourselves permission to attend to the well-being of our spirit, making time to reconnect to our energy and creativity in the spaciousness we claim in our days.

By defining for yourself what it looks like to conserve and consciously channel your energy, you are making a choice to prioritize doing things that return you to your joy and satisfaction. By shoring up boundaries and plugging the leaks of out-flowing energy, you are making your own well-being a priority, ensuring you feel your best, without compromise.

When we give ourselves permission to attune to the rhythms of the season, we learn from winter what is necessary to do, and let go of the rest.

Nature teaches us about resilience when we see how the aspen, so skinny and barren, rebound come spring in an explosion of fresh discs of green leaves shaking like jazz hands in the spring breeze. Like the aspen, we are deciduous trees. Our leaves fall each winter, and we recover our fullness again in the spring.

Winter is a chance to choose intentionally how we want to re-build ourselves anew after taking the time to reset the rhythm of our days.

In winter I love doing less and feeling more connected to life's simple pleasures. I read more. I cook hot food each day and sit down to eat it at the table, as if on a lunch date with myself. I walk more. I play pickleball daily. I lie down with children each night and listen as they whispher they whispher away their worries, healed by simply sharing them aloud. I remind myself that my pace is the right pace for this moment, this season of my life. I release the tempation to consider for a moment that my value is somehow linked to my productivity---a trap I once entertained subconsciously.

As much as I value doing less to appreciate more of life's subtle beauty, in truth, I am still learning. I am not always great at remembering this, and fall often back into the trap of over doing it, before I remember that less is more. To reconnect to this value, I tell myself: I am enough just as I am. Being present and engaged is a gift.

Here’s the thing about Winter—it’s the perfect season for reassessing what is enough.

To answer that question, you need first to know what’s important to you now. How has your energy and moods changed with the winter season? What are you noticing you want less or more of?

Complete this prompt to dig in

I have noticed this season I am feeling more _________________________________.

As a result, I am choosing to spend less time [doing] ______________________, and more time

[doing] ________________________.

You can begin to unpack your answer to this question by asking yourself—

Where is my energy going and is that supporting me to feel my best right now?

For me, this looks like . . .

I have said no more than yes this season, feeling called to protect my energy and time. I have heeded the urge to rest and made a practice of declining invitations to grab drinks with friends, passing on whims to host friends for dinner, and finding my great love of travel planning more tedious than titillating (as shocking as it sounds for this enneagram 7!). Instead, I am relishing an open calendar with minimal commitments and more time simply to BE than to DO.

But I do so appreciate winter’s unique offering

Winter is the long dash between the festivity-filled fall and the simmering energy of spring. It is a time in the earth’s cycles of little to no new growth (unless you are growing oranges in Florida), when the soil is recuperating to a healthy state, storing up nutrients to pop in 1,000 shades of green come April.

But what I love most from winter’s offer is permission to complete the last cycle in full before beginning again. It is a time to reset back to the beginning. A start over.

Winter calls me to pause and look around at the gray sky and muted tones of browns and reds that color the high desert landscape where I live. Of course, there is as much beauty now in nature as there is in any other season, but it’s not always so obvious. In this way, winter is challenging our ideas of what beauty is, like winter challenges our notion of what being aligned with our joy and doing important work in the world can be.

From this perspective, winter feels simple and easy. Winter is the time to do what needs to be done and to be smart about it, saving energy and time to rest, reset, and feel restored.

How winter guides us to grow in our self-leadership . . .

  • Learn to Embrace Rest: Winter’s shorter days and longer nights invites you to eat early and go to sleep early.

  • Plan Around Priorities: Weekly routines help maximize short days. With less sunlight, you might know that your energy dips in the afternoon. Plan to do your deep-thinking work earlier in the day, leaving the errands or the calls for the afternoon.

  • Purpose-based Planning: When we are inclined to do less, it's time to plan more. Winter kicks off just before the new year, and with it, the first quarter, which makes it a perfect season to sink into strategic and purpose-based planning for the year to incubate new ideas, cast a vision for the year ahead, and enjoy the space and time to nurture that vision.

  • Clear the Channel: There is a darkness that winter brings into our days. With short days and long nights, we have more time alone with our thoughts. In the darkness of the season, we have an opportunity to be with the shadow parts of ourselves, a Jungian term for the aspects of Self that we haven’t fully acknowledged or accepted yet.

This is winter’s invitation to reclaim all of who we are and heal ourselves by accepting ourselves as a whole and complete. It is a way of embracing all of who we are, the shadow and the light. To do this, I recommend noticing when you feel “off,” heavy, sad, triggered, or otherwise out of alignment with your best self.

Write about what was happening just before you noticed feeling this way. Stay with the emotion and get curious. Write through the pain of the emotion to help clear the path. Reach out to get support. You are not alone. A great coach or therapist might be your best advocate if you need help clearing your path back to your grounded, best self.

Winter’s Way of Wellbeing

If each season offers something unique to which our bodies intuitively respond.

What does winter offer you?

Winter is a fickle time of year. Be generous with yourself. Often we yearn for more quietude and rest (yes, even us 7’s), but because of our orientation to DO, we feel shame about slowing down or not producing as much, as if we believe the false narrative that our worth is tied to our ability to produce ____ (results, money, clients, accolades, etc.). Not true. What is true is your worthiness is immutable, non-negotiable, and omnipresent.

Give yourself the freedom to honor your urges for rest, a slower pace, creativity, and slow growth.

Consider these questions for yourself:

  • What is the minimum I can do to feel complete and satisfied, in order to spend the rest of my day pursuing enjoyment or resting?

  • What small changes can I make to how I approach my work week to allow for more time to rest, play, and just be, without attaching my value to my productivity?

  • What is the story I am telling myself that is weighing me down like an anchor about how I am doing in life right now? What are the untrue assumptions I can dispel?

  • What concerns are keeping me up at night?

    • List them out, and do one small thing per each item a day. Make it manageable and easily doable.

However you feel called to embrace the beauty of winter, may you enjoy it fully!

I leave you with a sweet poem on the beauty of winter by the Welsh poet, William Henry Davies (1871-1940).

Winter’s Beauty By William Henry Davies Is it not fine to walk in spring, When leaves are born, and hear birds sing? And when they lose their singing powers, In summer, watch the bees at flowers? Is it not fine, when summer's past, To have the leaves, no longer fast, Biting my heel where'er I go, Or dancing lightly on my toe? Now winter's here and rivers freeze; As I walk out I see the trees, Wherein the pretty squirrels sleep, All standing in the snow so deep: And every twig, however small, Is blossomed white and beautiful. Then welcome, winter, with thy power To make this tree a big white flower; To make this tree a lovely sight, With fifty brown arms draped in white, While thousands of small fingers show In soft white gloves of purest snow.


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