Originally posted 18 January 2019
Here we are in cold, grey, dark Winter. It is sometimes hard to see this season in any other way isn’t it? I know that for many people, Winter is very difficult to get through. For those with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and those suffering with depression, I am aware that this is extremely serious and life can become very dark and hopeless. And I know first hand, having grown up with an immediate relation diagnosed with clinical depression, that deep love, kindness, help from others, medication and guidance from a mental health professional got her through the worst of these hard times. To cope with a particularly difficult year when I was younger, I resorted to antidepressants too. I know I am lucky that my depression was transient.
Over the festive break, this book dropped through my letterbox…
…and what a treat that was because I had forgotten that I ordered it! It is a beautifully written and illustrated first hand account of a year in Emma Mitchell’s life, as she seeks out the beauty and healing power of nature to help to her rise out of the dark depths of depression. She is truly inspiring.
This post is aimed at anybody and everybody, but especially those looking for a few ways to feel joy during Winter. And it comes from the place where I sit – metaphorically and literally. I too find this season hard, especially the lack of sunlight and the cold. The realisation that the warmth, beauty and colour of Spring, my favourite, is still a few months away makes my outlook bleak. I look outside into the garden from my spot on the sofa and I feel a bit low, lethargic and demotivated because, although many plants in the garden are still green and fresh, such as the rosemary and the bottle brush, that grey sky feels oppressive. When I drop the kids at school in the morning, I can feel the cold on my shoulders and I usually scurry back home wanting to curl up and shut down.
My health is always a little shaky during the Winter. I have chronic asthma and it is usually worse for the cold and less time spent outside in the fresh air. But last year, I became quite ill without knowing why and eventually after a visit to the doctor and subsequent blood tests, I was diagnosed with significantly low vitamin D (see this post). I slowly started to feel better after taking a high dose of the vitamin. Not to be caught out again this time round, I began taking vitamin D supplements in October last year and so far, I have felt much better than I did last Winter.
So where do we find the joy? Knowing that Winter is inevitable and even necessary may not make you or I feel any better about living through it. But what does make me feel more positive is a good walk. It really can be an effort to tear myself away from the comfort and warmth of our flat. However, I always pick a day when there is a very low probability of rain and a high possibility of some sunshine, even if that means it is quite chilly. I pile on the layers, perhaps treat myself to a coffee to walk with and I always pack my camera. Walking refreshes me, blows away the cobwebs and gets my endorphins flowing. When I walk, my mind does so much processing. A good view can really put things into perspective somehow and spark new and exciting ideas.
And lovelies, despite the bleakness that may sometimes greet me, looking a little closer and noticing what does thrive or make an appearance in our natural world during the Winter lifts my mood no end! There are berries and catkins, fallen frosted leaves, tiny flowers on hedges, interesting looking funghi popping up out of the cold earth and reflections in rivers to behold.
And hang on a minute, is there not beauty in the bare branches of trees, silhouetted against a grey, or if we’re lucky, blue sky?…
And aren’t those dried flowers and seedheads that are still standing upright, still surviving despite the cold, hard ground, stunning and inspiring in their own, determined way? I think so…
Oh and let me not forget Wintering birds, for they really are my everyday joy! Spotting birds on my walks brings me much delight as does the existence of them closer to home. I have continued to replenish our bird feeders in our garden, despite my annoyance at the squirrels’ antics, because I know how much our birds need a little help during Winter. I never fail to smile whilst I am working during the day or lying in bed of a weekend morning, when I can hear the cacophony of bird song and chatter. Looking outside I see robins, wrens and blackbirds hopping along the patio wall and in the flower beds looking for food. I observe goldfinches and great tits arguing over the seeds, flitting and swooping from the feeders to the apple tree. They never fail to inspire me and if anyone visits and mentions the birds in my garden, they will invariably get an earful about the different characters of the birds and how much I adore them.
Now, walking and immersing ourselves in nature is all well and good in the few hours we have of daylight. But what might we do during the dark evenings that stretch out before us? Light a candle, get cosy and read a good book for some escapism, or watch a good drama on the BBC/netflix for the very same reason. I do both of the above but I also get my hands working in the pursuit of creation, and quite often yarny creation. There is nothing quite like curling up indoors with a project and the warmth and lusciousness of yarn in my hands and on my lap as I work. This Winter, I am knitting a shawl of my own design…
I have also bought myself a new toy – a french knitting doll! Do you remember these? Perhaps from your childhood? I’m definitely enjoying playing with it and dreaming up new makes!…
If knitting or crochet are not your thing, there are so many other crafty and creative ways of occupying time and feeling the inevitable joy of a project completed and perhaps gifted to oneself or to a loved one. I also enjoy doing a spot of drawing, writing and another love of mine, hand stitching. Anything that does not require too many tools or equipment and that is gentle, calming and beautiful to look at. That will get me through the Winter lovelies.
Although I sometimes feel at the beginning of the year, that I should be shifting the weight I inevitably put on over the festive period, I really do think that this time of year is not the right time to put myself on a strict diet. In fact, dieting isn’t something I like to do or feel I should do at all. I don’t always enjoy cooking but I do love food and I love to eat! Therefore healthy, filling and nutritious meals are the order of the day for me, with less snacking on sweet things too to ensure I have the right kind of energy. My favourites are roasted winter vegetables with lentils and cheese, bowls of whole wheat pasta with tasty sauces, porridge, curries, my homemade pizzas and hot toasted slice of my hubby’s bread. I will share a seasonal recipe or two soon.
And finally, bringing some nature inside is also a lovely way to look forward to Spring without wishing away the Winter. Popping some flowers in a vase and growing bulbs on a light windowsill brighten our little flat no end!
Exercise, nature, creativity and good fuel are going to help get me through this Winter, along with an hour or so more of sleep each night! Box sets on netflix should come with a warning!
How do you feel about the Winter lovelies? What do you do to get through? I’d love to know!
Until next week treasures! Take good care and stay cosy,