Rest and winter balance
The dark winter months change body and soul. You probably know the feeling. You become melancholy, and your soul and senses turn inwards. Your energy levels fall and getting out of bed is hard – this is a change that comes with the season and is completely natural.
The cold months are nature’s break, a cyclical breathing space, where it recharges for the great effort that creating life is. Sprouting, shooting and flowering again.
In the same way, we also need periods of more rest and downtime. To be able to be dynamic and active, we have to make room for calm and concentration. We spend a great deal of our life working hard, being efficient, analytical and in control, but human beings are also the opposite – we need rest and calm to resolve tension and increase our awareness. We need to be present and release the more healing, contemplative and sensitive sides of ourselves. This is the art of balance in life. It is yin and yang.
On this page, we will be talking about small routines, rituals and good habits that in the final stage of Winter Glow can help you to reconnect to yourself and the world – small actions created to ease your winter blues. Because doing things you enjoy is good for revitalizing your glow and for feeling happy.
Give yourself a pampering massage with body oil, balm or lotion while your skin is still moist after your morning shower. Feel how the nourishing ingredients in the oil penetrate and make your skin soft and supple.
You have probably heard this before but starting the day with a large glass of boiled water and lemon juice is a glass of liquid sunshine and vitamin C that boosts your metabolism, helps your liver detoxify and gives the body energy. If you feel you need a bit of extra heat, add ginger.
Feeling connected to nature is an easily accessible and completely natural happy pill. Take a walk every day. Register the silhouettes of the crowns of the trees against the sky. Look at the snowdrops starting to come through. Studies published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2019 showed that just 20-30 minutes a day outside in natural surroundings can contribute to reducing the stress hormone cortisol. This is not hippy nonsense: nature heals.
Sleep well (and longer)
Look after your sleep! Sleeping well (and enough) means everything to your well-being. Our biological system is far more affected by lightness and dark than we think. Sleep research shows that during the winter period we release more of the sleep hormone melatonin which helps us to regulate our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. If we did not use an alarm clock and slept until we woke up unprompted, most of us would wake up half an hour to an hour later during the winter months.
Insufficient sleep does not only mean that we become tired and feel down and grumpy. It also means that we are not letting our body recharge fully and readying ourselves for a new day. When we disappear into dreamland, our body starts a major renovation project that underpins all that we are.
The brain cements the day’s learning and enhances memory while the body produces the important hormone cytokine which makes our immune system stronger and attacks inflammation and infection. Sleep is essential to our health – but many still find it very difficult to surrender to it.
But fatigue can be alleviated by putting a few effective evening routines in place to help body and soul to slow down. Put your mobile away, drink a cup of relaxing chamomile tea, cleanse your skin and put on something soft and soothing. Make your bed and bedroom into a place where you look forward to ending the day. Maybe you read until your eyes close, do meditation exercises or watch television? But try to gear down and go to sleep at more or less the same time every night – regularity promotes good sleeping habits.
Breathe in and out
We breathe all the time, but few of us think much about it. By working on your breathing, you can use it as an effective tool to relax an overactive brain and loosen tension when you feel under pressure, sad or nervous. This does not have to involve a complicated technique. Most of all, it is about breathing deeply and right down into your stomach.
Start with this simple exercise and repeat it ten times with your eyes closed: breathe deeply on the count of 4 and out on the count of 8.
Find a hobby
Many of us work in a place that involves sitting in front of a screen all day. When we close the final document, we open streaming services, scroll through social media, watch television or listen to podcasts – and yes, of course, this is fun, relaxing and entertaining, but maybe you should think about getting a good, old-fashioned information-free hobby where you switch off your intellect and let your hands work intuitively? Knit, play the flute, do some gardening, weaving, baking or… just lie down quietly and listen to music. Music is capable – like nothing else – of stimulating feelings and evoking memories when the notes carry us back in time.
Is coffee also the fuel that keeps you up and running? Especially in the morning, it is this powerful pick-me-up that gets us out of bed and makes us energetic and efficient. But the caffeine in coffee is also addictive and lays down more pathways in our brain than we think. This is something Michael Pollan, the famous American author, has shown in his study of the significance of coffee in the world where it is estimated that up to two billion cups of this black drink are consumed every single day (listen on audible.co.uk)
Luckily, we have many other kinds of hot drinks to comfort us in the cold. Tea contains biologically active ingredients, flavonoids (catechins), theaflavins and tannins that work like antioxidants and are released when the tea leaves are covered in boiling water.
If you want to bring your caffeine intake down a notch, stick to herbal teas – because although caffeine is also found in tea, caffeine in dried leaves has a different and more beneficial effect than caffeine in beans. This is due to interaction with the unique amino acid L-theanine which is found in both black and green teas and which counteracts the restless and fidgety energy that a high caffeine intake from coffee triggers. L-theanine, which was discovered by a team of Japanese scientists in 1949, has in later experiments also been shown to have a destressing, relaxing and mood-enhancing effect because L-theanine reduces cortisol levels in the blood.
The list of benefits of green tea is very long – the Japanese have known this for thousands of years, but it is only relatively recently that the West has become more receptive to this bitter green drink with its numerous effective properties.
Follow us here on Care Journal and in our newsletters to learn how to brew the perfect cup of green tea and whip up an addictive, foaming matcha – perhaps as a little daily ritual that you can give you full care and attention.