Hello, my dear friends!
Hope you had a proper time to rest and digest during the festive season. If you’re slowly shifting gears into expecting longer days and warmer weather, you'll love this text. I'll share with you a compelling take on how to be and what to do during the next couple of months to welcome the spring with a lot of energy and excitement, avoiding the pitfalls along the way.
As you can notice - winter is not over yet! We have a few more months to go before the sunshine makes us fly high. I'd love for you to read this and to explore the meaning of winter to get everything you need and set yourself up for the warmer months that follow.
If you are anything like me, your social media feed might explode with endless lists on how to start the New Year off right, how to set goals, plan for the year ahead and repair the damage from the festive season. However, the reality is - we’re not going to apply 10 things straight after reading them. Here is why - our habits are more powerful than our knowledge.
Now, I intend to help you understand the meaning of the winter season that is (still!) on and to help you get ready for the spring and summer months that will require much more of your energy. This time of the year is not about focusing your power on that booty. It’s about learning how to give yourself an additional boost and how to create habits by getting the most out of the winter and eventually becoming that beauty or the beast (whatever floats your boat). If you get this - you’ll be set for the best year ever.
As you've probably noticed - it’s still cold and dark. Days are short; windows get frozen in the morning. However, we live in the cult of light, where everything needs to be bright and shiny. We try our best to stay away from the dark, from the shadow, from the introspection. We are encouraged to be hustlers, to stay up late, and to be up early. We live in the world where yang energy dominates. I’ll explain.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is the time of the yin energy. The time for introspection, femininity, dreaming, imagining, restoration and stillness. It’s the perfect time to figure what you want. Nevertheless, we get intimidated by the opportunities that winter give us - one of the worry and anxiety or another of the possibilities. Winter serves as the preparation for the spring which is the time of anger, clarity, and the time when we define our boundaries. All those things will lead us to joy, bounty, and fun of the early summer.
How do we mess up?
Thanks to the countless festive occasions during Holidays, we tend to act as if winter was the summer. We stay up late; we spend energy on socializing with many people, we have plenty eating and drinking occasions, and we try to keep up with our stressful end-of-the-year tasks both at work and with our families. Eventually, we get so tired of doing this whole summer thing, as it entirely exhausts us and makes us empty. That is why I love the potential that January brings - we can finally live according to the season.
If we stay ignorant to the requirement of the winter season - we’ll suffer (hey there, spring blues). We wouldn’t be able to give anything from an empty bowl. Our bodies would continue to shut down, and we’d probably end up with colds as well as the hormonal imbalances, migraines or headaches in the months to come.
What could we do?
Firstly - stop living as if it was July on Ibiza. Staying up late, drinking, going out and hosting is going to tax your body. I know that it’s fun, but it’s not the best season for it. Days are short, and nature’s circadian rhythms are calling for more rest and replenishment. The festive season is now over, and you can give this a try. Prioritise your sleep and get deep and restorative rest. Try giving up on your phone, computer or TV at 9 pm, dim the blue light and make peace with being less entertained. Grab the book, make a cuppa and chill out. Make it the time when you stay with yourself and when you ask yourself hard questions. Stay with the answers no matter how much you like them or don't like them. Take advantage of this precious time and do not push this inner work towards the long summer nights - that time is going to be about something else, which I’ll happily share with you.
Try making it about sleep, movement, and food.
Winter has challenged me after moving to Scandinavia. Even though I love winter and I adore hygge, being in this mood for eight months straight every year was h-a-r-d until I learned how to do it. Eventually, it made me get closer to discovering who I was. And that's been one of my life goals.
I learned a lot about periodization. I learned that focus is the most powerful thing and that setting goals within the seasons make so much sense. Winter is the time when you build the foundation. You build intimacy with people, you take better care of yourself, create routines around cooking, bedtime, and exercising.
How to move?
Winter is not the best time to get the long duration workout. It’s not the perfect time for endless cardio trainings such as running, aerobics, spinning. Focus for winter is building - strength, muscle mass, bone density. It’s important to make your structure and give it potential. Our goal should be to become a useful human being and to be able to play without the fear of yet another injury. By building body strength, we build our inner strength. And that's my jam.
It took me years to understand the importance of patient and methodical building of the foundation as I was the all in or all out type of person. I believed other people rather than myself. And don’t get me wrong - there is nothing wrong with other people, it’s about us giving our power away to others without taking the responsibility. It's an easy way around. I learned the importance of understanding our values and how vital it is to match them with our behavior.
What to eat?
I cannot finish this text without mentioning the food. Even though this topic is highly polarising, I tend to approach it according to the knowledge I have acquired by studying more than 100 different dietary theories ranging from East to West. I do not support labeling nor religious take on nutrition, and I tend to value quality more than anything. Real quality. Not whole grain biscuits type of quality. I believe in honestly sourced, pastured, grass-fed, free-range, organic or bio-dynamic rather than any vegan, vegetarian or paleo movement (especially if done poorly).
In that light, let's explore what makes the best choice for winter. Stews, soups, broths, good quality protein, warm vegetables such as sweet potatoes, beets, cabbage, parsnips, carrots, celeriac and more robust greens such as kale and fennel should be a foundation of our winter diet. We don’t need much fruit. We need to be careful about the types of fat we consume. Feel free to regularly change the sources of fat - use nuts, seeds, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olives, avocados, olive oil and flaxseed oil. They will make your hormones work well, and your arteries happy. However, an alert here - watch out not to eat cakes and candies if you are to up your fat intake. Your body won't be very fond of it.
Now, I'll try to help you with a powerful exercise that gave me so much clarity. Imagine you are 20 years older than you are now and ask yourself: How would I live if I could go back? How would I like to feel? What would be the most important to me? Then, take the paper, make two columns and decide what you want to keep doing and what needs to change. This exercise will help you get clarity and will induce the lasting change informed by internal motivation.
To wrap it up - follow the common sense, relax as much as you can, pay close attention to the circadian rhythm of nature, sleep, rest, move, eat in season and watch the quality of the stuff you consume - foods, cosmetics, books, movies, people, water.
It all becomes - you.
When you master the basics, you'll be set to dig into more juicy stuff.