I read in the newspaper recently that this winter Europe has seen the lowest levels of sunlight in an age. We all love our sunlight and this report got me thinking about the seasonal choices we make for ourselves at this time of the year. Do we help or hinder ourselves given that during winter there is less sunlight to lift us up and get us motivated?
Conscious Decision Making
I’m writing this on a miserable Sunday in February. The rain is pouring down and it is the sort of day that could put even the most optimistic person in a bit of a funk. I’m an early riser, as many people who like to be productive are. However, when I realised what the weather was like I fought the desire to follow my natural instinct and decided to have a lie-in instead. Using my fledgling mindfulness skills, I was able to lay in bed until eleven thirty, reading the Sunday paper…without beating myself up for not being productive. I know there was a time not too long ago when I couldn’t have dreamed of doing that. This morning, by making one conscious seasonal choice, I had the opportunity to remember just how lovely it is to be tucked up warm listening to the rain fall against the window panes – and I really enjoyed it.
Tweak rather than Dismiss
When I did get up, I knew that I didn’t want to go for my usual run in the downpour. A perfectly normal response to a rotten British winter’s day, you might say. However, I’ve noticed that people who are driven to succeed often ignore the advice to ‘listen to their body’, and see the phrase ‘I don’t feel like it’ as an excuse not to do something. Listening to our body is definitely important, as it can help us to make the right choices for long term success and health. Being aware of this, instead of dismissing the thought of going out altogether, I tuned into my body, and reasoned ‘ok, I don’t want to go for a run, what would nourish me instead?’ I felt a walk would be the thing to nourish me today. So, I layered on my waterproofs and headed off to the Downs.
What I found when I got there was peace and quiet. The Downs in Bristol is a popular running route and is normally a busy spot. Today, my reward for getting out and about was some wonderfully meditative time in nature. And, would you believe it, I surprised myself by feeling the desire to run for a bit? I interspersed my walking with some running as I went. Before, when I was all about the drive, I couldn’t tune in and listen to my body the way I do now. Before, I would have pushed myself to get up early and go for run – which, at this time of year would have probably made me feel worse by the evening. So the decision to walk/run was perfect. My seasonal choice gave me some of the hibernation time I needed, but also gave me a lovely experience that lifted my mood. Even in the complete absence of any glimpses of sunshine.
What are your choices?
Making good seasonal choices is not a black and white matter. It’s not a case of either do it or don’t. If you are not feeling up to what you might normally do, perhaps there is another option that would suit you better at this time of the year. We are human – and winter has unavoidable physiological effects on us. If winter is a time where you feel that your energy and drive take a hit, that you just can’t seem to get motivated, then perhaps you need to look at the seasonal choices you are making. And remember, they are all choices. We have the freedom to choose how we spend our time and what food and activities we nourish our bodies with.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
For many, Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD syndrome is a troublesome part of life at this time of the year. When we don’t get enough sunlight, it can affect our bodies and our mood in real ways. No matter how successful we are, we must accept that we are human and are sensitive to changes in the environment around us. Again, we have a choice around what we do about that. We can put plans in place that ensure we get extra sunlight or find substitutes for it during the winter, no matter how weak that sunshine. Getting out for a walk on the gloomiest of days will help. Maybe a vitamin D supplement over the winter months, or a sunrise alarm clock to wake you up with daylight? There are lots of little seasonal choices we can make in our daily lives to nourish our bodies and minds during the dark winter months. These small changes can help keep us feeling and performing at our best throughout the year.
What one small seasonal choice could you make today that will nourish your body or mind? Try entering into it in the spirit of exploration. Say ‘I wonder what it would be like to try x’. Note your experience and how you feel afterward, you feel much more motivated.