How to be mindful in the winter (even when you don't feel like it)
For some of us, getting through the winter months can be tough, but there are opportunities for mindfulness throughout the year if you look for them.
In the winter, it can be easy to feel demotivated and sluggish even if you're not affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
The weather and the darker evenings can all conspire to make you feel a bit gloomy and out of sorts. A lack of natural light can disrupt your natural sleep patterns and make it harder to wake up in the morning.
When you don't get enough sunlight, your body produces more of the hormone melatonin, which can make you feel drowsy during the day.
The weather can also keep us indoors and leave us feeling cooped up.
Looking for opportunities to by mindful in your day can help to get you through the winter – even when you're not really in the mood for it.
Go bird watching
One of the easiest and most accessible ways to connect with the natural world is to start bird watching. You can do this while out on a walk in the countryside or even in a city park.
You don't need any special equipment to do this, although an app or a guidebook might be helpful when you're starting out.
The RSPB has lots or great advice on bird watching for beginners, but you don't even need to leave your house to be a bird watcher.
You can make your own birdfeeder using plastic bottles which might otherwise be thrown away – perfect for the winter months when birds need a bit of extra help.
Listen to music mindfully
How often do we listen to music passively? It's easy to get lost in your thoughts and you stop paying attention to what you're actually hearing.
Mindful listening can be done anywhere, at any time. If you're at home, why not curl up on the sofa and pop in your headphones?
Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Start to listen to each track actively rather than passively. What instruments can you pick out? How does the pitch and tempo vary? How does it make you feel?
We interviewed opera singer Laura Wright about mindful music for the In The Moment Magazine podcast and she shared her own calming playlist. Listen here.
You could also find your own meditation soundtrack and listen to that – natural noises such as rainfall or the ocean are particularly soothing. You might get so relaxed that you nod off.
Learn to eat mindfully
When we're really busy, we can end up bolting down our meals without paying any attention to what we're eating. Mindful eating can help you to slow down and appreciate your food – and it's much better for your digestive system!
A good way to practice is by eating a piece of chocolate. Yes, you read that right. Although you can technically use any food to practice mindful eating, chocolate is by far the most fun way to start.
You can eat mindfully by using each of your senses. Begin by looking at the chocolate – is it glossy? Rough? Are there any imperfections? Ask yourself how it feels on your hand. Is it starting to melt?
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Next, smell the chocolate and simply take in the scent of the cocoa and any other flavours.
Place it on your tongue and feel it start to melt. Savour the taste and eat it slowly.
Enjoyed that? You might need to practice a few times to get it right, obviously.
Learn more about mindful eating by listening to our podcast with Francine Russell (available on iTunes, Spotify and most major podcast providers).
Go for a winter walk
Blow away the cobwebs with a blustery winter walk. Here in the UK, we're lucky to be surrounded by stunning countryside – from wild moorlands to windswept beaches.
Walking has so many benefits for our health – it can improve your heart health, boost your mood and make you fitter.
There's also evidence that it can improve your cognitive function in old age. Just another great reason to get those walking boots on!
Boxing Day is the traditional time for a winter stroll and we've picked some great Christmas walks for you to try.
Make a woven wallhanging
Weaving, by its very nature, is a slow activity. There's something very calming about crafting on a cold winter's day – put on some music and settle in for a relaxing session.
When we work with our hands, it helps us to focus on the moment and helps us to unwind. If you're in a more sociable mood, why not invite some friends over to craft with you?
This woven wallhanging project can be found on the MollieMakes website.
Listen to your friends more mindfully
When you're talking to a friend or a relative, you can practice mindful listening. This means making a conscious effort to really listen to them, without being distracted by your own thoughts.
Make some time to be with them and focus on what they're telling you. It will make you feel closer to them and they'll appreciate having your undivided attention, particularly if they don't see you very often.
If you find it hard to avoid checking your phone, make sure it's out of sight (and out of mind).
Get the day off to a mindful start
If you leave it until the last possible moment before you get out of bed, you can start the day feeling frazzled – and that's before you've even done anything.
The dark mornings can make it harder to rise and feel energetic, but reviewing your morning routine could help you to appreciate your mornings more.
Factor in a bit of extra time for yourself – whether it's for stretching, a short meditation session, or simply allowing yourself to drink a cup of tea mindfully. Giving yourself a little longer for breakfast can also help you to destress and improve your digestion.
Having a more mindful morning could help you feel more relaxed throughout the day. If you can't bring yourself to miss out on that extra bit of sleep, see if you can find a few minutes during your morning to just check in with yourself.
Ask yourself how you're feeling and accept those feelings without judgement.
Photo by Ruthie Martin, Charisse Kenion, Chris Child, Jean, Kira auf der Heide and Bruce Mars.