Well friends, we’ve officially reached the dead of winter. Sigh. But not to fret, we've got some wintertime remedies....
With the hours of daylight shortened, the lack of green on the trees, and that icy chill that seems to reach your spine no matter how many layers you are wearing, it’s no surprise that winter is a time associated with depression, loneliness and lethargy. These negative feelings should be acknowledged and taken seriously– for the 3% of people worldwide diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder (SAD)-- these feelings are much more than the colloquial “winter blues”.
SAD is real and if someone is experiencing debilitating, overwhelming feelings, they should seek professional help. However, in a modern world pressuring us to be productive and “on” every minute of every day, perhaps many of our winter woes are really just symptoms of a larger issue: we are not honoring our very human, very biological need to slow down come the colder months. For those who need more convincing, a team of behavioral ecologists recently found that the human brain shrinks by up to 13% in the winter to conserve energy. That tiredness you feel as the sun is going down at 4pm can be owed to biologically-reduced brain functionality.
We’re all familiar with the concept of slowing down among animals. Think of the bear doubling her body weight before embarking on a months-long winter hibernation. But humans have also been partaking in this seasonal act of slowing down since the beginning of time. In Scandinavian countries, where some places see upwards of only three and a half hours of daylight each day at the peak of the season, the concept of Hygge (pronounced Hue-gah) is not merely a suggestion– but a necessary way to survive for four months out of the year.
While there’s no one agreed-upon definition of Hygge, many people associate the term with being cozy, warm, moving slowly and being present. A quick Pinterest search of the Hygge aesthetic will yield photos of warm, inviting living rooms, with cozy blankets and big fireplaces– reaffirming that slowing down, turning inward and finding connection with the ones we love will carry us through the darker, colder times.
Perhaps it's time we take another look at how we approach this misunderstood season, and take a hint from Mother Nature and our Scandinavian friends. By introducing slower movement, time for rest, space for reflection, and time for sacred connection to loved ones and ourselves, we can reclaim our relationship with the chilliest season of the year. By the time the first buds emerge from the ground in Spring, we too will emerge, refreshed and renewed by the nourishing gift of embracing Winter.
On Practice Shraddha, you can find all kinds of classes dedicated to slowing down and deep reflection. Check out Brielle’s Restorative Slow Flow, Yummy Wintertime Flow, Restorative Yoga at the Wall, Journaling Practice for Difficult Times or House of Sun's Sound Bath as well as many other offerings that can support you in reclaiming Winter.