I sit and stare out my window a lot.
I love it. I love watching nature unfold year-round. Birds, squirrels, and locals in their seasonal fashions trying to keep warm or cool depending on the season, and the magnificent beauty of the trees…I love trees. Nothing shows off the seasonal changes in nature like the trees.
There’s such a gentle calm in the shades of muted grey that I find on the trees. I find it soothing. Calming. Like subtle permission from nature for us to slow down. “Nothing’s going on out here,” it says, ”Just stay put. We’ll give you a call when were ready to sprout in the spring.”
I love the calm, stark stillness of winter that calls me to a deeper, inner world. The gentle padded hush of life after a big snowstorm. The call to a slow-cooked meal, candles lit, and curtains closed by 5 p.m. Fuzzy socks, blankets, and a good book curled up on a couch. Snowshoeing and the rosy-cheeked love of hot chocolate or warm soup after a good outdoor outing.
Winter has so many gifts to offer, and these don’t have anything to do with being busy, productive, or even social. For me, it’s a time for quiet introversion. A time to dig in and go deep.
Energetically, Traditional Chinese Medicine tells us just this. Winter is a time to be still and nourish ourselves. Warm foods, more sleep, and less activity are all things that help us nourish that “yin” part of our yin-yang balance that is so essential to a healthy, nourished, and well-lived life.
We’re missing a lot of yin in our modern world. We’re on the busy track. Production and achievement drive us year-round, and we so seldom take the time to stop and recharge.
The beautiful thing is, science shows us that the more time we take to stop “doing” and just “be,” the more we recharge our inner battery—which can, ironically, lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive and inspired life.
Here are seven simple nourishing yin activities you can infuse your day with throughout the season to harness some of that winter wisdom:
1. Go to bed earlier and rise slightly later if you can, to align more with the rhythms of the sun.
2. Eat warm, slow-cooked foods. Focus on naturally warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, or black pepper to help keep your body cozy and warm. Consider leaving a pot of soup or stew simmering on the stove all afternoon.
3. Try journaling, colouring, writing, knitting, or playing a card game, board game, or some other less “stimulating” activity. Avoid aggressive or overly stimulating shows, media, or activities.
4. Try a guided meditation or visualization practice. If you’re new to this, there are some wonderful apps that offer free meditations (Wildflowers, Calm, Headspace).
5. Simplify your activities. For example, if you want to listen to music, try lying on the couch and making that your sole activity. Try to resist multitasking and opt for one activity at a time or turn off background noise or music and see how it feels to be in quiet more.
6. Write letters. Yes, as in the old-school sort. You’d be surprised how much joy that can bring someone!
7. Try having your morning coffee or afternoon tea seated by a window, and spend a few minutes simply gazing outside. See what you notice. Simply let yourself be for a bit.
The idea of hibernation and stillness in the winter months is to help us rebuild and recharge so we have the energy that the more extroverted seasons of spring and summer ask of us. This time of the year can recharge us physically, but also energetically and creatively. Winter allows us to find those inner creative sparks, new ideas, and dreams that we can put into action come the spring and summer when our energy is naturally more aligned with actively doing things, if we just take the time to stop and listen.
So this winter, I wish you days filled with quiet, stillness, and lots of non-doing. See you in the spring!
As originally seen in the Elephant Journal