Embracing the Winter Doldrums

January 29, 2020 | by nicole yurko

Did you know that the earth is actually closer to the sun right now than it is in June when we have the Summer Solstice? The scientific reason for this is the tilt of the earth. Contrary to widespread opinion, winter is sunnier than we give it credit for. Many would jump at the chance of having a perpetual summer, but I’ve always welcomed the coming of colder months. With the shorter days and the dropping of the thermometer, we are beckoned inside and invited to take a lesson from the earth, and rest.          

During winter much of the natural world is conserving energy and laying dormant. After the intense heat and endless activity of summer, this invitation to exhale feels like a comforting balm to the soul. Just like the earth would exhaust itself should it never have a chance to recuperate, so too do we desperately need a time of year to do the same. The art of rest can be learned, and although it seems like it requires one to sit and do nothing, it actually is an intentionality of activity that helps our souls recover from depletion.

Just as there is a misunderstanding that winter is absent of sun, there’s another that it is boring. However, being a secret winter-lover myself, here are some of my tips to embracing and relishing this season instead of just enduring it:

Seek light: Because the days are shorter in the winter, many begin to feel the emotional and physical effects of the absence of light. Help the winter days seem less of a drudgery by bringing light into your home. Set out candles or better yet, make your own! String white lights in a favorite corner and leave them there. Engage your kids in a craft day where you make stars out of sticks from the backyard and some twine or a hot glue gun. Dry orange slices and hang them in a window. Make lanterns out of wire clothes hangers, colored tissue paper and an upside-down flashlight. These symbols of light in your home will bolster your heart to hang on for longer days with more sun that are just around the corner.

Seek warmth: Another element that is lacking during winter, and thus makes it hard to endure, is heat. The cold can slow our bodies down and make us want to join the bear in its hibernation. Instead of hating the cold, embrace this season as an opportunity to seek out lessons from “the hearth.” If you have a fireplace in your house, by all means, light it up! If you do not have a fireplace, you can still create the cozy feeling of one by other means. Pick a favorite corner or couch and drape it in chunky blankets, fluffy pillows and feel good family games. The togetherness that happens around a fireplace hearth is what truly warms the heart, and this can happen in any place of the home where connection and relationships are fostered, and memories are made. Ditch that TV and the artificial light of screens and gaze into the light coming from the eyes of those you love instead.

Seek meaningful activity: Other than rest, the second secret gift of winter that is waiting to be whole-heartedly embraced is, time. If you’re like me I find myself all too easily lamenting my lack of time, and therefore my lack of opportunity for certain aspirations. Enter, winter. A blessing of these short daylight hours is the time to spend honing skills that get pushed to the back burner come spring and summer. Better yet, take this winter season to try something completely new! Take advantage of our amazing local library and dive headfirst into undertaking a new hobby. Be like my sister-in-law, who last winter re-discovered her love for Anne Shirley and now looks forward to a special vacation on Prince Edward Island, a dream that never would have been awakened if she hadn’t taken advantage of those winter days to read to her heart’s content. Use these months to plan and prepare for the warmer seasons: plan a garden, start and tend to seedlings, build something in the garage to be used when summer comes such as a chicken coop, a homemade go-cart, or homemade tools. The possibilities are endless! Reclaim your time this winter and make it count!

John Steinbeck once wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” Like many wonderful things in life, the opposite of it is what actually gives it power. The more we embrace and lean into these cold months, the more our heart will sing in appreciation when spring does finally burst forth in all her glory! 

Happy winter!

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