January 28, 2015

4 Ecstasy Inducing Ways to Beat the Winter Blues.

Winter Blues #2

For those of us who live in super cold climates, this time of year can not only be brutal outside, but it carries the risk of deep down, real bad melancholy.

In Vermont, my sweetheart and I have carved out a place on the couch to watch movies and eat chocolate, and some part of me wonders if we’ll ever actually get up.

If Spring never comes, we probably won’t.

I just learned January was named after Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates. It’s true, the first few days felt like throwing open the gates and letting in the potential of the new year.

But it’s the coldest month and maybe better named by the Saxons. They called it Wulfmonath, after the wolves who had a hard time finding food, and so came into the villages to feed.

For the 12 weeks of winter, we’re all at a high risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a depression due to, among other factors, the lack of light.

And since depression steals our drive, those resolutions we happily set only a few weeks ago can start feel impossible.

As a creativity and writing coach, I’ve been collecting tools to support my writers (and myself) so we don’t fall into the sway of SAD. I thought I’d pass the very best resources along.

These four tools keep me blooming inside, even when nothing is blooming outside:

1. Get Help Staying Present.

From Thich Nhat Hanh to Ekhart Tolle, the great sages have been clear: the road to enlightenment is paved with the now.

But the world is going 250 miles an hour, and our minds tend to keep pace, which can lead to pretty bad depression and anxiety.

Nicole Birkholzer, founder of Mindful Connections, recently developed a ten week course that has been one of the only ways I’ve found to stay in the now, not just on my meditation cushion but all the time.

A former executive coach, animal intuit and a mindfulness expert, Nicole offers the course on her site for only $49. And the audio version is so soothing and reassuring, it makes me feel like I am lying in the sun on a warm beach even when it’s sub-zero temps outside.

The course has the added bonus of making life’s challenges feel totally underwhelming.

Using her course, I managed to make one of the toughest real estate decisions in my life, heal a valuable family relationship and deal with some crazy business challenges. I am relying on this course to keep me sane this winter.

2. Hot Yoga.

If your town or city has a hot yoga studio and you are even a little bit limber, go! It’s fantastic medicine.

The heat helps you detox and makes your body better able to get into poses and the best part, you’ll be warm. For once.

BodhiFit, the hot yoga studio in our town, is heated by infrared heaters, which are even better for the detox. I’m sweating before we even finish the warm-up.

And, even though the wind stings on my way out? I know my circulation is better and my toes won’t be quite as cold when I get in my car.

Hot yoga also helps me sleep like a newborn. Not that I need to sleep more in winter, but it’s nice.

3. Be the Beginner.

Everyone is telling us to become experts.

But as experts we lose the sweet high of happily risking it all by trying something for the first time.

That feeling of being wholly alive is especially important when nothing seems alive outside. The idea of being the beginner was first made popular by Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki’s classic book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and now Emily Pereira, a former “go-getter” in LA has created a beautiful go-to guide on her site, BetheBeginner.com.

This guide has made me feel like I am falling deliciously and happily in love again, for the very first time.

Winter Blues #1

4. Retreat.

Perhaps nothing leads to depression faster than never taking space away from our lives.

A few times a year I take eight women on retreat, and we write like crazy, read aloud, cry, laugh (a lot), lounge around in hot tubs, and feast on organic food.

This time away feels essential, especially now, because text and email have taken away that increased oxytocin surge that comes from personal contact.

At retreat, we always make sure there’s a bodyworker on staff.

Best of all?

Retreat recharges our ability to feel a sense of gratitude and wholeness about our lives. We even look different when we leave.

There’s a sweet theme to this list:

Be gentle with yourself during the freeze.

The world outside isn’t always warm (and this is sometimes metaphoric as well as literal), so I like to treat myself to as much warmth as possible.

And it’s good to know that it’s normal to need help when trying to stay present, it’s okay to be the beginner and taking yourself on vacation is a doorway to the divine.

With that in mind, I hope we can all have a beautiful winter!


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Author: Suzanne Kingsbury

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Emily Bartran 

Photos: Permission from Core Flow Yoga and Sports, Permission from Peter Towle.

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