Winter solstice: the shortest day of the year.
The sun is hibernating for most of the day. Sol invictus, or the invincible sun, symbolizes renewal, rebirth, revival. The one thing I look forward to every year on winter solstice is that every day thereafter, the sun shows her face a little more, a little more, a little more.
I am naturally an early riser, with more motivation in the morning and an eagerness to tackle the day. For some reason, my mind is most active, alert, and creative in the winter months. Perhaps my soul is drawn to the depth, breadth, and shadows brewing below the surface. But though I feel this energy brewing, the cold weather, rain, and clouds covering the sun can whisk it away as quickly as the motivation arrives. With the sun opening its eyes hours after I do, I find myself snuggled in bed, missing my opportunity to grasp the reins of my morning. I’m wide awake, but fighting with the cold, short days to stay in bed, thus losing out on both sleep and my morning drive.
Winter solstice: the balance between light and dark, a desire to withdraw from the shadow, an eagerness to push through the shortest day of the year to get closer and closer to our light, where we may feel most comfortable.
But what about those shadow lovers?
Is anyone else with me on finding a peak of creativity in the winter and feeling depleted in the long summer heat?
My body and mind love winter and hate it at the same time. I connect with the season because I’m a January baby. I love the new year, the opportunity to reflect on the closing year, the anticipation for what lies ahead.
I also struggle with the gloomy weather and darkness stealing my intrinsic motivation, making me crawl into bed in the early afternoon only to come out in the morning closer and closer to the minute I have to leave for work. The shorter days make me crave sweets and comfy clothes; I binge TV series, exercise less, and put off my “to-do” list each day. This cyclical pattern increases fatigue, drains energy, depletes my budding inspiration, and turns me toward all my negative vices. This cycle is not food or nourishment for my creative winter mind, but rather weeds and webs that smother it.
I think winter solstice is a time for us to reflect on how our environment impacts our mood, drive, energy levels, and idea of who we are.
We often get lost in our surroundings, succumbing to the ever-changing energy and situations that mold us into ourselves. They say we cannot appreciate our long days of warmth and sunlight without enduring the short days of darkness.
But do we really need all this suffering to appreciate the good? Can we change that mentality? Can we decide to lean into the winter solstice with inquiry rather than “pushing through” the pain to reap the benefits? I’d love to know your thoughts.
Here are five ways I embrace the cold, dark, gloomy days:
1. I wake up to a sunrise alarm clock.
These range in price, but regardless of the cost, I strongly urge those who battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder as well as those who have bodies in sync with Mother Nature, but have to get up early for work, to purchase one ASAP. It lights up my room slowly for a half hour before I wake up, allowing my body to naturally awaken and trick me into thinking the sun is up.
2. I exercise in the morning.
For 23 minutes. Sometimes it’s even five. My goal is to just press play on the exercise or yoga video. I do this in the comfort of my own home, and it gets me feeling more awake.
3. I meditate or journal.
I try to have a warm drink while doing so. It takes me longer to wake up in the winter, thus I try to get my mind and body stimulated before walking into my day at work. If I can’t get out of bed, I try to say five things I’m grateful for in my head. This should take less than 30 seconds. Bonus: it increases dopamine, the feel-good hormone, just to search for something you’re grateful for, even if you can’t find anything!
4. I stay in bed if I need to.
Sometimes we need to cozy up and lay in bed just moments before leaving. On these days, I put some upbeat music on or a motivational podcast to get me out of bed. You can do this while still lying there. Note: if I do this, I make sure at my lunch break to try to squeeze in a meditation or a walk outside, or at least some solitude. Even five minutes or less for either activity can do the trick.
5. I go for a walk after work.
If you have a dog, this is a piece of cake. Maybe put on a podcast or your favorite song. But get some fresh air to revive you because you just spent all of your daylight inside at work. Don’t jump into bed right away—chances are you won’t get out.
Share with others in the comments ways that you embrace the winter, the short days, the dreaded build-up to winter solstice, and the appreciation for each growing minute of daylight thereafter.
And most of all, forgive yourself for nesting, resting, hibernating, or doing whatever feels good for you during these cold, winter months.