We are now in the heart of the winter season here in the northern hemisphere. With its shorter days, longer nights, and colder temperatures, winter has not always been a season I’ve enjoyed. The lack of sunlight can lead to winter blues, now known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and poor weather can leave us feeling stir-crazy. However, there is much to gain when we learn how to embrace and work with the energy of this season and the silence of winter.
My journey to embrace the energetic cycle of the year was inspired by time spent in the garden and outdoors marveling at the perfect timing of nature. There is a time for everything, and nature thrives by yielding to each season in its time. Prosperity through surrender is a methodology I admire and a kind of balm for my modern human soul.
Looking at the wisdom of nature, we can see that during the winter months, animals and plants are not so concerned with outward activity. They pare back, conserve resources, and their activity moves inward. If you only saw a maple tree in the winter, bare branches, and creaking wood, you might believe it to be dead. In truth, there is still life happening at the core of the tree.
Home Sweet Home
Winter offers an invitation to all living things to turn inward and do less. The short and cold days of winter often keep even modern humans closer to home compared to other times of the year. There is a drawing into the core of our lives and our living spaces that happens naturally, making this a perfect time of year to invest in what makes us feel good in our homes.
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about getting a new rug or piece of furniture that would enhance your comfort level at home. Or, simply tidying up and rearranging furniture and decor can be a worthy activity to make your space feel more restful and cozy. Winter is the perfect time to make these upgrades to your space. Even smaller investments can make a big impact on how you feel in your space. Big cozy blankets, fuzzy sheets, soft cushy rugs, new pillows, scented candles, and soft lighting are all things that help me enjoy all that time I’m spending indoors.
It’s also a time when I like to invest more in home entertainment. I love cooking and crafting, so I invest in craft supplies or new cooking and herbalism books with recipes and projects, like making fire cider, which I can try in my kitchen. Try scenting your space with homemade herbal potpourri or aromatic herbal concoctions on the stove. Bring the peels of two oranges, a teaspoon of whole cloves, and one cinnamon stick in a pot of water to a boil on your stove top. Lower the temperature and simmer on low to fill your living spaces with a warming winter scent.
Board games, card games, puzzles, and coloring books are other great indoor activities for winter. Find things you can enjoy doing on your own and with company to fill your indoor days with activities that feed your core.
A Time of Gathering Indoors
Embracing the quiet of winter doesn’t mean we need to be at home alone all winter long. We can embrace the energy of winter, pare down activity, and move our gatherings indoors. While a cookout with the whole gang in the park is a prime example of the outward energy of summer warm cocoa, a hot dish, and some quality in-home entertainment are more in tune with the inward energy of winter.
A friend of mine just recently invited a small group of us over to make holiday garlands. She asked everyone to bring a snack, and we sat on her living room floor stringing cranberries, dried orange slices, pine cones, and tassels on crafting twine and deeply enjoying some quality together time. By embracing the inward energy of winter, we can make adjustments to ensure we’re continuing to nurture ourselves and our communities through this season of rest.
Rather than getting everyone together, choose a few people at a time. Instead of having a smorgasbord of grilled meats, sides, and toppings, make a casserole or crockpot meal. Maybe trade the corn hole for board games or a crafting project like one of these 10 Herbal Crafts for Long Winter Days. Gathering with our communities can warm us inside out and light up the long dark nights of winter.
Be sure to check out some of Herbal Academy’s favorite soup and stew recipes that are perfect for winter gatherings:
- A Warming Turmeric Cauliflower Soup for Chilly Winter Days
- Wild Greens With Beans Soup
- Homemade Pumpkin Soup Recipe
- Vegan Herb and Veggie Stew
- Hearty Lentil and Quinoa Stew
Embracing the Long Nights
It’s worth repeating: the nights are longer in the winter. We see the sun for only a few hours every day, so it is entirely reasonable for us to feel more tired during this darker part of the year. While we can do much to support our energy levels through our lifestyle choices, and there are herbal allies that can help us through these darker days, it is also okay to sleep when we feel tired.
The value of rest is often underestimated in our fast-paced world, but the truth is we need sleep, and most of us aren’t getting enough. If your body is urging you to go to bed earlier or sleep in later, it is okay to sleep more. There are times of the year in which our bodies simply need more rest and sleep. Listen to what your body is asking for. For tips on getting restful sleep, you may want to read our post 5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep.
A couple of my favorite supporting herbs for this dark time of year are lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuflourm). Lemon balm is like a ray of sunshine taking the chill off the winter freeze. This is a perfect nervine for soothing the blues and brightening up winter days (Hoffmann, 2003).
Holy basil is more like a cozy fire in your hearth. Warming and invigorating, this herb can help boost our vitality through the cold winter months (Chevallier, 2000). Enjoy either of these herbal allies as a tasty hot tea with honey to enjoy their benefits. If you’re so tired it begins to impact your ability to keep up with your relationships and responsibilities, please reach out to a healthcare professional for support.
Listen to Your Body Language
Listening to your body is a fantastic daily practice to help us embrace the energetics of winter. Winter naturally draws us inward, and we can take advantage of this internal focus to cultivate more body awareness. One of my favorite practices for tuning into the body is a body scan.
Body scanning isn’t some strange sci-fi maneuver; it’s a meditation technique designed to open, connect, and listen to the body. There are myriad videos on YouTube with directions on how to conduct a body scan if this practice is new to you. I really enjoy this one.
The more you can connect and open up to what is happening in the body, the more present you’re able to be in each moment. When we are more present, we can also be more deeply intentional with how we spend our time and resources this season.
The opportunity to move inward, paying greater attention to what we need physically, mentally, and emotionally is so nurturing. If we can embrace the quiet stillness of winter with intention, we can make the most of winter’s gifts, appreciating the necessity of this restful season to generate new life in the spring.
Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The definitive home reference guide to 550 key herbs with all their uses as remedies for common ailments. Dorling Kindersley.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press.