I woke up on a dark Friday morning thinking about ways to find comfort in the upcoming darkest days of the year. The passing of winter solstice means that literally the darkest days of 2020 are behind us. Yet, as the Christmas tree lights are put away for another year, the festivities are downsized to be safe during COVID-19, and we look forward to the cold January days, this can also be a dark time.
This time of year is the hardest for me. It’s dark, cold and sometimes feels gloomy. Over the past few years I’ve made a study around thriving during this time and I’d like to share some ideas with you. My intention is to keep my light burning bright and to be a beacon of light for others regardless of cold days, COVID-19, etc.
For me, it isn’t the closing down of holidays the bring the melancholy, it’s the dark and the cold. I’m not alone. Many of us struggle with seasonal blues, holiday blues, and now – COVID blues. My sister lives in Wisconsin and I’ve spent the last two New Year’s Eve’s there. I marveled at the warmth, friendship and feelings of contentment that I experienced there in winter where it truly is dark, cold and snowy. It caused me to do some research where I learned a lot about how people in cold, northern climates nourish feelings of contentment.
Comfort from around the world
In many northern cultures, they have words for comfort in winter that don’t directly translate into English. For example, the Dutch word “gezellig” means to find cozy comfort with the people you love. The Icelandic word “gluggaveður” means window-weather; that is weather that is beautiful from the inside while unpleasant outside. The Danish word “Hygge” which is pronounced hue-guh means to find contentment in the warm, cozy, every day things like spending time with people you love, lighting candles, and snuggling in. How can we bring more of this into our daily lives? I know just the things!!
1. Create Rituals. Do things the same time of day, every day. You might call these routines. Whatever you want to call it, create an anchor for yourself, a way to feel safe. Maybe that means you make a cup of tea at the same time each day, brew coffee, read a book or magazine at the same time each day snuggled up in a blanket, or call a loved one the same time each day. Doing things in the same way in the same order engages a sense of warm familiarity when the dark and cold days of winter seem interminable.
2. Create Light to Create Warmth. Turn on extra lamps and turn them on before the sun goes down so that there is a warm glow in your room as the dark of evening creeps into the space. Light candles (only if you are around to supervise them, of course). Leave your Christmas lights up a little longer. Turn the lights on in your bedroom so when you retire for the evening, you are going into a warm, well-lit, and inviting space. Light a fire in the fireplace, or even put on a crackling fire video from youtube. A teacher friend I work with does this in her classroom every winter morning, it’s delightful!
3. Create Coziness. Get out your warm socks, lots of layers, and warm blankets on the couch. Creating warm and cozy feelings really does make you feel better. If you are hot-blooded, you don’t have to get under the blankets. Even having them around to look at helps create cozy feelings. Ever notice they are part of every interior design and home staging bedroom? There is a reason the blankets are there. They make us feel warm, protected, enveloped and cocooned even if we aren’t under them.
4. Create and maintain connections. Call or text a friend or family member. Join a club. Yes, even now, during COVID-19 you can join a club. Just a few weeks ago I joined a Rumi Night. As I logged into the zoom meeting, I started to cry seeing so many people all at once who were focused on loving-kindness. The effort to reach out can bring real light to a dark time. Find ways to prove to yourself you aren’t alone. Zoom coffee/tea or happy hour with friends, write Christmas cards, email a friend, text someone to let them know you are thinking of them, send someone a photo of you. You’ll be amazed at how good YOU feel when you reach out to others.
5. Engage your brain. Read a book. Do a puzzle. Play a game. Keeping your mind active really helps in creating a feeling of comfort. NO one likes to be bored.
It won’t always be this way
COVID-19 will pass. Winter will turn into spring. In the meantime, we can be lights for each other. I’m going to be offering some book talks on my new book “EmpowerHer: A Memoir and Map” in 2021 for free via zoom. Email me if you want me to send you the zoom link!
All my love!