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For many of us, the winter is a time of going inward.  Staying in our homes, inward reflecting, new year resolutions, hibernation.  Many of the plans, relationships, and projects that we started in the summer and fall go to sleep in the winter.  For many animals, like the bear, winter is a time of deep restful sleep.  Rest for the busy spring, and slowing down the body in order to survive the harsh weather.  However adorable we find the bear’s hibernation, we tend to find our own inward traveling to be less adorable.  In fact, many of us suffer from some form of winter-blues.  Many of us become critical of ourselves and our going inward becomes a battle ground, instead of a place for deep rest.  Here are a few tips to help you beat the winter-blues:

1.  Be Gentle With Yourself–  Try to remember that for thousands of years, we humans had to operate like our friend the bear.  We needed to put on weight, sleep as much as possible, and put off many tasks until spring.  We have only very recently, in the course of human existence, been able to comfortably be out in the winter.  Our bodies haven’t forgotten our survival instincts.  It is normal and natural for us to want to put on winter weight, slow down, sleep, and pause our projects.

2.  Try to Enjoy Your Rest-  For many of us, slowing down, staying in, and resting can be a recipe for depression, which is fueled by our attitude toward productivity.  Try to re-frame your winter as truly a time for deep rest.  Trust that when spring and summer arrive, you will feel excited, motivated, ready to get busy, but for now, you need to rest.  If you struggle with not being “productive,” focus on doing things which compliment this restful inward place.  Get some reading done, watch those documentaries you’ve been meaning to see, write letters to friends, wash all the linens in your closets, etc.

3.  Remember that Spring will Arrive-  Sometimes by the end of winter it can feel like spring will never arrive.  We can start to feel almost desperate and/or hopeless about the end of the winter.  Remind yourself that the end of winter will come, as it always does.  Although simple and basic, this exercise in positive thinking, and trusting the universe, isn’t just about the weather.  This is a type of thinking that helps with all of our struggles.  Positive forward thinking is a brain function, like any other function, that gets easier the more we do it.  Using the seasons as a way to practice this brain function is reliable, safe, and impersonal.  If you can train yourself to be hopeful about spring, instead of hopeless about winter, it is likely that you can train yourself to get through any difficult time.

4.  Go Outside-  While still making sure to be gentle with yourself, and enjoying your rest, try to make a point to go outside a little bit every day.  Fresh air, sunshine and exercise are natural mood-boosters.  If you catch yourself starting to slip out of a restful place and more into a depressive place, take a walk outside.  Any length of walk in the cold will give you fresh air, acclimate your body a bit to the cold, and hopefully you will get a little bit of sunshine also.  Waking your body up this way can shift your attitude back into that gentle, restful, trusting place and out of the depressive, self-critical place.

Of course there are all sorts of other methods to help you beat the winter-blues; hot-chocolate, sledding, warm vacations, hot-springs, etc.  However, many of those methods are external comforts.  This winter try to not only going indoors for comfort, try to practice taking comfort within yourself.  Within your own mind and heart be gentle, restful, and trusting.