The Secret to Surviving Winter

It is most definitely winter. Your days are short and nights are long. Here in the UK the sunlight is fleeting. The toneless skies are the same colour as the grey tarmac roads. The parks are waterlogged and muddy. How do you become more enlivened in these cold and dark months?

We often find the people we guide looking in the wrong places for what to do. Many over-complicate their Winter survival strategy. Some push too hard into achievement-mode. Others can unknowingly sabotage themselves by doing things which deplete rather than uplift themselves. Both are such common traits and ones that, without a watchful eye, can easily be what we end up doing ourselves.

Our answer? The secret is to choose to keep everything as simple as possible. Winter is the time when your happiness and aliveness comes from going back to basics.

There are three steps to this.

The first step is choosing to double-up on the things which uplift you. Find some time to write down the various activities and experiences that you know nourish you. It is a powerful exercise to regularly remind ourselves of what brings joy and meaning to our lives. And when you focus on these things, however small they may be, together they really do make a difference to the quality of your life. Reading. Dancing. Singing. Writing. Running. Socialising (Covid-rules apply). Whatever they may be.

For me, I know that I need time by myself, ideally in nature. So I step outside into the rain or the cold and breathe deeply. This helps me to reset. I believe that it is uplifting for everyone to have some time by themselves each day to empty out from all our connections, conversations and relationships.

Whatever is unique for you here, there are some important ones for us all that we shouldn’t ignore. They are obvious but at the same time you can forget them due to the busyness of life. They are to always choose to focus on our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The foundation for this includes the likes of getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking ample water, having some form of exercise, enjoying meaningful social contact, and having something bigger than ourselves to believe in, whatever this may be.

So, having made this list, choose some of these nourishing activities and bring them into your day - the ones which are unique to you as well as the ones common to us all - and see how you feel more uplifted after a few days.

The second step is to choose to notice what you habitually do which doesn’t serve you. Again, go back to basics here. What are the activities that numb you out? I know that for many people this can include for example Netflix, Facebook and Twitter. Another common one is being overly occupied with work. This activity of keeping busy can be a distraction from simply being. We teach that it is in simply being that you can find genuine peace.

Being honest about whether what you habitually does genuinely uplift you can perhaps be tough to admit to yourself. We can talk ourselves into reasons why we need to continue as we are. So do approach this second step by choosing to be as up front with yourself as you can be. And then in selecting some of these activities and reducing or removing them from your life, as well as no longer having their downwards pull, you create the space for step one’s nourishing activities and experiences. This doesn’t need to be a draconian elimination of these forms of entertainment, but rather it can be in the making of small sustainable changes. Take 25% off your facebook time. Mix your Netflix viewing with uplifting films or documentaries to balance out the drama. Take the weekend off Twitter. Be creative with whatever you decide to act on. There are many ways to do this.

And the third step is to remember that you really are the most amazing person. To be alive, right here, right now, is incredible. You are magnificent simply by existing. And in remembering this, choose to be you as much as you can be, and not what others expect you to be. Be the amazing person that you are, whatever is going on for you right now, in the unique way only you know how.

We are all making choices in each and every moment and to choose to step into life as fully as you can, as you, is what we teach here at AlwaysChoose. This choice is yours in each moment and it starts with recognising the innate goodness of who you are and what you can give to the world.

I end with sharing a little on this last step for me. From everything I have done in my life, and after many years of exploration, experimentation and learning, in the end, being myself most fully means to be in service to others. And writing this today is part of this.

So, my final suggestion for you, to uplift your Winter, is to ask yourself in what way could you be in service to someone else over the next few days? It could be the simple activity of giving unconditional support to a stranger once a day. Perhaps listening to your Barista talk about their life problems without anything from you other than acknowledging them, through your deep listening, for them being the amazing person that they are. Or listening to your parents complain about the state of the nation. You simply listen, and smile, without any opinions from yourself. It could be to help your neighbour in some small way, if nothing more than knocking on their door and offering help if it's ever needed, even if it is not taken up on. This alone can make Winter a joy.

Jon Macdonald