How to Explore the Gifts of Winter with Mindfulness
Mindfulness during the winter season is fundamentally no different than mindfulness during any other season. The quality of attention we can offer this season is no different than what we would offer another. However, each season brings about unique energies and opportunities that, when tuned into, can deepen our sense of peace, ease, and wellbeing.
The Gifts of Winter
The seasons of the earth are not so unlike the natural ebb and flow of life itself. In fact, we can see the fundamental themes of human life reflected in the natural world as it goes through summer, autumn, winter, and spring. For instance, the birth of a child or the beginning of a new project can bring about the energies of spring. On the other hand, grief, loss, or an inner call for introspection can evoke the energies of winter.
So what are the energies of winter and what gifts do they have to offer us? While each one of us will have a different experience from day-to-day during the winter season, there are a handful of qualities that seem to underpin this cooler, darker season. Some of the energies we might tune into or the gifts we might discover during winter include:
Winter is a natural invitation to ease up on outer movement and to tune in mindfully to our inner experience. This inward pull might come naturally to those with introverted tendencies or to those who practice mindfulness and meditation. Others might have a more difficult time embracing the gifts of this season as we each naturally gravitate towards different energies. External circumstances can also impact how naturally or comfortably we open up to the season we are in.
“Winter knows to hush, still, listen, so the soul can speak.”
6 Mindfulness Exercises for Wellbeing in Winter
Regardless of whether we are comfortable with the energies of winter or not, it is important to take care of our wellbeing in winter. The darker days can take a toll on our mental wellbeing, which is why exploring mindfulness in winter can be of great support to us during this season.
1. A Cozy Gratitude Practice
Make a cup of tea or another warm drink of your choice and find a quiet place to rest comfortably for ten to fifteen minutes. You might choose to sit next to a window so that you can gaze outdoors for this practice.
As you sit in quiet contemplation, sipping your warm drink, take some time to make note of all that you have to be grateful for this season. Some of the things you might consider include the heating of your home, the warm beverage in your hand, and the technology that enables you to remain connected to loved ones.
2. Mindful Nature Walk Outdoors
Practicing mindfulness in nature during the winter season can help us to tune into the raw qualities of this season. Bundle up appropriately for the weather where you are and then head outdoors. Make your way to a natural environment and begin your mindful nature walk.
As you move through the landscape, take note of what colors, energies, and qualities you sense. What do these evoke within you? How does your body feel? How does your heart feel?
LEARN MORE: How to Practice Mindfulness in Nature
3. Mindful Journaling and Self-Reflection
Another mindfulness exercise that is wonderful for winter is mindful self-reflection and journaling. Cozy up with a blanket, a journal, and a pen. Then, begin to reflect upon how you are feeling on this particular winter day.
Some journal prompts you might consider include:
4. Slow Mindful Movement Practices
During the winter season, we might naturally feel called to explore slower styles of movement and exercise. If this feels true to you, you might consider exploring mindful movement practices such as hatha yoga, yin yoga, mindful walking, or qi gong.
PRACTICE: Mindful Walking Meditation with Sharon Salzberg
5. Mindful Eating Exercise
Many of us are fortunate enough to enjoy warm, nourishing foods all throughout the year. Take your time to mindfully prepare a warm meal for yourself and then take your first few bites of it with complete presence. Notice how your mind, heart, and body feel as you take those slow, attentive bites.
Add gratitude to your practice by quietly acknowledging the gift of the food on your plate. You might expand this practice to make note of anything else you have to be thankful for that supports you during the winter season.
6. Embracing Darkness and Light
Lastly, the winter season (and the winter solstice in particular) offers us the opportunity to embrace the paradoxes of life – darkness and light, death and rebirth. See if you can make time and space during this season to embrace the multi-dimensionality of your experience. Embrace the opportunity to quiet down and tune inwards and also bathe in the light that begins to grow brighter after the winter solstice passes by.
LISTEN: Practicing with Darkness and Light at the Winter Solstice with Donald Rothberg
For more mindful tips for the holidays, check out our complete guide to holiday gift-giving.
How to Create a Winter Mindfulness Retreat At Home
“In the midst of winter I found there was within me
an invincible summer.”
For those that feel a yearning to dive deeper into mindfulness this winter, you might consider holding a self-guided winter mindfulness retreat at home. Since winter often comes with less activity (particularly after the holiday season), we might discover the opportunity and yearning to retreat within.
You can hold yourself a winter retreat in the comfort of your own home by scheduling an extended period of time to practice mindfulness. Make any arrangements necessary to ensure that you will be free to enjoy this time of retreat and then make a plan for what mindfulness exercises you will include.
Some of the practices and activities you might exploring during your at-home winter mindfulness retreat include:
You can set up your home meditation retreat in any way that suits you. Whether you can retreat for half of a day, a full day, or consecutive days, grant yourself the time to turn inwards if you are being called this way. Harness the gifts and beauty that this dark, quiet season has to offer.
Check out our guide on how to create a home meditation retreat.
Peters, Julie. “Winter Solstice Meditation”. Spirituality & Health, https://spiritualityhealth.com/blogs/pathfinding-yoga-and-mindfulness/2018/12/18/winter-solstice-meditation.
Shanderá, Nancy. “THE SOUL IN WINTER: Discovering Gifts In The Dark Night”. Earthspirit Center, http://www.earthspiritcenter.com/articles-collection/2018/4/24/the-soul-in-winter-discovering-gifts-in-the-dark-night.