Embrace the Darkness: 9 Winter Winners

starry nights

Embrace the Darkness: 9 Winter Winners

As winter approaches and the days are getting shorter, we find ourselves in darkness more than in the light of day.  For many, especially those in the far northern regions, this dreaded time of year brings sadness and isolation especially when the cold winds blow.  As the holidays draw near, those with family and friends find joyful occasions to gather over great food and drinks to lift their spirits and laugh any woes away.  But to others it can be a very depressing time of year often due to the loneliness of being inside or over expectations of a Hollywood holiday.  The following are a few ways in which we can embrace the darkness to increase our happiness and make this time of year more special than you ever imagined.

VolunteerGive to Others

The simple act of giving can significantly improve your mood, amplify your physical health, and improve your longevity, as well as brighten up someone else’s day.  When you witness the face of someone you’re helping light up, there is a definite elation that comes about through your compassion.  These feelings are validated by research that shows how generosity affects our brains, our health and in-turn can extend our lives.  Giving can be of monetary donations, small acts of kindness, or volunteering hours to charitable causes in your free time.  When it comes to your health, it is always better to give than to receive.  For ideas on gift giving see 1o Gift Ideas from the Heart for this Holiday .Season.Giving and Receiving

Accepting Gifts

Giving cannot occur without a receiver to allow it, so it is important to know how to open ourselves up to the heart of the giver and accept their gifts.  A gift is something you haven’t earned and that is what makes it a gift.  They are not and should not given because they are owed but only because the giver would like to bestow a present upon you.  Learning how to allow them into your life can be a gracious act of kindness to others that lifts the givers spirits.  When a gift is refused from someone, it can be a devastating blow to the giver raising feelings of disappointment and anger.  Men in particular don’t give gifts without wanting to do so.  Not receiving a gift would be considered selfish and receiving a gift considered generous. So get vulnerable, open your heart and receive with a smile.

Invite Others

Tea Party funSocial interactions may need to start with you.  Try planning a gathering at your home.  It does not need to be anything special.  You could have an afternoon tea party (my granddaughter’s love these), the showing of a favorite movie and popcorn, a card game or a Saturday evening wine and chat session. Star gazing parties with hot toddies are great in the winter if you dress warm for the occasion. Invite others who may be feeling isolated or lonely and maybe reach out to include someone new to the area.  Sometimes this starts a new social circle and your guests may take it upon themselves to reciprocate another social event and bring new guests into your world.  Remember, someone has to start the ball rolling, why not you.

Cooking Joy

Enjoy Cooking

I love to cook wonderful homemade plant-based meals and when darkness falls upon me sooner than later, I have more time for cooking.  Delve into a great cookbook and come up with some incredible recipe that you always wanted to make.  Set the mood; pour yourself a glass of wine, or make a cup of herbal tea, put on some soothing music, get out your cutting board and knife and start preparing.  Soup is a great winter meal; for more ideas on great soups and stews see our Souper Bowls blog.  Or, roasting root vegetables, squash, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, and other veggies and can turn boring things exciting as well as warm your kitchen!  Cooking should not be considered work, but view it as a creative outlet.  Get passionate about your food and good nutrition and your, meals will taste even better when you prepare it with love.  It is also the ultimate gift to the special people in your life.

Read a Good Book

How Not to Die Book Signing

Worth the wait to purchase my 2 signed copies at the Lifestyle Medicine Conference, 2016 in Naples, Florida

Winter is a great time to curl up with a good book.  This is part of my hibernation process. Find titles and subjects that peak your interest.  A good fiction novel can take you to far away exotic places without leaving your chair.  Great non-fiction can do everything from save your life to teach you silly things that make you laugh.  Sometimes when we read about other people’s problematic lives in a novel, we realize how insignificant our perceived issues are. My bookshelves are stacked with unread books waiting for me to crack the cover and lay my eyes upon the text.

Some of my favorites and suggested reading for this winter to lift your spirits and enhance your perspectives might include; The Law of Attraction, by Esther and Jerry Hicks, Talking to Heaven by James Van Praagh, Soul Survivor by Bruce and Andrea Leininger with Ken Gross, or Dr Brian Weiss’s Many Lives, Many Masters, or Miracles Happen and all his other books in-between.  If you haven’t read The Celestine Prophecy yet, or any of it’s sequels, then now would be a good time for a few new insights and a great adventure.  You will never be too old, and it will never be too late to read the Harry Potter collection.  This wonderful collection of books will have you riveted to your chair, test your skills of imagination, and take you places you never knew existed, or do they? Recommended life saving books may include Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, The China Study, by T. Collin Campbell, PhD, and How Not to Die, by Dr Michael Greger.  This personally signed copy is next on my list because I want to learn more about how to stay alive and dodging death.  I recently gave the second signed copy as a gift to someone who graciously received it, and soon reported that she had a hard time putting it down.

The world of digital reading also makes acquiring a good read easier than ever.  You may want to check out some of the digital reading programs that are available.  While you can still travel to the public library for some social interaction, digital reading allows you to obtain a book at the touch of a button.

movie-nightWatch some Great Films

Movies are always better when viewed in the dark!  Gather the family, pick a great flick and watch it together.  When you create a family movie night, it makes the showing much more special.  Leave time at the end of the movie for good discussion and absorption of the message or moral of the story.  What were your favorite parts, what made you laugh or cry?  If you are watching alone, try to give yourself the undivided attention that a movie takes and become entwined in the plot.  Allow yourself to get taken away!  Maybe arrange for a far away friend to also watch the movie and then set up a time to call and reminisce about plot together.

Films that leave you feeling uplifted are always best.  Classic thought provoking films such as Don Quixote, Dr Zhivago and Citizen Kane, are great for post communication discussion and may leave you thankful.  A good romantic comedy is welcome to most women with titles such as Serendipity;Kate and Leopold You’ve Got Mail; or Mamma Mia; featuring the songs of Abba. For women looking for strength after divorce, a nice flick to watch might be Under the Tuscan Sun. Light-hearted stories are always fun and if you haven’t seen Blast from the Past yet make it your next film.  Action adventure is always great to take us away and the Harry Potter collection will do just that. And some films just have it all, such as one of my favorites, Second Hand Lions, a great movie for the entire family.

Have a Game Night

Game nightRound up the family or invite some friends to share a good old-fashion board game evening.  You could challenge your friends to bring a beloved game from their past to play or indulge upon a new innovative challenging game of today.  I still enjoy playing Chutes and Ladders with my grandchildren as well as CandyLand and Monopoly.  A challenging game of scrabble will stimulate the brain and help some of those dormant neurons fire again.  Finding a place to make a jigsaw puzzle can bring intermittent thoughtful activity to a humdrum area in your home. We need to incorporate more interactive activities to make sure we don’t become victims of mainstream television that bombards us with marketing ploys of unnecessary merchandise.

Start a Project

quiltingGet up, get going, and get creative.  Winter is a great time to start that project you always wanted to do but never seem to have time for.  Make time! Getting started is always the hardest part, but start with a plan and a list of things you need.  If you get all your supplies ahead of time you will save on frustration and stalled efforts.  Make an area in your home to create your project; somewhere you don’t have to clean up every little thing; a place where you can keep going back to and pick up where you left off.  Or maybe your project is your home, a room renovation or enhancement.  Possible it is learning a new craft, like playing the piano or guitar, painting, knitting or sewing.  Whatever your passion is, stop thinking about it, get the wheels in motion and get moving!

Take Care of Yourself

qtq80-sTNvBvWinter is a great time for soothing bubble baths and mindfulness.  Take time to practice meditation and deep breathing exercises.  Do some indoor yoga or Tai Chi which can reduce stress and anxiety.

If you suffer from Seasonal Effective Disorder (SAD), make sure you are getting enough supplemental vitamin D.  Most people in the far northern areas of the northern hemisphere don’t get enough natural sunlight to make enough vitamin D in the winter, so supplements are recommended.  Make sure your diet is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids by freshly grinding flax seeds every day to add to your meals.  Getting plenty of dark leafy greens will help supply you with those much needed B vitamins and calcium.  These nutrients will help stabilize your moods. Rounding your diet off with some good whole grains, legumes and an assortment of brightly colored fruits and vegetables will not only keep you healthy but improve how you feel overall.

So, ultimately, winter is only a few months long, more or less depending on where you live. But on the brighter side, the days get longer and lighter with every day after the winter solstice which occurs on December 21st or 22nd in the northern hemisphere or June 21st or 22nd in the southern hemisphere.  But until warm weather and long sunny day are upon us again, embrace the darkness and find amazing activities to occupy your time.

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