Winter Reset: Looking Inward

I have a secret; I actually love cold weather. I crave a winter reset. I like to rest, reflect, and recalibrate during these short days and long nights. This is pretty much sacrilege to say in the upper Midwest, when this season can feel dark, bitter and endless and discussing (or maybe lamenting) the weather is practically a sport. But hear me out.

Winter is a reset button. By reducing our options and forcing us inside, it also forces us to look inside ourselves as well. Winter has a way of removing distractions and reminding us to slow down. If you’re not a person who is practiced at doing any of these things (as I’m not), winter is full of lessons.

I’m an easily distracted person. I love to be busy. I’m happiest in motion. I’m an extrovert, but I also need more alone time than the average extroverted person. But without a cue or a reminder (which often comes from my more introverted friends), I’ll ignore my own mental and physical check engine lights and keep on trucking along in my default mode. I’m guilty of running too fast for too long, and testing my limits just to see what happens, just to see if I can.

Sometimes the result is brilliance. Just as often, the result is burnout. Winter, for me, is a giant cosmic nudge from Mother Nature to slow down and chill out, to decipher the difference between what I want and what I actually need.

Warm drinks = instant “ahhhh”

Take today for example. Impossibly fat snowflakes are falling outside my window. No travel is advised in the city limits. It’s already the middle of that weird transition between Christmas and New Year’s Day where nothing much seems to happen (other than snacking on holiday leftovers and pondering what a strange week this always ends up being.) It could be the perfect recipe for cabin fever — if you fight it. If you lean into the resting and nesting urge, you might find a little peace.

When my options are restricted, I finally see the quiet pleasures I keep overlooking when I’m running around. I could settle in by the fireplace I rarely use, keep warm in the impossibly soft blanket and cozy wool socks that I got for Christmas. There’s a stack of books and magazines I’ve been meaning to get to all summer. It’s grown as tall as the lavender plant by the couch in the living room. I have a few Netflix series I’ve been saving for my ever-elusive free time. I have pretty lotions to try, fragrant bath bombs to use, scented candles to light. There are board games and coloring books and recipes to play around with, journals to fill and sewing projects to finish.

Lighting candles helps me reset during winter.

The best part is, I don’t actually need to do any of these things. They’re there to enjoy if I want to, to ignore if I don’t. I’ve noticed that when I find myself muttering “I can’t do this,” that’s usually a pretty good indication that I actually shouldn’t. Winter is a good season for discarding what doesn’t work and nurturing what does.

There is an art to this ability, whether you call it a winter reset or not. I was reading a book called Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. as research for an essay I’m writing. The author discusses the power of using archetypes to understand our own behavior. She talks about the often overlooked Greek goddess Hestia, who rules over home and hearth. Instead of running around distracted by warfare, power plays, and raging love affairs like her other heavenly counterparts, Hestia is introspective and self-contained. She enjoys her own company and her own thoughts. She is the goddess of comfort and ease, of quiet and domesticity. Her needs are few. She is mindful and productive.

We don’t honor this impulse in our frantically busy, consumption-centered modern culture. But remembering that ancient people once elevated the goddess of home and stillness is a good way to start cultivating a little more space for these attributes to grow in our own lives. Emulating her traits in our own lives is even better.

A warm blanket on a cold day is always a good idea.

Looking inward is easier in winter. When the weather limits our outside options, we fall back on our inner resources, which are a deeper and richer well than we may realize.

As we move into a new year and a new decade, I think taking stock of what works and discarding what doesn’t is smart. But I think that being gentle with ourselves during these times of transition is even smarter.

If you just can’t do it, don’t. Settle in. Rest. Recharge. Reset.

I wish you a safe and happy winter reset. I hope you find rest, calm and a renewed sense of deep purpose in this new year.

What about you?
What brings you rest and renewal?
How do you spend a snow day?
What simple pleasures can make your life richer this season?
What are your favorite winter pastimes?

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Alicia Underlee Nelson

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