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Merry and Bright

Ten Daily Practices for Keeping the Light in Winter

By Kathy Vaughan

The short days and long nights of winter can be a dark and challenging time. Below I share some of my favorite techniques for keeping the Light in winter.

Get Natural Light Each Day – Go outside each day and find what it is that you love doing. Run or hike trails; breathe in the fresh air; take notice of winter birds and other wildlife; notice how the foliage changes around your home or on the trails.

Practice Daily Affirmations — Create positive statements for attracting good into your life. Use language that reflects this positive affirmation is happening in your life already. “I now go beyond other people's fears and limitations.” “I am flexible and flowing.”

Stretch or Practice Yogaeveryday. Releasing the tension in your body will help to release the tension in your mind.

Bring the Outdoors In — Adorn your kitchen table, fireplace mantel or other area with fresh and seasonal greenery. Create a nature table that honors nature's gifts that are available during the winter months. Gather Rose hips, cedar boughs, pine cones, dried flowers and berries, shells, bark, moss, dried grasses or other items, to create a nice display. Wildlife figurines, spiritual figures, wool or felt creatures, can also be added to the arrangement to help bring joy and light to the scene.

Make soups and stews and allow to simmer on your woodstove, in a slow cooker or on your stove top. The homemade meal is nourishing and the culinary fragrance is peaceful and soothing on a cold day.

Embrace the Dark — Run or hike trails in the dark, using a good head lamp. The daylight hours are shorter, but allow your time on the trails to go into the dark, or plan on starting your run or hike in the dark. Use chemical hand warmers if you will be out in the extreme cold, or out for a couple of hours or more. Wear warm layers and cozy fabrics to feel the comfort that comes with the light. Wear a hat to keep the warmth in, tuck in your bottom layer, use wool fabrics and always take time in choosing your layers carefully. It will help ensure you have a pleasant time and will want to make it a part of your regular routine.

Take in Uplifting and Energizing Nutrients — Eat seasonal fruits and veggies everyday: nuts and seeds, homemade soups, stews and casseroles; foods that will provide good energy for the darker months. Stay away from foods that will literally weigh you down during the months when motivation to get outside and exercise can already be an issue. Dairy products, seasonal cookies and other baked goods, alcoholic beverages, sweetened coffee drinks, and creamy dips can all contribute to a feeling of bloat and heaviness. These seasonal treats can be replicated in healthy ways. Trade ranch dip for hummus, to serve with veggies instead; baked sweet potato fries instead of potato chips; seasoned and mashed avacado or guacamole instead of heavy cheese dips; gourmet trail mixes with a large variety of nuts, dried fruits and chunks of dark chocolate instead of tins of fudge; molasses cookies instead of sugar cookies.

Create a Rhythm for Your Days — Having a plan helps to eliminate stress in our lives. If there are areas where you can have a routine that you follow, such as a weekly running or workout schedule, this helps you go with the flow and takes the day to day planning out of the picture. Easy flow and lightness in our lives help keep the darkness of winter from affecting us in a negative way. Establishing a way to celebrate life on a daily basis is a nice mindfulness activity. Using candle light, a special lantern or lamp, the sun, or the flames of a fire, are all sources to use for your ceremony. You can recite a verse, sing a song, say a silent prayer, or just reflect on the light, the season , or whatever feels meaningful.

Set Challenges for Yourself that Reach Beyond Winter Months — Use squat or ab challenges to help you to focus on core work or train for a late winter or spring race. Decide on a decluttering project, a craft or handwork project, or any physical, mental or creative pursuit that will help bring focus and joy to your life on a daily basis. The goal or challenge will help you to see beyond the dark months and into the light of spring, while accomplishing something at the same time.

Be Patient Toward Yourself and Others — The struggle is real for some folks during the shorter days of winter. The return of the light can seem so far away. Offering a small gesture towards others during these months is nice. Sending a quick email or facebook message; sending a note card in the mail; dropping off a soup or seasonal arrangement of fresh greens; a phone call. This can mean so much to someone feeling down and needing some brightness in their lives.

Add to this list with your own ways to stay merry and bright, living a full life in the winter, while feeling healthy and vibrant.