Once all the partying of Christmas and New Year is over it’s so easy to go into a slump or into guilt mode and start on a rigid regime whether that involves dieting, exercising or making resolutions. Going from one extreme to another seems to be a natural response to make up for excess but inevitably it’s not quite as simple as that. Changes in habit take a while to stick, as do the results to show. And at a time when the weather is cold and the days short, embarking on anything punishing will take an iron will to stick to, most probably ending in us giving up before February arrives. So this year why not try a gentler approach – go with the flow a bit more, allow the fun and festivities fade gradually and adjust naturally to the coming months. If nothing else, being kinder to ourselves is a good place to begin to radiate kindness to others. Start by getting rid of negative thoughts and forget the usual New Year ‘to dos’ – here’s a January plan to enhance your mind and body in a positive way.
Connect with nature
So it’s cold, and probably grey, but getting outside is crucial to help lift our mood even in the darkest months. Wrap up warm, put your wellies on and go to the park or if you’re lucky enough to live by the coast, head to the sea. Walk slowly and mindfully, making it a meditation by trying to co-ordinate each step with your breath, taking in your surroundings with all your senses. Smell the fresh air, the wet leaves and earth; notice the wind in the trees and on your cheeks, the plants and wildlife; feel the texture of soft mossy tree bark or spiky bushes as you brush past; listen to the birds over the hum of traffic in the distance; taste a sweet steaming hot chocolate in the cafe. Make walking mindfully in nature a ritual for yourself as often as possible and notice how much joy it brings to your day.
See the light
Light is the subtle energy which drives all of life and it may seem we’re starved of it at this time of year, but take heart in the fact that even on a grey day the sun is still there, doing its work behind the clouds. Also that Solstice – the longest night and the shortest day of the year – happened on 21st December and since then each day has been getting fractionally longer in the subtle move towards Spring. Check out the sunrise or sunset times online and when there’s a clear day forecast, set your intention to see the sun come up or go down. Head to wherever you know there’s a good view and take it all in. Again, be present in each moment as it comes and take in the full spectacle. It never fails to be beautiful and magnificent, and each time the sky will be a unique and glorious display of colours. Take note of its affect on your mood as often it brings a sense of joy and connection with the Universe, a sense that no matter what is going on, all is well.
Get your micro nutrients
Increasingly research on the gut brain connection shows that our moods are affected by what we eat, and it makes sense that comforting, warming foods are best to help us through this time of year. Rather than starving yourself – be inventive by adding therapeutic herbs, spices and superfoods to your staple meals so you get more nourishment each day. Turmeric happens to be the darling of the moment, renowned for its anti inflammatory and anti oxidant properties. Add it along with grated ginger, nuts and seeds to your morning porridge. Or, have a go at making a soothing turmeric latte: one level teaspoon of turmeric powder for a large mug of almond or coconut milk, with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ginger plus one teaspoon of vanilla extract. Whizz up in the blender and warm on a low heat, adding sweetener of your choice. Delicious. Also don’t forget to top up Vitamin D levels at this time of year with a supplement – most of us sun-starved, office bound Brits do need this. Viridian Liquid Vitamin D, £12 is an easy to take oil which you can drop on your tongue and has a nice orange flavour or DLux 1000 Spray by Better You, £6.95 is even easier – in little bottle which fits in your handbag so you just spritz on your tongue.
It’s all about balance, so as long as you’re making the effort to get out regularly, there’s no shame in hibernating at times. Now’s the perfect time to bring in the Hygge factor and make cocooning an art. Studies have shown that sitting comfortably with your eyes closed will bring deep relaxation benefits and similar physical benefits to meditation. Or it may be a deep hot bath that does the trick for you – it’s all about the right ambience of course. So dim the lights and light an aromatherapeutic candle – Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength Candle, £38 has a reassuring woodsy, church like feel containing frankincense renowned for its strengthening properties and is great if you need uplifting. Surround yourself with soothing sounds – music that has a ‘circular’ pattern is life-affirming and relaxing – if you like the sound of the piano, try listening to Philip Glass Glassworks or Metamorphosis. Or, Indian Sanskrit chanting is renowned to be healing on a subconscious level without us needing to be disciplined yogis – a good place to start is with anything by Snatam Kaur, who has a particularly angelic voice.