Some of you may know for many years I taught children’s relaxation classes, and I really loved exploring creative ways to support our bodies and minds enjoy a healthy, relaxed state. Here are some ideas to support yourself throughout the winter months!
Winter is traditionally a time for hibernation and renewal. The trees and animals recognise this is a time to turn inwards, to rest and store energy so they can rest and re-emerge with spring. For us humans, winter can also sometimes bring experiences of tiredness, lethargy, trouble sleeping or eating, increased anxiety or sadness. Whilst it’s important to honour our body’s wisdom, there are also some really easy and fun ways to help boost our mood through the colder months.
1. Keep moving!
How easy is it on winter weekend to snuggle up under the covers and watch DVDs? Keeping active during the winter is one of the most important keys to minimizing stress, and boosting the “feel-good” chemicals, and there are so many ways to do it.
Of course, a great walk somewhere beautiful hits the spot for a lot of us, but there are also some wonderful opportunities to learn new skills. Ice skating rinks pop up all over the place during winter, or something like a dance or yoga class can help stretch the body and mind! I’ve just discovered trampolining – such an amazing natural high, and what child-like joy! Now I know that may not be for everyone, but doing something that lights you up inside is worth more than gold when it comes to feeling healthy and happy. What makes you feel alive?
2. Get more light
Even though we’re pretty lucky with Australia’s winters, the lower levels of sunlight can affect our mood. Many sensitive adults and children notice that they much prefer natural daylight, so getting out as much as possible can really help to energise us and decrease stress. Take inspiration from our furry friends here – they know exactly where to go to relax and soak up a little bit of Vitamin D – think sunny windows, the golden light of late afternoon, or glimpsing the sunrise.
3. Stimulate the senses
We all know that music can have a powerful effect on our emotions and mood, and playing uplifting, happy music in the home or car can create a really fun environment. Similarly, many have studies have found that citrus-based essential oils, such as lemon, orange and mandarin may help to lift our spirits. A few drops of orange or lavender (perfect before bedtime) essential oil on a tissue for you to sniff can be a simple and effective way to help boost happy and positive moods. Some of my students loved taking a tissue with a few drops of peppermint oil to school as they found it helped them concentrate better or feel revived. (Be careful not to apply these oils directly to the skin, the safest application is on a tissue or vaporised in an oil burner).
Relaxation is so important to help keep our minds, bodies and spirits healthy. Relaxation has been shown to help a restorative effect on our immune and nervous systems, and regular relaxation has been shown to have a powerful impact on our ability to deal with stress in our lives. One study showed that by practising relaxation for 20 minutes each day for 1-2 months, it had a generalising effect across people’s lives: i.e. The benefits of relaxation began to spread further and further throughout their day.
It can be as simple as just focusing on your breathing for a few moments. As you breathe in, note any tension in your body – tight shoulders, chest , tummy, jaw, legs – and as you breathe out, consciously give those muscles permission to relax.
GOLDEN SUNLIGHT VISUALISATION
Using our imaginations to help us relax can be very powerful. This is one of my favourite, easy visualisations – you can even do this sitting on the bus or in a waiting room, and have found the kids love it too!
Start by getting comfy, perhaps snuggled under a blanket or resting in your favourite chair.
Gently close your eyes and imagine you are sitting or lying in a beautiful place in nature that makes you feel very happy and safe. It could be somewhere you remember visiting, or maybe somewhere you’ve never been but always wanted to visit!
Imagine a golden beam of sunlight warming the top of your head.
Allow the light to start moving down through your body, and as it does, warming and relaxing each part of your body. It’s almost like our muscles begin to feel like butter, warming and melting down through the body.
Feel the golden light warm down through your head, eyes, jaw and neck, allowing the muscles to become soft and relaxed.
Let the sunlight move into your shoulders, arms and hands, feeling the muscles warm and release.
Notice your breathing, and imagine breathing that beautiful golden light and seeing your lungs fill with it, softly relaxing as you exhale.
Keep letting the golden sunlight float down through your entire body, warming your torso, heart, stomach, legs and feet.
You can stay in this restful state for as long as you like – such a lovely way to bring some warmth to a cold winter’s day 🙂
5. Reach out to friends and family
Humans are social beings and warm contact with those you care about has been shown to reduce stress. It’s a great time to snuggle up or share cosy dinners with friends and loved ones, and the increased sense of closeness can have a reassuring effect on our bodies, minds and spirits. Could be a great chance to organise a get together – maybe try out some new recipes with a dinner party, discover a yummy new café, take up an art class, or just enjoy a day together “doing nothing”.