Do you find it more difficult to feel motivated this time of the year, especially in the cold, sometimes grey light of morning? I think a lot of us do. Also there is that slightly gloomy feeling when we realise that we are going to be facing a period of short days and long nights. Next week in our part of the world we will be drawing the curtains at tea-time!
For most of our human existence, we have lived our lives according to the availability of sunlight. We would wake at sunrise and go to sleep when darkness fell. But now things are very different. A lot of our days are spent in artificially lit buildings and the structures of our days and routines are very different to those of our ancestors. We go about our days not noticing that we aren’t getting the quality of natural light we need, yet sometimes feel out of sorts – we can feel the negative effects without really knowing the reason why. It is thought we can be more prone to heart disease, sleep deprivation and depression when our circadian rhythm ( the daily cycle that controls sleep, hunger and alertness) is disrupted by lack of light.
We need natural light – it varies in colour, from bright blue during daylight hours, to soft, reddish glows in the evening. We get a message from these different lights and our bodies respond without thinking about it. We are used to many different shades of light – we aren’t really used to a switch on switch off setting! A glorious array of different lights and shade is what we tune in to best.
I am always tempted to turn on my lamps – I like cosy corners lit with favourite lampshades when the day is a little grey. However, I am learning to try and make the most of natural daylight when I can. The trick is to try and position desks by a window for example, and give ourselves the best exposure we can.
In the darker hours I use warm, coloured lighting with halogen bulbs, and position my table lamps around the corners of the room rather than use overhead spotlights. I have a Himalayan salt lamp too, which gives a wonderful, soft amber glow and is warm to the touch.
Whenever possible, it’s good to get outside during daytime hours and expose yourself to the light – if possible leave off the sunglasses but don’t stare directly at the sun (if it is making a rare appearance!). Sunlight, even in the smallest doses that winter allows, can help boost serotonin levels and boost our mood.
Why not take a short walk and even have your coffee outdoors – just put on a warm coat first!
But, if we are marooned indoors, we can still bring the outside in. By surrounding ourselves with lush green plants and natural materials we can feel infinitely calmer and peaceful. Just by looking at green leaves and natural shapes we can lift our mood. Tactile natural wooden objects can help us relax too. Open fires emit calming light, but if your home doesn’t have a fireplace, candlelight can give off an almost magical light and even the simple act of lighting a candle can de-stress us.
During the first lockdown in April, we were lucky to feel the benefit of getting outdoors; indeed, for many it was a salvation – we couldn’t go anywhere apart from taking short walks, but we could sit in the garden if we were fortunate enough to have one. We could wake up to the dawn chorus, and watch a beautiful sunrise. Somehow it made us feel more positive.
Now though, we can’t be sure what lies ahead, and the threat of further lockdowns hang over us. We won’t have the comfort of warm sunny days for a while, but perhaps we can embrace a bit of Hygge – the Danish expression which roughly translated means coziness , although it means a lot more than that. It ties in ideas of companionship, wholesomeness, and contentment, all wrapped up in one harmonious whole. The great thing is that Hygge is easy to embrace, even on a budget. Most of the things central to the Hygge lifestyle- such as candles, home-cooked meals, warm socks and hot drinks to name but a few, cost little or nothing. It is all about warmth, comfort and closeness – all the feelings you may normally get from a hug. We may not be able to have as many hugs as we like at the moment but we can focus on making our own personal space as welcoming and comforting as possible.
One kind word can WARM three months OF WINTER