As we navigate the heart of January, it’s easy to feel the pressure of the new year – the urge to jump into action, set resolutions, and chase goals. But if there’s one thing nature teaches us, especially in the depths of winter, it’s that rest and stillness are vital components of growth and wellbeing.
In this post, I want delve into how we can align ourselves more closely with nature’s rhythms during winter, a theme I recently explored in a Instagram post about moving at nature’s pace. It’s about understanding that, just like the dormant trees and the silent, snow-covered landscapes, our need for rest and introspection is natural and vital.
The Contrast of Winter and Our Daily Lives
In the colder months, nature slows down significantly, conserving energy and preparing for the spring. Yet, our modern lifestyles often don’t mirror this slowdown. This disconnect can sometimes leave us feeling out of sync with the natural rhythm that governs all life.
I had the pleasure of being invited to the Studio STL show on Fox 2 recently to share about the benefits of getting outside in the winter and ways to connect with nature for health and well-being.
Here are some key takeaways from the segment:
- Nature significantly lowers stress by reducing cortisol levels.
- Spending time outdoors enhances mood by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels.
- Regular exposure to nature has been shown to improve our immune function.
- Winter landscapes offer unique calmness, offering opportunities for mindfulness and helping us stay present.
Embracing Winter’s Quiet Beauty through Shinrin-yoku and Forest & Nature Therapy
In the Studio STL segment, I share about the therapeutic aspects of Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and Forest and Nature Therapy, practices that hold profound significance even during the winter months. Shinrin-yoku, a concept that emerged in Japan, translates to ‘bathing in the forest atmosphere’ or ‘forest bathing.’
Forest bathing involves an intentional, sensory-rich engagement with the natural environment. It’s an intentional practice of connecting deeply with nature, using all your senses to experience its surroundings. In winter, this activity offers a distinctly different experience.
The quietness of the forest, blanketed in snow, offers a rare stillness that allows us to connect deeply with ourselves and the natural world. The crisp air, the gentle crunch of frozen ground or snow underfoot, and the stark beauty of bare branches against the winter sky – all contribute to a sensory experience that can help calm the mind, uplift the spirit, and bring clarity that is often clouded by the bustle of everyday life.
Forest bathing in winter can be a serene, reflective experience, offering a space to breathe deeply and reconnect with the often overlooked rhythms of nature.
Winter Forest Bathing Gear Recommendations
To fully enjoy the outdoor experience in winter, the right gear is essential. Here’s a list of recommended items for a comfortable and cozy time in nature:
- Insulated or waterproof boots with wool socks for warm, dry feet.
- Hat, gloves, and neck gaiter to protect extremities.
- Layer clothing, including a base layer, insulating layer, and windproof/waterproof outer layer.
- Breathable, moisture-wicking materials for comfort.
- Ground cover, sitting pad, blanket, hot beverages like coffee or tea and hand warmers if it’s really cold.
Simple ways to engage with Nature in the Winter
With the right gear keeping you warm and comfortable, engaging with the winter environment becomes not just manageable, but enjoyable.
Nature in winter presents a unique landscape that invites us to slow down and connect in different ways. Here are some simple yet profound methods to align with nature’s pace during the colder months:
- You don’t have to go out for hours – short, mindful walks in nature can be incredibly rejuvenating.
- Slowing down to observing the unique beauty of winter, from frost patterns to the stark silhouettes of trees against the winter sky, helps us stay present.
- Finding a sit spot where you can sit for 15 minutes and just watch nature flow in around you is a super simple way to get started.
- Dressing warmly and preparing for the weather allows us to comfortably enjoy the outdoors.
- Remember it’s about enjoying nature – not enduring the cold so listen to your body.
Moving Forward in Alignment with Nature
As January progresses, it’s important to remember that moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean moving fast. Drawing inspiration from the world outside our windows – where life moves at a naturally slower, more deliberate pace during winter – can be incredibly beneficial. Let’s challenge the notion that being productive means being constantly active. Instead, let’s find value in moments of pause and stillness.
Let’s challenge the notion that being productive means being constantly active.
Taking time to breathe, to observe the subtle changes in the natural world, and to appreciate the quiet beauty around us can lead to profound insights and a greater sense of peace.
These moments of quiet connection with nature – observing the delicate frost on leaves, listening to the hush of a snow-covered landscape, feeling the cold air invigorate our senses – can act as a powerful counterbalance to the fast pace of our daily lives.
As we continue through January and the heart of winter, let’s embrace these opportunities for stillness, allowing them to infuse our days with a sense of calm, presence, and a deeper connection to the rhythms of the natural world.
In peace and Presence,