As the number of grey skies noticeable outnumber the sunny days, we often hear about ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ or SAD. Symptoms of SAD may consist of difficulty waking up in the morning, tendency to oversleep and over eat (especially carbohydrates), lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and withdrawal from friends, family and social activities. All these lead to a general lack of pleasure, a pessimistic outlook and even depression.
For some, SAD can truly be a debilitating condition. However, for those experiencing milder symptoms we can regard them as part of our psyches’ natural seasonal rhythm and cycle. Our winter ways are normal responses to the decreased light and energy output that characterize winter as a time of symbolic death and hibernation.
Winter is part of the cycle of the seasons and represents a time of stillness and going within. Just as bulbs lie dormant and bears hibernate, so the psyche instinctively lowers (‘depresses’) its energy or libido level during winter.
Winter is the also the face of death, as not everything will be renewed and transformed in the spring. In winter, everything is striped bare to the essentials. Although there is no outward growth during winter, this does not mean that nothing is going on. In the outward void lies the inward potential of a new life force when the warmth of the sun returns.
Greg Currie’s Soliloquy of the Dark Lord of Winter reminds us of winter’s purpose: “I am also peaceful and quiet. …I am the intellect turned inwards, Where thoughtful insight and wisdom is found. You may find me in the quietness of your thoughts, … For I am the recession of rest after the exertion of growth. Claiming back to the earth, that which was taken in life. Without me there would be no release or respite.”
Winter is a great time to review the last year. We ask – What do I need to let go of? What patterns of behaviour no longer serve me? The start of winter is also the time to plant the seeds to your dreams. Ask yourself – What do I want to put my energy into next? What direction is my psyche leaning towards?
Winter is not about action or outward production; it is about looking within and nurturing ourselves. It is about stillness and listening to the inner wisdom in order to provide the catalyst for growth in the spring.
In winter, we symbolically wrap ourselves in warm blankets that aid psyche’s rest, regeneration and contemplation. Pets, fires, incense, essential oils, candles, stones, music and plants can enhance our surroundings during these times.
Embrace this time by accepting the need for resting, waiting, reflecting, unwinding, letting go, and renewing yourself. Gentle, non-strenuous exercise, long walks particularly in sunshine, through forests and/or near flowing water or the ocean, warm baths, restful music, and meditation all help nourish the psyche during the winter. When winter is seen with this perspective, we may even begin to befriend the Dark Lord.