Midwinter — the beginning of Winter — the longest night of the year. If you allow it, there is a lot of inspiration in today’s Winter Solstice to help with your everyday needs and wants.
Do you want to feel more balanced? Do you miss the feeling of happiness, even if great things occur to you? Do you want to be able to reduce stress? Do you relationships remain insignificant? — It seems we all are living in the era of the big Overwhelm: our beautiful human brains are stressed by the technological progress and by the crazy amount of information thrown at us before breakfast, let alone throughout the day.
The year’s longest darkest night has inspired many beautiful traditions across the world: festivals of light, fire and smoke rituals. Even without talking about them all here, may I present you 10 lessons in mindfulness we can learn from the Winter Solstice and the Midwinter celebrations:
1 Calm the mind going wild
My father used to say: “What you don’t master, will master you”. So true. A tool you don’t master will cost you endless amounts of time and effort.
And a racing mind will get you nowhere. Calm it down with ancient smoke cleansing rituals that can help you get into the right mood for a light meditation.
If you can’t concentrate on a mantra — focus on your breath by counting your heartbeats.
If you need a little focus boost for a specific task you’re hoping to accomplish, try one of the yogic mudras.
2 Slow down
The Winter Solstice was part of the annual cycle for many cultures — used to plan whatever was needed for the survival of the community. Gatherings and light festivals designed to strengthen the bonds and to celebrate life’s persistence have inspired today’s festive seasons. However, don’t succumb to to frantic partying and socialising of our modern day: enjoy the darkness and me-time by candlelight from time to time before rushing out to the next event. It’s really soothing for the soul to be able to reset.
3 Lower your anxiety levels
They say, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”. I find the concept of a night naturally succumbing to the day immensely consoling.
As a former chronic pain patient, I know I used to find solace in simply remembering that the pain will eventually go away. Because our fears can blow up our worries, it’s best to tackle them as they arise with the power of our intellect and by drawing from the symbolic power of a long night evnetually giving in to a long day.
The next point is of great help as well.
4 Get better sleep
The nights are getting shorter (well, slowly), so it’s the perfect time to start moving your bedtime forward bit by bit. Go to bed a little earlier, wake up a little earlier — the precious morning hours are your best chance to find the time to follow your calling before the world is awake!
5 Find happiness in self-actualization
The concept of self-actualization is based on the work of Abraham Maslow. Living creatively and in full use of your potential harbours the strongest feeling of real happiness, and a life of self-actualization means you’re constantly feeling safe, accepted, loved, loving, alive, and independent, true to yourself, even in solitude. Basically, it’s living a life so beautifully described in Kipling’s poem “If”.
Winter solstice is a perfect time to realise that just as the days start getting longer, your “sun” is constantly rising, ultimately culminating in a life of self-acceptance, love and empathy.
6 Understand your reactions and emotions
While the concepts of self-acceptance and self-love are great, you can’t really live true to yourself without understanding how your mind works. Questioning your reactions, looking for the real causes for your frustration, opening up old wounds to let them heal — that’s the only way to understand yourself, to accept and to respect yourself and, ultimately, to become a loving, independent human being that’s not easy to manipulate.
7 Feel alive and energised through learning
I’ve already discussed the concept of cognitive flexibility and how it can keep us youthful, charismatic and energised. It’s somewhat holistic since it includes a balanced diet and a good sleep routine, but give it a go. Use the long nighs to learn a new skill — imagine it’s the first day of Spring and you’ve learned to speak Japanese or how to bake authentic macarons!
8 Have more focus
I always say that you can’t go mental to mindful in 60 seconds.
If all you do day in, day out is pure social media frenzy, five minutes of “meditation” at night will not yield you any significant benefits. However, if you practice attention… that’s the entry level to real mindfulness!
Challenge yourself to pay attention to everything you do during these long nights — rather than getting your zombie fix from the TV or social media. Brewing a cup of tea? Removing make-up? Listening to your significant other? Planning for the next day? Pay attention, and you’re in for lots of fascinating insights.
9 Live intentionally
Your second step on the way to mindfulness is going through life with intention.
Just as our ancestors used the Winter solstice to make decisions relevant for the survival of the community, you can let it be your starting point for an intentional, fulfilled life.
Having a positive intention is great not only because it strengthens your mindfulness “muscle”, but also because it makes you sort of invincible to the agendas of others, and if you find yourself constantly torn between points of view and interests of others, this is definitely something to try.
Intentions are way more powerful than mantras or affirmations because they are formulated as action and decision aids. “Today I am actively seeking out positive and inspiring connections, sensations and thoughts only” is much more powerful than “I’m thinking positive thoughts today”. Your intention is like a compas that guides you through a busy day or a complex situation.
10 Build healthy habits
Again, why not use the astronomical events as reminders that life is a neverending cycle and we can make better decisions each turn of the big clock called Earth?
Use your intentions to establish healthier habits that will support you in your creative endeavours and make every day a brilliant and well-lived time. Quality time? Hell, we don’t want any other… 😉