As the seasons blend from one to the other, with days getting shorter and nights getting longer, it’s natural to notice differences in our moods and mental wellbeing.
Whilst it can be comforting and exciting to look forward to certain holidays throughout the autumn and winter, there’s no disputing the fact that dark days and cold nights can have a direct effect on how we are feeling.
A friend of mine particularly struggles with the winter months, reporting that she often suffers with a depressive mood and general anxiety due to the low light levels and climate changes.
From a mindfulness perspective, all states of mind and mood are simply like clouds passing through. The sky can get very dark from time to time, perhaps even stormy. But it is reassuring to know it doesn’t stay the same consistently. Even with conditions such as anxiety or depression you may notice times where the symptoms fade in intensity.
One way to practice mindfulness to support your mental wellbeing is to purposely cultivate a mindset which doesn’t resist whatever emotion is being felt. Here you allow yourself to feel whatever you feel without judgement or needing to argue/defend/resist/push away from those feelings. You let the emotions be.
Writer and spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, refers to this as being able to say ‘yes’ to whatever the present moment brings. It doesn’t mean that you’re allowing a dark mood to take control of your life. It simply means you quit swimming against the tide. You stop fighting with it. This frees up so much more energy for you to use.
By allowing a dark or anxious mood to simply be, you create space around it. It’s in this space that you can observe it, notice its pattern and see how it fluctuates. It then begins to loosen its grip on you.
Eckhart Tolle describes doing so as ‘becoming the one who watches.’ By sitting back from your emotions you can live your life whilst gently being aware of however you feel. Resting in the knowledge that the feeling won’t last and giving it space to pass.
If a low or anxious mood should arise, be sure to watch out for any sort of rumination that it triggers in the mind. Look out for those mental stories which cry in despair ‘this isn’t fair, woe is me, why does this always happen to me, my life is dreadful…’ and so on. Notice these thoughts, don’t argue with them or try to change the statements. Your awareness is all you need.
Remember, the contents of your mind aren’t always true. More often than not, the mind can be easily critical or quick to complain. Mindfulness allows us to notice what our own personal mental downfalls are and as we watch them objectively, we begin to break away from the ingrained habits.
As well as being gentle and easy on your mind this autumn and winter, you can also make time to practice simply being with yourself. I personally love the ‘Hygge’ concept that originated in Denmark. It involves setting aside time to cultivate cosy and nurturing habits and living a life of simplicity.
You can find out more about what Hygge (pronounced Hue-ga) is on this lovely website here: https://hyggehouse.com/hygge
Practising hygge – to me – feels like a natural mindful practice. The hygge activity could be as simple as sitting in your favourite chair, curled up with a blanket, sipping a hot drink and allowing yourself to be. No errands to run, no jobs to do, just sitting and enjoying your drink.
What are your favourite ways to evoke feelings of nurture, warmth and cosiness? Long, leisurely baths? Cake and conversation with a friend? Listening to music? If you do notice a trend of struggling with your mental health during autumn and winter, why not look into creating a simple mindfulness practice for yourself, with all the gorgeous Hygge feels?
Combining mindful awareness with a hygge lifestyle is what I personally use to enrich and soothe my own mental wellbeing. As someone who has experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder in the past, I know only too well how important it is to have a mindful practice in place and to have compassion and patience with yourself when things feel particularly tough.
If you need any support on your journey, feel free to get in touch! I offer a range of mindfulness meditation videos (in British Sign Language and with English captions.)
The meditations I currently offer are:
*The Breathing Space – finding ways to take a breather in busy lives
*Love and Kindness – nurturing feelings of self care, love and forgiveness
*The Body Scan meditation – grounding into the body to calm and soothe.
If you need support with something else I’ve not stated, please get in touch to enquire. To purchase any one of the video downloads or to book a personal session please get in touch with me via the contact page.
Take care. Love,