Five Ways You’re Setting Yourself Up for A Long, Dark Winter

People are starting to get nervous. 

The sun is going down much earlier these days, the weather in most parts of the country has started to turn cold, the coronavirus rates are rising, and the holidays are on a freight train coming straight at us.

We’ve barely caught our breath and here we are, heading into the hardest time of the year for many people with unresolved trauma, depression, anxiety, mood “disorders”, SAD, holiday grief, and more. 

Whether you love the holidays or dread them, this year won’t look the way we’re used to it looking. Some people won’t be seeing their extended family this year, and some may be going through fresh grief. 

But we’ve got the edge on this winter – it cannot surprise us! In fact, if we start preparing now, we can probably get out ahead of the long, dark winter that is to come. 

You can begin by avoiding these seven major mistakes.

Throwing Away Your Bones

When you cook meat with bones, do you toss them at the end of your meal? If you do, you’re missing out

Ideally, you should make bone broth out of bones that are uncooked or roasted. 

Keep a freezer bag of all the bones you accumulate during the coming months, and you’ll be able to treat yourself to warm, rich, nourishing bone broth once your bag is full. 

Sitting, Laying, or Curling Up Most of the Time

It’s cold, it’s dark, and plenty of us are working from home. It can be really easy to spend an entire week barely moving. 

But that is the worst thing you can do.

So many studies show the myriad mental benefits of exercise. If you want to stay in peak physical shape, that’s a perfectly fine motivation.

Exercise is imperative for optimal gut health, neural plasticity, and can even fertilize nerves in the brain (especially the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex). That means it literally prepares you to deal with emotional distress.

Make yourself a plan – even if it’s a light plan – and stick to it. Twenty minutes of yoga is better than zero. Twenty laps around your living room are better than sitting. Twenty minutes on an exercise bike a day can make a world of difference.

Binging on Junk Food

‘Tis the season for all kinds of treats – candies, hot cocoa, those dopamine-inducing snacks that your brain thinks it wants because it’s used to them, huge sumptuous holiday feasts, and other comfort foods.

Here’s the beautiful thing about being alive in 2020 and not 1980 – we have so many resources to replace our favorite things with nourishing things.

Mac and cheese your kryptonite? Try making it with sheep’s milk and replacing the pasta with chickpeas. Potato chips begging for your attention? Slice some sweet potatoes extra thin, toss them in olive oil and sea salt, and broil them in a big batch. Craving rich, creamy chicken pot pie? Try it totally plant-based by replacing the chicken with lentils. 

Dying for a hot cocoa? Have one! But use real cacao. 

Drowning in Television

The spring and summer saw record-breaking outdoor enthusiasts. The country basically ran out of bicycles, roller blades, and kayaks. Airbnb was saved from bankruptcy by city folks paying for rural retreats while they worked remotely.

But… now that it’s cold out, we return to the couch. And while there’s plenty of wholesome, valuable television in the world to watch (like, which you can actually try for free for two weeks), it’s a timesink.

People who say they don’t have the time to do the things they want are often astounded by how much time they spend watching television when they start to track it.

Set yourself a reading goal list this winter. Promise yourself that you’ll only watch one episode tonight of your favorite show, and meditate for an hour instead. Commit to no-TV-in-the-bedroom rules.

Staying Up Late Because your Circadian Rhythm is Funky

Speaking of no TV in the bedroom, winter time can really wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm. Especially if you’re not getting up in the morning and heading to work and coming home at the end of the day, signalling to your body that it’s time to wind down.

Set up a special night time ritual to ensure you’re getting decent sleep. Be strict with it.

Plan to be off your screen about an hour before you want to be asleep. Stretch before you get into bed. If it makes you feel more ready for bed, shower before you crawl under the covers.

Soothing music? A journal or novel by your bed stand? Knitting? Whittling? Reciting poetry in your head? 

Whatever works for you!

Covering all of your bases before you sink into a depression will help you make it through the dark months and come out in the spring ready to tackle the new growth of the Earth rather than spending that time pulling yourself out of a four-month bad mood.

Make your broth, get good sleep, get up and move, treat yourself to delicious whole-food versions of your comfort foods, and turn off the TV whenever you think of it. 

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