Winter is made for cakes and cosiness by the fire… of course, but by itself that would be a recipe for unhealthy living. Hygge, and its close cousin Lagom, has taught me that the pleasure of a hot cuppa and a slice of warm cake can be even sharper and greater if they follow a brisk walk in the rain or a snowball fight on the path. In other words, pleasures work best when they follow some form of work, or live alongside some form of work. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but all play and no work makes Jack lazy.
Self care in the Winter can feel hard: it’s dark, it’s cold, you crave comfort of food and body. There’s a reason why some horrifying percentage of resolutions connected to weight and fitness are dropped by the middle of January: it’s not natural. The human body is designed to want warmth and nourishment in the cold. During hibernation, it makes sense to give the body what it needs, and that’s where the four pillars of wellness come in.
There is an excellent programme on BBC TV called Doctor in the House, hosted by Dr Rangan Chatterjee. He’s a GP committed to keeping people well in the first place by improving their four pillars of wellness. He reckons, and medicine both ancient and modern agrees with him, that a lot of illnesses can be prevented or ameliorated (I love that word! It just means to make better, but sounds so much more impressive) by getting the four pillars of wellness in place and keeping them solid. He says that finding the right levels of sleep, nutrition, exercise and mindset will help people to fight off illness and keep healthier. This winter I am proposing to build these four pillars into my everyday life, in the hopes that by spring I will feel healthier and more energetic despite winter’s icy blasts. Here’s the plan:
Nutrition: I am aiming to boost the levels of vegetables in all my meals, with soup for lunch most days and stews containing carrots and onions as a regular evening meal. I’m also aiming for plenty of green vegetables, such as cabbage or kale, served along most main meals. I want to find a couple of good fish dishes that don’t come battered and smothered in curry sauce, and a couple of virtually meat free meals. With fruit and yoghurt as my go-to snack, I’m aiming to boost the vitamin and nutrient content of my diet without trying. I’ll still have treats, but they won’t be an all-day, everyday thing, and may well be part of a day of walking or shared with company.
Sleep: Oh, how I miss the days of sleep. It’s a funny thing, but I have never quite got back my full eight hours of sleep after the children were young, and ours were good sleepers! I think as the Mother I always slept with one ear open, and still do. This year I’m working on getting a regular bedtime starting before 11pm, with a routine of reading, listening and meditating to put me in the right frame of mind to quietly slip under the sheets. I love using a pillow spray made with lavender and chamomile oil (use half vodka to half cooled boiled water with 10 drops each of essential oil, shaken and stored in a spray bottle) and then generously sprayed on my pillows before my night time bath or shower. With a bedtime drink of caffeine free herbal tea or cinnamon scented milk, it’s enough to put me to sleep in the office just writing about it!
Movement: I am allergic to the word ‘exercise’. It’s too prescriptive, too fixed. It’s like doing pages of sums or a grammar test. I like ‘creative movement’, as Sarah Ban Breathnach referred to it in her beautiful book, Simple Abundance. I am aiming to get a short yoga sequence that I can do as soon as I fall out of bed in the morning, a walking session at lunchtime (no more than 30 minutes or once around the block, but it will take me past trees and quaint houses) and a longer, more creative movement session in the evening. That might be either an external class like Zumba or a DVD in the house (especially while the year is young, and the weather is less than perfect)I’ve invested in Darcey Bussell’s Diverse Dance Mix DVD and I’m pleased to say my Dear Daughter wants to join me on the journey. I’m hoping there’s not a lot of ballet moves in it, or my mind will be forever taking me back to this:
Mindset: This is the hardest part of any self care package for me. The persuading of one’s own psyche that one is worthy of self care and that it is better sense to look after oneself than to forever put the rest of the house first. I’ve found great advice in We by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel. It’s one of my planned hibernation reads, but it will take me some time. I intended fully to read it in one go, write the review and leave it alone, but the book itself is making me read it slowly, digest the ideas and implement the techniques. Alongside establishing clear priorities and positive goals, my mind is in a good place this year. In my research for this blogpost, I found this quote from James Duigan, who was interviewed about the four pillars of health back in September 2017.
“Any change that happens in your body happens in your mind first. I want people to find a powerful ‘why’ – their reason for doing this. For example, my why is to be a strong and healthy father and – eventually – a grandfather, to my kids. When people find theirs and keep it at the forefront of their mind, they become unstoppable.”
That’s my plan for my mindset: find my Why and work on keeping it at the front of my mind. I turn 50 in May (yes, I am that old) and I don’t want to look back on it with regret, knowing that I could have taken a few simple and sensible steps to make my life, and the lives of those I love, better and didn’t bother. I have a generation below and a generation above relying on me for support and care, and I will be useless as a rock for them if I crumble in the face of taking care of myself.
So, that’s the plan. I’ll share my progress (in this as in most things) on Facebook and Instagram #hibernate2018 and check in with The Hygge Nook. I’m also working on Book number 4, 52 Weeks to Happy, so the first part of the year will be happily full of life-affirming work and play.
My other books have more ideas that are good for hibernating with, and are all available from Amazon. 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way is available in Paperback and Kindle version and so is How to Hygge Your Summer, again in Paperback and Kindle form, from Amazon.
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