It’s one of my missions to help women sneak a little self-care into their daily lives. It can be tough to keep sane this time of year – the Vata-deranging qualities of winter push us towards the edge physically and mentally, even without the holiday frenzy on top.
Now’s a great time to take matters into your own hands and proactively plant a few pockets of healthy joy around yourself. Here are 5 things you can give yourself that will make you happier and healthier this December.
- Stillness. As the year counts down, time seems to pick up speed, breaking into an all-out sprint of activity this month. A moment of stillness in the midst of the twirling is medicine for the spirit. You don’t have to start a meditation practice – just NOTICE the stillness that is already there, and revel in it.
Here’s How: When you notice stillness, choose a body position to soak it in better. While standing in the grocery store line, take Mountain Pose (stand tall with weight on both feet). When waiting for your pumpkin latte to be made, place your hands on your abdomen for a conscious belly breath. After finishing an email and before starting the next, get up from the computer and lie on the floor for one minute (see the Gravity Meditation in this edition’s “Swastha Practice” column). Acknowledge the stillness without scrambling to fill it, and miraculously its effects will expand.
- Home-Cooked Deliciousness. When schedules are tight, it can feel necessary to grab something fast for dinner. Yet one of the most important roots of health in winter is warm, home-cooked food. But how do you do it??
Here’s How: Get a slow cooker (these days, they’re only about $20). In the morning, throw in the ingredients for a veggie stew, or kitchari, or your favorite soup, flip the switch and voila, 8 hours later it’s a steaming hot, nutritious meal waiting for you to get home. There are gobs of recipes online. Somehow crock pots fell out of fashion along with 50’s-style domesticity, but they’re just the thing for our modern lifestyles – let’s bring ‘em back!
- A Warm Head. Literally. December is cold. Even if it’s not THAT cold where you live, colder weather is a clear sign that Vata dosha is going up in the world around you. Noticing it allows you to protect your internal balance, and keeping your head warm is key (Mama was right!).
Here’s How: Find yourself a cute hat and/or scarf to keep by the door, and wear them every day! Even if you’re just going to the car. It takes only a moment for Vata to get aggravated, gathering momentum over time to send you into a downward spiral of mental frazzle, or a full-on head cold. Watch for the lovely subtle buffer you create by covering your ears and crown when you’re out – it creates an invisible forcefield against frenzy and illness. Seriously.
- Bedtime Peace & Quiet (A.K.A. the “No Phone Zone”). There is very little Peace and Quiet to go around in December. But there may be a morsel waiting for you each morning when you first open your eyes – if you do NOT pick up your phone immediately to check email, texts or headlines!
Here’s How: Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode overnight (you can set Emergency Override contacts), or better yet, plug your wi-fi router into a timer programmed to cut off overnight. In the morning give yourself 30 minutes (or at least ten minutes!) without checking in on the world. Keep a book of poetry or inspirational quotes by the bed as a mental appetizer (i.e., a quick treat to prepare your mind to have a nutritious meal of Good Thoughts for the day). My new favorite is the Mary Oliver anthology. Encourage your mind to stay in the “everything is possible” state of dreamland a little longer. These few minutes of peace will color your whole day.
- Gratitude. OK, this shows up on everyone’s “How to be Happy” list, and for good reason – but it can be hard to operationalize. A gratitude journal is great, if that’s your thing, but I’ve got a fun strategy that requires no equipment…
Here’s How: Give one compliment every day. Look for something you appreciate about someone, and tell them. It could be, “You’re such a good listener,” or, “I love the way you helped your brother clean up the floor – you are so kind!” or a simple “You look beautiful in that color.” It’s so much fun to watch people’s expression when they are appreciated – and of course, the real treat is how it makes YOU feel. Just noticing the things you appreciate is a gift in itself – they seem to show up more often when you’re looking for them.
So take your pick. Choose (at least!) one gift to give yourself, then go make a note in your calendar or put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, and make it happen in the next 24-hours. I promise, your December will be happier!