seed in winter

“Long sleeps the summer in the seed.”

I’ve known since my junior year abroad that I’m a four seasons girl. I spent that year in Taiwan, where there are two seasons: “hot and humid” and “cool and rainy.” Oh, three if you count monsoon season.

For many people, it’s unthinkable that I enjoy winter, and my friends in Southern California (and elsewhere) were all astounded that we couldn’t wait to leave that part of the country. And for the first two years we lived there, when my husband would open the blinds in the morning and say, “Oh look—another sunny day!” he’d usually get a pillow thrown at him.

the opposite of SAD

If you’re familiar with the Midwest—particularly the Upper Midwest—you know how grim the weather can be for long stretches in the late fall (and winter, and spring), so it’s not a surprise that many of us struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, which is not coincidentally also the acronym for the Standard American Diet. (If you struggle with SAD—either one—let’s talk!)

I think that I have the opposite of SAD: gloomy weather rarely gets me down, but when the sun does come out, I feel almost frenetically happy—what I imagine it feels like to be on uppers. (No, for all my encouragement of my clients to experiment on their bodies, I’m not going to try to find out whether I’m correct about that.)

And when the “fall back” side of Daylight Savings comes around and people complain about how late it gets light (and dark), lucky me—I just give thanks that I get up so early that it’s dark year-round, nothing to adjust to there.

seasonal living

As I wrote in a series of posts on SOLE food in late 2017, I’m a huge proponent of seasonal eating. (Check out this seasonal food guide to see what’s in season where you live—or go visit your local farmers’ market!)

And because I practice Integrative Nutrition® health coaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about the seasonality of our primary foods as well—all those other aspects of our lives that nourish us (or don’t).

Late fall and winter tug strongly at our bodies and minds: if we really pay attention, we might notice that we want to sleep in, burrow into our warm blankets, stay in rather than go out in the evenings, eat heavier foods that are stewed and simmered rather than eaten raw and grilled and steamed. It might be harder to get our bodies moving, and we might pack on a few pounds (or more) every winter.

And in our world, we can often ignore or even “fight” this season: most of us are privileged enough to have heat and artificial lighting in our homes, warmer climes we can visit, gyms that take away the difficulties of working out in inclement weather, and access to imported foods we can buy to convince ourselves it’s not really January. (Look! Strawberries!)

What would happen if we listened to that tug, though?

hibernation instinct

From my perspective, one of the greatest successes my clients can achieve is getting back in touch with their inner wisdom: learning how their bodies respond to certain foods—primary and secondary—and honoring that discovery.

It’s an inside job, definitely not as sexy as losing weight, getting in shape, landing in the perfect career, calling in an ideal mate, developing a fulfilling spiritual practice—and yet none of these goals are achievable without first doing what Martha Beck calls “finding your own North Star.”

This work can be scary because it involves slowing down long enough to hear that still, small voice inside you. We are addicted to external stimulation, in part because it’s easier to give our attention—and our agency—to others rather than going inside and actually “doing the work,” learning how to nourish ourselves in the way that serves our bio-individual selves best.

And every year, Mother Nature sends us a (long) season in which to do just that! Why do we so fervently reject this gift?

make the connection

If you’ve read this far (and I thank you for that), you may be wondering why I chose a quote from Tennyson as the title for this post. I chose it because as the year winds down, many of us plunge into the holiday season with a vengeance, wearing our immune systems thin.

A seed isn’t dead all winter; instead, it’s resting, gathering strength for the hard work of sprouting and growing into something very different come the spring.

Yes, the holidays can be lovely, nourishing times—they can also cause a lot of stress to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies, so I’d like to remind you to slow down and take a look at where you can fit some soul care into your crazy schedule.

Few people think of hiring a health coach when the holidays are upon us: good Lord, they might have to deprive themselves of all the delicious food (not true, by the way). Interestingly, several of my most successful clients have done just that—committed to shifting their food and lifestyle choices just as the season begins!

And the fact remains that my business experiences a lull toward the end of the year. I’ve taken to using this time to pull back from my work “out in the world” and focus on the back end of the business—reflecting on the previous months and planning for the coming ones.

I think of it as time to act like a seed over the winter or a root vegetable over the summer (no, not a couch potato!): slow down, maybe even come to a full stop, absorb all the nourishment I can, and get ready to bust out as something new in a few months.

Stay tuned for what’s coming for Simply: Health Coaching in 2020—and let me know what your inner wisdom is asking you for as the weather gets colder.