June 8, 2017

Lucinda Poole - Smiling Mind Content Manager

Australians are sticklers for summer. We love our warm days and balmy nights, and we make the most out of the extended sunlight by being social, active, and generally engaged in life. 

As the days become cooler, darker and shorter, many of us begin to draw comparisons between then and now, and what’s to come over the next few months. We envisage how much better life will be when the days are longer again and the sun is warm. We tell ourselves that it’s too dark and cold to exercise now, or to venture out to catch up with friends.

Of course, winter is a time for turning inward – to rest and rejuvenate. But how can we make sure that while we turn in, we’re not blocking out the rest of our lives?

This question is an especially important one considering the ‘winter blues’ (and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) at the extreme) are very real risks for southern Australians.

For me, the principles and practice of mindfulness has helped shift my winter mindset from one of resistance to one of curiosity and acceptance, and I am notably happier for it.

Mindfulness invites us to be non-judging. This means stepping back from the constant stream of categorising and reacting to the world, and assuming the stance of an impartial observer. This year, I am doing my best to adopt this attitude during the 10-minute walk between my car and the office each day. Historically, this was a time that I dreaded—stepping out into the cold, sometimes wet and often windy conditions. Now, I step out, take a breath, and simply notice the environment around me. It’s not good or bad, it just is.

Engaging the five senses has been a useful ‘formula’ to practicing mindfulness on my commute. By paying attention to all the different things I can see, I have noticed the changing colours of the leaves, the dew on the grass, and the striking shapes of the bare tree branches. By tuning in to all the different sounds around me, I have noted the morning chorus of birds, humming radiators, and the crisp crunch of leaves underfoot. Through engaging my sense of smell, taste and touch, I have noticed the sweet scent of the rain, the intense aroma of coffee wafting from café’s, and the cool air against my cheeks.

Shifting mindsets this year has undoubtedly helped me stay engaged and connected to myself and to others. I am more willing to catch up with friends or go for a jog, and walking to work has become far more interesting and far less distressing! The darker, cooler months ahead no longer present an unbearable prospect, but a rich opportunity to practice mindfulness, and potentially see the world in a different light.