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A Recipe for Joy in a Pandemic Winter

There's only one way to thrive in the upcoming pandemic winter - plan for it! Learn how to prepare yourself and your home for the season.

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Can you believe October is nearly over?  Back-to-school has given way to colorful foliage and pumpkins. Shorter, colder days are slowly arriving. And, for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, a historic winter lies ahead: our first pandemic winter. 

After 99 days of lockdown last spring, I cringe at the thought of spending more hours inside my home. But, by preparing ourselves and our homes in advance, we can thrive.

My recipe for a joyous pandemic winter has three main steps, and this post will help you with the first: prepare your heart and mind, create cosy comfort at home, and seasonally stock your kitchen and bar. 

Served together, in the cocoon you call home, this recipe is designed to comfort you, and bring a sense of lightness and order to your life. It’s self-care for your heart, mind and home. 

Of course, there’s no way to truly escape the realities of today’s world. But, you can take steps to help you gain perspective and keep these realities out of your heart, head and home when needed. Your wellbeing is worth the effort.

Prepare Your Heart & Mind

First, adopt an outlook that will support you, and, in turn, your ability to help others: embrace the now.

This step is first because the health of our hearts and minds is foundational to our ability to create and experience joy. 

So, although cosying up your home and stocking your kitchen and bar for the season can help set the scene, they’re not likely to inspire joy unless you’re able to live in the present.

Here are 3 strategies I’m using to help prepare my heart and mind for the upcoming winter:

  1. set aside time each day to reflect, acknowledge and let go;
  2. break the cycle of fear or anxiety by naming it; and
  3. open up to the possibility of now.

Set aside time each day to reflect, acknowledge & let go.

The state of our world is tough right now; I’ve found it critical to have a way to turn inward and reflect. 

Dedicating time each day to pause and practice mindfulness really works for me. I usually pause for 10 minutes in the morning while I drink my tea, and again in evening as I usually have more time. I’ll also take brief pauses during the day – even 3 minutes here and there – if needed. 

During those times I focus on noticing my thoughts, feelings and behaviours – as well as how I’m experiencing them. Then, rather than let them take on a life of their own, I acknowledge those thoughts and feelings and let them go. 

But the important first step is setting aside the time to reflect.  Without it you’ll never fully bring your attention to the present moment. 

Break the cycle of fear or anxiety by naming it

When I’m practicing mindfulness, it’s very helpful to name the thoughts, feelings or behaviours I experience – rather than ignore them or wish they’d just go away. 

For example, if I’m really stressed, or worried, or angry, I slow down, pause for a few minutes and breathe. Even that brief pause provides enough space for me to notice what’s affecting my experience of life.

In that moment, I stop reacting to whatever that is and, somehow, the stress it was creating ends. I then feel a sense of calm and can be deliberate about how to respond. 

I try to let most things go in the moment, even if I choose to address them directly later. By letting go, I reduce their power over the present.

Open up to the possibility of now.  

The pandemic has made it clear that we only ever have control over the present; we just thought we also had control over tomorrow.

So, what if we all leaned into this lesson? Accept the present the way it is. Maybe this new reality will give way to something totally unexpected that we couldn’t have imagined.

I have always been a planner and a lot of my professional work to date has focused on the future. Surrendering to the present has been difficult, but doing so has released a lot of stress and worry that I otherwise would’ve held onto. 

Now, I try to show up each day grateful for the present and curious about what gifts might come my way. To be honest, it’s the only thing I can do, and it’s working really well.

As winter approaches, be open to the possibility of now. You’ll be surprised at how many new aspects of life you will notice already happening around you.

Mindfulness takes practice, and, if you’re like me, you won’t get it right the first time, but that’s okay.  What matters is that you start to put space between your experience of the world, and your response to it. 

In that space, you’ll find the present, your true self and peace – three critical ingredients to experiencing joy and delight during this historic pandemic winter.

– JANINE MATHÓ | @SIMPLY_EAU_DE_VIE

Note: Original blog post and the rest of my series on Preparing for a Joyous Pandemic Winter are available at www.simplyeaudevie.com.

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