Winter can be a stressful time of year. Between weather changes, the holiday shopping frenzy, and deciding which relatives to visit first, you may feel the tension building already. For many, winter also brings an uptick in seasonal affective disorder, which causes people to feel down, sluggish, isolated, unmotivated, or irritable. Taking a few moments for relaxation and mindfulness during this hectic time can be incredibly beneficial for your mental and physical health. This winter relaxation exercise using winter imagery can help you to slow down, de-stress, and recharge before returning to the hustling and bustling of the season.
You can use modified versions of this winter relaxation exercise at any time of year if winter imagery is unpleasant for you. For example, you can imagine leaves falling from trees, waves crashing on the beach, petals falling from flowers, or any other calming imagery you can imagine.
First, sit or lay in a comfortable position. This can be on your couch, floor, bed - wherever you feel the most at ease. If you’d like, you can close your eyes; or, you can rest them on a neutral spot in the room. Take a few moments to get settled in. Take three slow, deep breaths.
Now, visualize yourself in a warm, cozy room, sitting by the fireplace. Imagine that you are looking out of a large, clear, frosty window. Snow is falling gently outside and has begun to cover the ground. As the snow slowly falls, envision examining each snowflake. Focus on a single snowflake’s unique form, and appreciate its delicate beauty as it drifts toward the ground. Once it lands and blends into the accumulation of snow on the ground, pick another snowflake and repeat.
Identify another snowflake, and this time, attach a thought to it. This thought can be anything - something you have to do, something you are curious or stressed about, something that is causing you pain or joy. It may even be, “I don’t get this exercise.” Pin that thought to the snowflake and watch it drift to the ground. As it lands, let the thought go. Choose another snowflake, and repeat for several minutes.
If at any point you do not have a thought, that’s okay - continue watching the snow fall until something else comes up. If a thought gets repeated, put it on another snowflake. Do not try to rush the snowflakes; let them fall at their own leisurely pace. Your mind may drift during this exercise. Whenever you notice that happening, gently bring your attention back to the snowfall. If you think, “I’m not good at this,” simply put that thought on a snowflake and watch it fall to the ground.
Whenever you feel satisfied, bring your attention back to the room you are in. If your eyes were closed, go ahead and open them slowly. Take another moment to breathe deeply. Notice how you are feeling. If you would like to express gratitude for your mind and body, you may do that now.
This winter relaxation exercise is helpful for de-stressing and practicing mindfulness. It allows us to have the thoughts we would normally have, notice and appreciate them, and then let them go, instead of dwelling on them or giving them too much time or energy. Thoughts are just thoughts; they are not always helpful or true, and they do not always require action. This winter relaxation exercise allows you to have thoughts without the demand that you do something about them. Practice it whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed out during this hectic season. You can even practice a shortened version when you don’t have much time, perhaps at work or during a commute. Take in a few deep breaths, and imagine returning to your winter scene and pinning thoughts to snowflakes while continuing to breathe deeply and regularly. After just a few moments, you will likely begin to feel more relaxed and in control, and better able to handle your responsibilities.
If you feel that you may need assistance with stress, relaxation, or want to learn about mindfulness this winter, contact the Center for Growth at 215-922-5683 or https://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact/.