The earth moves through a kaleidoscope of seasons throughout the year. It shifts from vibrant florals and bright rays of sunshine to pale blankets of snow. Right now, the skies outside of my window are a pale gray that only seems to exist during this time of year.
At this point in the Northern Hemisphere, we’ve settled into the “darker months.” The dark months are aptly named as this is the portion of the year where the nights outlive the days. The equinoxes separate the dark and light periods. While the equinoxes themselves are points in time where day and night are equal, they split the year into halves. Each day that falls between the autumn and spring equinoxes will have a night longer than its day.
While the darker months can sound ominous to some, they are nothing to fear. At least not in most modern-day societies. Quite the contrary. Rather, these darker months are often a time of turning inward and a period of introspection. With shorter days and cooler temps, this can become a point of solitude. However, this isn’t to our detriment, as it provides us the space to dig into our psyches.
As the days grow shorter, the reduced sunlight affects the earth and even our moods. With this in mind, we must take extra care of ourselves during this time. Self-care isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a crucial step in providing for and honoring ourselves. Self-care can be in the form of a beauty routine, creating art, or journaling—among other things. What the act consists of will vary for each individual, but what’s universal is taking the time to do so will positively affect our well-being.
During the darker months, the world begins to slow down. With the nights outlasting the days, this can be a period where we feel like we are physically moving at a glacial pace. Chilly temps can encourage some to stay indoors, whereas they may ordinarily not. Staying home in our own element often provides the space we need for us to exist without expectation.
This period of time provides a pause where we are allowed to slow down and, subsequently, to rest. Too often, we are inundated with everyday life tasks and stressors, and now, with the holidays behind us, we can unplug and allow ourselves to relax without guilt. There are many ways that one can rest, and perhaps the most important is to sleep. And we’re in luck because the longer nights may assist some in feeling tired earlier, which helps to achieve clocking in more hours of sleep per night.
While sleep is an essential factor, another necessary rest is mental. We can achieve this by using meditation to declutter our minds. If we often resist taking breaks when needed, we may find ourselves overcome with anxious thoughts when we do. One way to combat this is to find a way to work meditation into our routines. If you struggle with meditation, guided meditations are one helpful option. What’s important is finding a method that works for us as mental rest deepens our ability to recharge ourselves.
Aside from rest, the deceleration of the season also provides us the time to sit with ourselves. Often, the darker months are periods of deep introspection. These are moments when we’re encouraged to reflect on our lives and objectively examine what is working versus what isn’t. As such, these can often be times of letting go.
Periods of reflection often reveal what needs to be removed from our lives. Letting go can be accomplished in a few ways. One such way is to banish or cut ties with what’s no longer serving us. At times, these are necessary measures to separate ourselves. Reflecting upon what is needed to move forward is a fundamental step in the process.
While we reflect, it’s a good practice to journal our thoughts. Not only does this allow us to distance ourselves from the thoughts physically, but it also helps us review. It provides objectivity that the confines of our mind do not. We can begin to question our thoughts and see them through a different lens. Another great use of journaling is the expression of gratitude. The impact of carrying a small notebook with you where you can jot down what you’re grateful for has the ability to uplift us and shift our focus on the good that exists right in front of us.
Reflection itself is indeed another form of mental rest. Reexamination allows us to pause for a moment and review the tapes. This simple act of mindfulness steers us toward the path to growth. When we reflect, we set the stage to grow and evolve so that we can reemerge alongside the seasons.
Much like the shifting of the wheel, humans don’t stand in one place. We are not stagnant beings. We are meant to learn, grow, and adapt. Time moves forward, and we undergo many symbolic deaths and rebirths throughout our life cycle. Regardless of the catalyst, we will have moments that change us. They reshape and reform us into new versions of ourselves who carry the lessons of the past.
The darker months, for me, have always been periods where I draw further into myself and allow myself the space to be. It’s a time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. It’s time to determine what to bring with us and what to leave behind. If we’ve put in the work to deepen our spirituality and connection with ourselves, we will be able to make peace with the past and proceed on our path with newly acquired knowledge. This is the very process that leads us to personal enlightenment.
The work we’ve accomplished on our connection to our own divinity will allow us to reemerge in ways that align with our most authentic selves. Whether we’ve weathered storms or simply broadened our views, we must adjust our focus and vision. Soon the times will shift from the dark half of the year, and with this change, it will bring with it new light. Spring will quickly begin to emerge from beneath the shadows of winter, and we will be reborn alongside it.