I have come to notice a certain trend among the homesteaders and permaculturists I surround myself with. It seeps its way into their consciousness around this time of year. The final harvests are done, the frost has set it, and I can see it arise in all of them: a melancholy dread of winter. Yes, there are certain little things they get excited about like baking and maybe the holidays, but in general, the people I know in this space get pretty darn sad when fall hits.
I have also seen a few articles floating around the internet in which people suggest activities to do to avoid these winter blues that so many people experience and I do think those are great. I think it is important to stay active by doing things you love. However, I can’t help but feel like these suggestions were just ways to merely endure the winter and not truly enjoy or benefit from it like I believe you can. I wanted to think about this in a deeper sense. Why do so many people despise being cooped up in a house for more than a few hours? Why can’t they just be still for more than a day? Where does this dread of winter or inactiveness in general come from? I really wanted to delve into these questions and explore options of how to combat the sometimes paralyzing depression people feel when the cold months roll around. So I started to think about these things and I made a few little observations.
There is something about those of us who choose this homesteading life style, we are often go-getters. We are do-ers. We are the people who have a million projects happening at once and even if sometimes they don’t get finished, we are always working on something. I think that is such a huge part of why I respect this crowd so much. I admire hardworking, passionate people. But I think that this particularly determined, energetic personality can have a few problems as well. For instance, I think one of the biggest reasons why these do-ers cannot handle being cooped up or even alone with themselves is because they spend 90 percent of their time avoiding working on themselves. Think about it, we spend so much time trying to make our land better, make our earth better, make our world better that we often times forget to work on things that have to do less with the big scary world and more to do with our personal mental well-being. Sometimes it feels easier to control other things in our lives than our sometimes flawed personalities, but at the end of the day the only thing you actually can make better, is yourself. Improving who you are is so important in this chaotic world because sometimes it is the absolutely only thing we can do to make the world a better place. We can’t change other people, but we can change ourselves. If we all just do our little part and work on becoming good people, then maybe the world wouldn’t be so corrupt. After coming to this conclusion about where this dread comes from, I thought about some ways of thinking that would benefit anyone slipping into the sadness of winter and turn this time of year into something extremely powerful for themselves and those around them. I think in all honesty it comes down to this one statement:
Stop Avoiding Introspection.
This is the first step of really allowing yourself to grow over the winter. You have to stop avoiding reflection and start looking deeply at yourself. Let yourself turn inward and cast away the layers of denial you have created over time. I am not saying you have to induce your own coma, I am not asking you to meditate for 3 months. You can even look at this like a project in itself, if that makes it easier for you. But I just want you to really try to take a good hard look at yourself and try to think about who you are as a person and what you want or need to work on within yourself.
Instead of just finding little tiny ways to just tolerate the winter, or endure the loneliness, I want you to full on embrace it. I want you to take this opportunity to really dive into yourself and ask yourself, what have I been saying I would work on, in regards to myself, for years? If you are feeling particularly stir crazy you could even make a list. Lists are in. Lists are hip. Lists make you feel productive. Make a list with this question at the top: “What have I always wanted to improve in myself?” OR “What have I always wanted to change about myself?” Now, I am not encouraging self loathing or self criticism. God knows we already get enough of that from the outside world. Trust me, I am all for embracing flaws and loving ourselves for who we are but let’s face it, sometimes you just need to cut the bullshit and realize there are always aspects of yourself that need improving, just like there are always facets of the farm that need fixing. With this list, I want you to be really really honest with yourself. That is why I recommend writing it down. For some reason when we write, when our pen hits the paper, all the barriers of denial we so easily create come crashing down. I love that about writing. You can’t lie to yourself when you are writing. So write it down. And you don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to. This can be a journey between you and yourself. All of the versions of you working together to come together to build one complete, whole self.
However, if you are having trouble coming up with anything to work on, this might be a good time to bring in some back up. Sometimes asking the people closest to you what you need to work on can be very eye-opening, enlightening, and beneficial. It’s important to keep an open and clear mind when having these conversations though because sometimes it can really hurt to hear someone you love spurting off a list of your faults. But you just have to try to remember that you brought it up and they are telling you these things because they love you and they want you to be the best version of yourself just as much as you do.
So you’ve made the list. Now what? Working on yourself is hard. How do we start? Where do we start? It is so easy to just ignore our own personal growth needs and focus on something else because we are taught to put everyone else around us first. I am not saying this is a bad thing to teach but sometimes it leads to the exclusion of teaching self care, and that, my friends, is a bad thing. In fact, some people will probably think that this much thought about oneself is narcissistic, or even unhealthy. But I wholeheartedly disagree. Self exploration is vital to our human existence.
To start, I’d say look at your list and choose just one of the items on that list. One probably seems minuscule in the grand scheme of things. You’re probably thinking, “How could I possibly spend an entire season just thinking about one aspect of my personality? I know it seems like a bit much but it is so much easier to take this whole human growth thing one trait at a time. It is surprisingly hard and draining to mold yourself, so it needs repetition and time. And it needs thought and reflection. It cannot just be put on the shelf for another day. It needs consistent exploration and guess what, you have time for that in the winter!
Once you have made the choice about what aspect of yourself you’d like to really hone in on, here comes the hard part. Force yourself to take baby steps. Like I said, patience and consistency will be your best friends. Just make a conscious effort to think about making the improvements, every day, just a little bit, and be happy with that. It’s okay if at the end of winter you haven’t bloomed into the flawless human you wanted to. It’s okay if you only made a little bit of progress. Do not lose hope in yourself. Even if it is just a little bit of growth, it is still something of incredibly extreme value you can take away from the months you originally thought grew nothing but heat bills.