Winter has come

December 12, 2014

Winter gets a depressing portrayal. In our metaphors and in our life we think of winter as the time of year where things die, life choices are limited and the warmth of comfort food is all we can hope for. In thinking about my health lately and trying to be more in tune with my body I realize this doesn’t have to be the case. The cold weather is actually the perfect time for change if we allow it be. Many of us do aim to change in the winter because of January, the beginning of the new year. But instead of an arbitrary calendar month I think we’d do ourselves some good to pay close attention to this season. This could be, if we allow it, the season of cultivation. Of all seasons it’s the most dramatic. The days are extremely short and the cold is unbearable unless we fight back really hard we are going to be forced to change our schedules. If we’re students chances are we either have off or are taking a short and very intense semester. Even if you work and don’t get time off, the lunches or afternoon walks will probably cease. This is also a time we fear putting on weight, we long for comfort foods like warm bread and with the day being shorter we may call it quits earlier either heading to bed or staring a a screen for hours until we dozen off. So what is the benefit in this seemingly unproductive month?

Diet. When we think of comfort food in the winter our mind goes to breads, macaroni and cheese, cakes and warm cookies but does it have to? In the winter are we really craving any specific food or are we craving warmth? If your ideal diet consists of lots of cold salads and fruit smoothies I don’t think you’ll last very long in the winter. Soon you’ll give in to those comfort foods but eating bread everyday will only lead you farther from your goal so are you just going to be miserable all winter stuffing your face with cold salads or have regret and go to those comfort foods? Neither. Comfort foods in the winter equals warmth and warmth doesn’t have to mean fresh baked cookies it can mean warm soups, cooked vegetables and hot tea.

Winter is an ideal time for healthy eating. Remembering your body wants warm food which doesn’t have to equal a ton of carbs is one way to stay healthy but winter can also force you to be healthy if you pay attention to your body. For me, in general, I can’t eat a lot of meat or dairy but within that category I can get away with having a bit of it everyday but in the winter it’s not possible. When it gets cold I have to severely limit my meat and diary intake or I will be sick. Sneezing, coughing, runny nose, in the winter it’s all directly related to meat and diary for me. In winter I can more readily see the direct consequences of my eating habits on my health. Of course I can ignore them but having lowered my dairy and meat consumption for the past few years and experiencing less health problems in the winter has convinced me to stick to this habit. Sugar also does a great deal of harm to me in the winter. If I consume sweets as normal my throat will get irritated and I’ll get similar cold- like symptoms as I would with dairy though not completely. If I don’t want to be sick in the winter I better take my health seriously, which can lead to good habits that continue after winter.

Worship. In the winter we have very long nights which can lead us to feel unproductive. In the past we would probably just dose off earlier but with the advent of technology that needn’t be so. Some us will still head to bed earlier others will sit in from the screen but most of us usually don’t feel so productive during these longer nights and shorter days. Though the set up of winter is not ideal for work it is ideal for worship. Because our business with the world ends a lot earlier then usual we have a chance to spend more time doing our dhikr and praying. It’s also an ideal time to fast since the night comes in so early.

Because we’re spending less time with people this time is also an ideal time for reflection and introspection. We see the leaves on the tree as dead and the tree as lifeless but maybe it’s better if we saw it as alive but quiet. Quietly cultivating itself so that when the time is right it will bloom. And this is what we can seek after in the winter months. With less distraction work on your relationship with your creator, make up those salahs you missed, pick up a new dhikr to do. Now you have more time to focus on the one who gives time with less distractions of worldly pursuits.

Modesty. God be with someone who becomes Muslim or decides to start dressing more modestly in the summer. The summer is a struggle for most of us when it comes to modesty, but the winter? The winter is a perfect time to start dressing more modestly, partly because you don’t have a choice,. Most of us cover our heads in the winter so if you want to start wearing hijab now is the perfect time. If you’re use to showing your arms, or neck or legs, in the winter you have to cover up so why not make this the beginning of modesty? In the Winter in New York I always joked to myself that everyone looks Muslim. And here in Jordan even though most are Muslim a good amount don’t wear hijab, whoever or wherever you are the goal of modesty is most attainable in the winter.

Catching up. Now that you don’t go out with friends as much you have more time to do house stuff. Those clothes you’ve been meaning to give away? That new recipe you’ve been wanting to try? The rearrangement of you furniture you thought might look neat? Try it. Now’s the time. All the hours you’d be out an about town you’d now rather spend at home avoiding the cold, this gives you the opportunity to not avoid household tasks you’ve wanted to accomplish. Make a list of the things you’d like to get done in your home and get started but remember to prioritize -winter won’t last forever!

Honing your craft. Are you a speaker? Or have you always wanted to be? Chances are the opportunities to do so publicly are less in the winter so why not use this time to cultivate your craft. The same is true for everything else. Writing, art, cooking, take the time now to explore your interests. The kind of interests that require more time and less people. Focus and see how far you get.

Another benefit to winter that comes to me in this moment is that it’s a time to find out what really matters most. The friends you still make an effort to meet with in the winter are probably the friends whose company you enjoy the most. The places you go are probably the only the places you need to go. This time is also great to spend with family. Your all stuck in the house together trying to avoid the cold, why not make the best of it! So this winter instead of wasting the night hours desperately waiting for winter to be over or forcing life to go on as normal take heed of the cold days. Winter is not an annoyance to get through but a gentle reminder of what’s important.

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