Between the end of the calendar year (with the upcoming resolutions/intentions/theme words) and the cold curtailing outdoor activities in this part of the world, winter is a time when reflection is on the radar more than usual for many of us.

Yet at the same time, it’s a time that’s filled to the brim with obligations and expectations: ideas about what holidays should be like and worries about living up to them; wishes, fulfilled and unfulfilled, about belonging and acceptance; packed social calendars.

I’ve been noticing lately how easy it is for me to default to what’s normal in my social circle. This has some lovely parts: I get to see lots of people I don’t often run into at seasonal gatherings, and many people I know handmake gifts or cards, which I love and do more readily because it’s common among and valued by my friends.

But at the same time, I find every winter that I am craving things that don’t fit into the bustle and rush of parties and gifts. Rest. Stillness. Space.

Of course, I’m not the only one with this problem: everything from the Christian practice of Advent to a million self-help books and retreats is designed to introduce the qualities of spaciousness, deep connection, and reflection into our winters. The tricky part, for me, is doing so in a way that doesn’t feel like one more thing I should be doing!

Over the years, I’ve found a few things that help me: quiet crafting times or writing dates. Going out my camera, which somehow shifts my brain into focusing on what’s around me. Taking walks whenever the weather seems manageable. I also strive to follow one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten: to do one tiny, lovely thing for myself every day.

The whole question of setting intentions or themes or doing annual review is another piece of this that I’ll write about soon. For now, what nurtures you in the winter? How do you hold on to what feeds you in the press of all of the bustle and expectation?

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