Winter Challenge: Small Changes

Finding balance

As the cooler months approach, I find myself seeking out cozy indulgences more and more: hot baths, warm blankets, fresh soups, new reads, soft scarves. Building my winter nest gives me a greater appreciation for this time of year as I gradually grow accustomed to the shortened daylight hours and bitter cold evenings.

The winter season evokes a sense of non-urgency that strongly contrasts with the frenzy ushered in by the holidays that accompany it. On the one hand, we freely give into the lethargy that has become synonymous with this time of year while on the other, we fight to resist the rushing around and familiar pressures it brings.

Where do we find a balance?

In between cookie exchanges and ugly sweater parties, New Year’s countdowns and flight delays, we have the chance to slow down: to examine our daily routines and start experimenting with the changes we’ve long thought about making but not yet enacted.

Here’s an example: I recently gave up watching TV. I haven’t owned a television in years and had gotten used to watching shows on my laptop after they’d aired. The few hours of entertainment they offered regularly supplied me with an easy escape route from the week’s stresses.

Lately though, I’d been finding the relief they brought to be short-lived and insufficient. I began comparing my own life with those I was watching unfold over the course of each hour-long episode.

This wasn’t always the case. Sometimes I wasn’t seeking anything more from the shows on my screen than a good laugh or a little distraction. But in giving up TV, I was deciding to seek that distraction elsewhere: in something I could really engage with and had been neglecting in favor of more screen time.

It’s easy to dismiss such transformations as minor, but they’re actually indicative of something much more significant: they represent our values and the authentic selves we desire to be.

It’s been an easy transition so far because I was ready to make it. Not only am I grateful for the “extra” hours I have each week now, but I feel a deeper sense of alignment between my actions and the person that I strive to be: someone who values her free time, seeks enrichment, and prefers deep, sustainable sources of joy over fleeting highs.

An invitation

This winter, I invite you to start experimenting with small shifts you can make to create space for living more authentically. We often have an image in our mind of the person we want to be: someone who volunteers, who exercises, who lives in the moment, who silences her phone during meals, who journals. But we stop short of living our lives in a way that most aligns with our inner selves.

Here are some areas for consideration:

Relationship with technology: Do you have regular periods during which your phone is turned off or silenced? How do you use social media? What notifications do you have enabled and which would you be open to turning off?

Leisure time: What do you wish you had more time for? When you have an unexpected day off, how do you spend it? What hobbies do you keep active and which can you revive?

Socialization: How involved are you in the community around you? Do you feel energized by new opportunities or drained by over-commitment? Do you make room for small interactions each day or are you living in a state of frequent distraction?

Relationships with family and friends: What are you seeking from your relationships? What are they demanding from you? Which relationships could use some TLC and which can you let go of?

Relationship with self: How well do you know yourself? How much time do you spend in self-reflection? How do you treat yourself each day? What messages are you regularly sending yourself? Which would you like to modify?

Health and wellness: How important is your health and well-being to you? What are your exercise and eating habits like? What works well for you and what continues to fail? Do you lead a more active or more sedentary lifestyle? Do you receive regular wellness checkups and routine preventative care? How invested are you in improving your health?

Finances: What are your saving and spending habits like? Where you would you like to cut back and where would you like to be more deliberate? What can you do to improve your financial outlook?

Start small

It’s unrealistic to tackle all of these areas at once. They’re merely meant to get you thinking. If one or two stand out to you, consider how you might begin addressing them. The changes you make need not be big to make an impact. In fact, it’s often the small adjustments that have the most meaning.

If you’re unsuccessful in your first attempt, try again, or pick something different. Think about who you want to be and how you can move closer to getting there. The more our lives reflect our genuine selves, the more fulfilling they become. Start where you are and see what you find.