Look closer, less is more.
With the holiday decorations stowed and a fresh white coat of snow blanketing the East Coast, the new year has begun with a calm minimalist palette. With holiday excess and obligations safely contained within December, January allows us to realize winter’s purpose: to S-L-O-W down.
With fewer daylight hours and cold temperatures, we are evolutionarily programmed to do less and sleep more. Even in our modern world, post-holiday winter evenings are calmer, social obligations fewer. The beautiful starkness of January provides the perfect backdrop to go inward . . . relax, reflect.
For the New Year, I’m sharing a key weight and wellness “secret” I discovered towards the latter part of 2010. I am greeting the new year with glowing skin, a smaller dress size (effortlessly) and most importantly, a sense of inner calm, control and polish. Lately, people have been commenting positively on the changes in my appearance and asking me what I’ve been doing differently; less, I reply. They appear confused. A few months ago I would have been too. When I began my experiment to consciously do less in October, it felt frivolous, self-indulgent and frankly, against my nature.
But to my surprise, all the science I’ve been learning about stress came to life, and so did I when I stopped having every minute of my schedule spoken for. My creativity and productivity have increased. My energy increased. And did I mention that I dropped a size effortlessly?
Most importantly, I’ve stopped mistaking action for progress. Since baby-boomer women took the world by storm, women have been expected to do it all. Should we? If your body is screaming at you with fatigue, anxiety, depression and extra pounds, probably not. Often women are subtly taught to sacrifice themselves in some way, even if this means running in circles to the detriment of themselves and those around them.
So how does slowing down help your well-being and weight? Physiologically, relaxation turns off your stress response. Chronic low-grade stress responses can cause more weight gain than any chocolate cake. Stress releases hormones that increase appetite and store fat. Evolutionarily your body is partying like it’s 1999…B.C., when a stress response in the body meant danger or a faminine— two activities that stimulated appetite while storing fat for survival. This isn’t as evolutionarily advantageous when the stress comes from traffic or a miserable job.
Emotionally, doing less provides a giant exhale. It provides time to dress and look your best, connect with your important relationships, and just enjoy being. This provides a feeling of joy and lightness, letting food off the hook as a surrogate for happiness.
This winter, I invite you to take advantage of the slowness and stillness— to take the time to take care of yourself. Take advantage of your body’s winter needs of 9-10 hours of sleep with naps and an earlier bed time. Fire up a slow cooker recipe . Get cozy with a great fiction book. Check out my upcoming Lithe blog post for other ways to boost Seratonin and ensure that you get necessary winter nutrients.
What I’ve learned these past months is down-time is the new “it” item. It’s the one thing on that rack that everyone wants but thinks they can’t afford. But once you put it on, you will realize you cannot live without it. It will be the best investment you ever make – if living well matters to you.
To a powerful and relaxing January.
Photo by Todd Klassy