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Seven Simple Ways to Brighten Your Life

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Some of us are waiting for snow. Whether you be a skier dreaming of fresh powder for your holiday vacation or are simply looking forward to a snow day or two, the chill of winter is upon us. During the weeks leading up to the Winter Solstice and then Christmas, the days are at their shortest, and our nights are long. It is a wonderful time to get yourself settled in for the shift of the seasons, the coming of the holidays, and the turning of the new year. Here are seven simple ways to brighten up your life as you prepare for the coming of winter and the holidays.

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Plant Spring Bulbs.
Right now is the time to plant those bulbs for early spring blooming. Plant several layers of tulip bulbs in a large planter of in your garden (if the ground has not already gotten too cold). Large terra cotta pots make for colorful bouquets of spring flowers. I layer tulip bulbs guaranteeing the ongoing blooming of tulips in the spring. Other bulbs you will find at your local nursery are Hyacinths, Daffodils, Lilies, and Crocus. If you plant in the garden, you will have little to do except an occasional watering if winter doesn’t bring much rain. If you plant in a planter, you will need to keep the soil moist or place the planters/pots outside in the rain.

Light Up the House. Christmas lights are fun to string around the inside of the house as well as the outside. Wrapping strings around your trees or trellises, or hanging lights around doorways, windows, and mirrors in the house provides the magic of light and reflections during what may otherwise be some dreary winter evenings. Use battery-operated candles (with their magical remote control), and protect your family from fire danger while still creating a warm environment.

Create Some Space. Take time to clear out some space and clean up a closet. Whether you have a small closet or a large walk in closet, see if you can get rid of whatever has outgrown its usefulness, and find a new use for the space. We tend to hang onto too much stuff, thinking, “someday I’ll need it or use it again”. You probably won’t. Use closets to store seasonal things (clothing, outdoor wear and equipment, shoes, and accessories). Avoid using closets as a junk storage space. The same thing goes for drawers, boxes, and other types of containers. Do the memory test to see if you even know what is inside a box, drawer, or other container.

Most of what we store, is unnecessary, and can be recycled, reused, or donated to some worthy cause. For example, teachers tend to save books and paperwork for decades after its has been useful (I know because I did this and I have many teacher friends and relatives who do this). We haul it from one place to another, until one day we finally realize, “I’m never going to use this again.” I think it must be about that part of myself that thinks I’m immortal. At some point it is simply liberating to let go of stuff. As long as we hold onto to things, ideas, beliefs, and outmoded ‘anything’, we have no room in our lives for something new and more beneficial for our growth and happiness. My cousin just gave away all her ‘working wardrobe’--nearly 8 years after she quit teaching. It’s hard to do (ask me about those suits in the back of my closet), but so freeing once we let go. Okay, note to myself. Take the suits to Deju Vu.
So lighten up this season by letting go of what you can do without.

Clean out the Cupboards and Fridge. Again, with the fridge. Seasons signal not only the change of the weather but also a shift in our eating and activity patterns. Go through your cupboards, drawers, pantry, and refrigerator to see what is not being used. Again, we often buy food because we think we ‘should’ eat it; we don’t eat it but it remains on the shelf anyway. Get rid of whatever that is. Throw out all the outdated spices, packaged and canned goods, and change the box of baking soda in the fridge and freezer. Change the batteries in your flashlights, smoke alarms, and CO2 detectors. Make sure your electrical appliances are protected by surge protectors. Have a supply of candles, matches, battery-operated lights and a radio. Have enough food and water in the house for emergencies (black outs during storms). Stock up on what you need and use. Buy in bulk with products you will always use (toilet paper, water) and don’t buy products that spoil in bulk (peanut butter, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables).

Lighten Up Your Diet. Wintery months find us hungrier than at other times of the year. We burn more calories when it is cold, and so we may be inclined to go for comfort food more often than not. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter or table (to encourage healthy snacking) and bouquets of herbs and veggies on the kitchen counter (parsley, cilantro, oregano, basel). Prepare organic celery, jicama and carrot sticks to keep on hand in the crisper, easy to reach for snacking. Stuff the celery sticks with almond butter or cream cheese. Pears and peaches are also delicious and refreshing snacks for winter.

Learn to prepare creamy-type soups without all the cream. Prepare vegetable and squash soups, using seasonal veggies that are packed full of vitamins and minerals, and that satisfy our need for a hearty meal. Remember to drink plenty of water (8 glasses a day), and get enough healthy oil in your diet to keep your skin from drying out and chapping (Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Flax Seed Oil, and/or Evening Primrose are healthy choices for oil intake). Of course, everything in moderation, and each person has to decide what works best for them. We need a certain amount of fats in our diet, and we need to not overdo our intake of any one element. Balance is the key. Get plenty of exercise. Bundle up and get out of the house for some fresh air, a brisk walk or run, and keep active. Clear a space in the house to do a morning yoga, pilates, or stretching routine. Take breaks from your work, and keep moving.

Lighten Your Mood. Have some fun. Play games, invite a friend over for dinner, or go to the movies. Make popcorn, and watch a movie at home. Go to the library and get a stack of books to read. Check out your favorite chidlren’s book, and reread it now that you’re grown up. Play scrabble, word games, charades, or dominoes. Pull out the board games. A fun game of Candy Land or Fibber might lighten your mood. Play chess or checkers, or have a poker or hearts party with your family or friends the next time you’re together. Set up the ping pong table in the garage or basement, and get a tournament going. Fix up an old bike, and start riding again. Go ice skating or roller skating, or head to the bowling alley or the miniature golf course. Go for a walk on the beach or hike up your favorite trail. Get outside and have some fun, and if it snows, enjoy how life slows down and gets quieter than usual. Take it in, and let it soothe your soul and calm you down. Enjoy the lightness of being, and breathe more mindfully as we move deeper into the winter.

Look for Inspiration. Read something inspiring (sacred writings, poetry, a novel, or the autobiography of someone great). Make a list of your favorite quotes. Write up some poetry and/or words of inspiration to give to someone special in your life (I’m doing this for my Granddaughter). Read the Christmas Story if you are celebrating Christmas. Read the sacred stories of your traditions, and remind yourself of your relationship with those traditions. Read something written by your favorite writers. Reread something that always lifts your spirits, or write a poem, a haiku, or a letter for someone special. Draw, paint, or photography something you find uplifting, and frame it to hang in a special place in your home. Keep things moving in your life by moving things around to keep your interests, focus, and mind lifted. For example, I put a new photograph in my office and bedroom each season--something to get me thinking in a new direction or focusing on something of importance.

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