Winter Survival Guide 2020/21 - OCTOBER

(See my earlier 'Welcome' post that sets the theme for this series)

The theme for October is REFLECT.  

Things to think about:

I know, it’s been a strange year. Challenging times. We’re all feeling a bit ‘done to’.

Let’s assume that today you’re fine. Some showery, blustery weather is normal for October, and there’s still plenty of bright hours in the day. (The photo I found - below - to accompany this post seemed a nice choice for ‘reflect’ – and is just a snap on my phone taken in early October 2018). Take a moment to reflect on the lows but also the highs of the last few months. What did you find, try, hear, read, learn? What did you have to get used to, or have learned to manage (without), throughout lockdown and social distancing? What useful habits did you acquire? What baggage are you still carrying around?

Look back, between the cracks. What went well for you? What did you start, what unexpected conversations did you have? Alongside the disruption there has also been a recurring thread of gratitude – at the very least for the return of tinned tomatoes on the shelves, for the technology that (though wearisome) has enabled us to stay connected to friends and colleagues.

This is not an ‘everything is awesome’ moment, but rather taking stock and doing something that feels a lot more empowering than ‘making the best of things’.  

Things to do:

1)     Start a gratitude journal. You’ve probably heard about this, and this is the moment to put it into practice. Not on the laptop or on your mobile, but rather a good old-fashioned notebook and pen. There’s something particularly cathartic about putting your thoughts down by hand. The one I’m using (in the picture above) was all of about £3 in Flying Tiger. You don’t have to write every day, but buy a book you like the look and feel of, and keep it visible on your desk or nearby. Then when you feel like it – and sometimes when you really don’t – make a short list of 3-5 things that you’re grateful for today. Keep it really simple – a great cup of coffee, an interesting article, a conversation that you enjoyed – and keep it up. You could start with the answers to the questions in the top section. The neuroscience behind this says you can actually rewire your brain to notice the good things, when you form the habit of doing so. There’s a reason why I’m putting this one first: start to train your brain to notice the positives before the season throws some harsher things your way. Which it might. And that’s fine – you’ll be well prepared. 

2)     Plant a pot of bulbs. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a garden, if you have a postage-stamp space like mine, or don’t touch the one you do have. Find a great big pot, and plant some crocuses or daffodils. You can then joyously ignore them - they will sit there quietly all winter, and when you are most in need a little boost of life they will turn up. Just do it. Monty Don gets all clever and plants them in layers, but you can keep it simple if that’s your thing. I’ve just bought a huge bag of daffodil bulbs for under a tenner online. My first time – it’s always interesting to try something new.

Tools and resources:

Great TED talk on the science behind why gratitude works, by Dr Tanmeet Sethi (16 minutes):

Here’s where I bought my bulbs. I don’t even have a proper garden, and I still managed to gaze at beautiful things for about half an hour (for those less easily distracted – 10 minutes):

Some beautiful notebooks here. I definitely recommend choosing something that’s aesthetically pleasing:

Monty doing his thing (4 minutes):