By Susan Peatfield
Surveys show that the first weeks of January are a “down time” for many people. By this, they mean that they often feel lower in spirits and more “sluggish” at this time of year. Some of this is to do with the sadness of taking down the Christmas decorations, saying good bye to family and friends who have spent the festive season with us, and, of course, counting the cost of Christmas in our bank balances and round our waistlines.
Another theory is that people greet New Year’s Day full of hope and resolutions, all of which often fall by the wayside before January is out. Suggestions for beating the post-Christmas blues vary from extreme exercise regimes to sunlamps and vitamin D supplements. The suggestions that are in this article address the things you can do to warm up not just your own winter days but those of your home and the people you share it with.
Let’s start literally with the temperature of your home. Feeling cold at home is not a good feeling, but unless you have small children or elderly family members then your house does not have to be uniformly heated in order to feel warm and welcoming. The recommended central heating setting is 18℃ (a bit lower and more economical than the 20℃ of most homes). Think about the times though when a bit of a “boost” would be welcome. Perhaps when people come in from work or school or when you are all relaxing in the sitting room. Don’t forget the natural winter warmers of cosy jumpers and hot drinks as well as adjusting the heating controls.
Another benefit of keeping one area of the house warmer than the others is that it becomes the hub of home life. The appeal of the kitchen becomes much stronger to everyone when the supper is cooking and the oven is raising both the temperature and our spirits as we prepare for a shared meal.
The food of the winter months reflects the time when we were dependent on what was still growing and what had been safely stored away. Eating seasonally is a great way to enjoy the best of the food available. Although we can buy tomatoes and raspberries all year round, they will only be worth eating in their seasons. Instead, take comfort and enjoyment in rich root vegetable casseroles, fruit pies and crumbles and salads of spinach, goats’ cheese and walnuts. If you do not have a slow-cooker, maybe this is the year to buy and try one.
One exception to seasonality is to keep buying (and eating) oranges. They are in our shops all year round because different varieties reach us at different times and from different lands. Notice when the Christmas satsumas give way to the marmalade-makers Sevilles, and then through blood and navel oranges to tangerines and mandarins. These are the perfect taste of sunshine in winter.
If you planted hyacinths and narcissi in bowls indoors last autumn then by now they are in flower and scenting your home with the promise of spring. If you did not do this, then look in the supermarkets now for little pots of “tête-a-tête” daffodils with their leaves just spearing the surface, they will soon brighten up a winter window-sill or shelf.
The hours of daylight are precious at this time of year so make sure that every day you see some of them. Not from a train or car window, but on a short walk down the street or local park, or just round your garden. Dressed warmly you can enjoy the special light of this time of year and gain encouragement that in winter the natural world is storing up its energy ready to burst forth into new life – and so should we!