Mind and Body in Sync

Winter triggers more negative comments than any other season. People complain about the cold, the rain, the ice, the wind, the short days. But even with these challenges winter can be the perfect time to keep mind and body in sync.

Here are just a few things that make my winter more enjoyable and less stressful.

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READING

I’ve decided to limit my time on social media. Too much can be too much. I’ve always favored reading newspapers to watching the news on TV. Lucky me, my husband feels the same way. But I’ve also stopped reading every article. There is a limit to the information we really need.

All around me schools have started to celebrate kindness and friendship to honor Valentine’s Day. To match the mood I deliberately chose kindhearted books at the library this week.

I picked the picture book When an Elephant Falls in Love by Davide Cali and illustrated by Alice Lotti.

when-an-elephant

The story depicts an elephant, doing all the weird, silly things that we all do when in love with someone who doesn’t know our feelings. Watching the elephant eat an entire cheesecake while he wants to be in the best shape for the elephant of his dreams is both funny and touching.

After reading Saving Red, I chose Girls Like Me by Lola St.Vil, another young adult novel in verse that weaves in emails and texts from the two main characters who have nothing in common and yet fall for each other. He is the gorgeous, popular guy (at least in appearance) and she is the girl considered too fat in their typical contemporary high school. She has no confidence (until she understands what really matters).

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These two books remind me that the most beautiful things in life involve love and also happen to those who wait.

WRITING

Always been my way to deal with the world around me. Over the last two weeks I wrote three new picture book manuscripts (now preparing them for submission). Through writing, I remain creative and also grounded.

photo(157)From last summer in Maine. 

MUSIC

Last week, I did a school visit. I included an American and a French songs to my PowerPoint presentation. War and Non, Non Rien N’a Changé are both about the Vietnam War and from 1971, the backdrop and time period of my novel. This is in fact the song War that planted the early seeds of my novel Chronicles From Château Moines. Listening to War reminded me of Non, Non Rien N’a Changé.

edwinstarrWar by Edwin Starr

poppysNon, Non Rien N’a Changé by Les Poppys

I’m happy to confirm that music is a great addition to a school visit. The eighth graders loved it.

photo-45They also loved my pre-Valentine’s day heart-shaped chocolates:)

Today, I selected a few more French and American songs for my upcoming presentations. They are all part of my novel. As I added them to my playlist, I found familiar old French songs that I knew when I was growing up. They have acquired this vintage status that should make me feel old but somehow soothes the world around me.

Music, perhaps even more than any other media, can really transform our mood and bring light when we feel stressed or a little gloomy in the middle of winter.

 

YOGA

I started yoga exactly a year ago. My daughters suggested it, and my husband offered me an eight-class package. I loved the first class so much that the sampling turned into a membership. Although I love challenging exercise, now that I’m the mom of four kids, no longer so little, I listen to the motto: It’s not because the body can that the body should. So I stick to mind body classes and yin yoga with an occasional power class. Where am I a year later?

Besides the expected benefits: more flexibility, lean muscles, balance, better posture, I’ve learned to stop my mind when it starts to wander and in the end gets overstimulated and overwhelmed.

At the beginning of class, most instructors ask us to find an intention and to return to this intention during class when we find ourselves reliving past events or anticipating future events. Staying in the moment, like young children, is the hardest part of being an adult. I always keep my intention very simple. I pick a verb such as FOCUS or LET GO or a word such as PEACE or JOY. Whenever I start to mentally jot down a to-do list, elaborate a plot twist for a story I’m writing, or agonize over my latest manuscript submissions I force my mind to go back to my intention and to breathe. I swear it works. Yoga, especially in the winter when it’s more challenging to hike or work in the yard is a perfect way to relax our body and mind.

photo148Testing yoga a year and a half ago before starting for good

MOVIES

I love going to the movies. It’s a whole different experience to watch a movie in a theater rather than at home. This moment connects us to other people, since we’ve all decided to watch the same movie at the same time at the same place.

La La Land is my number one pick to deflate bad vibes.

For once, this is an American movie with no gunshots and no violence. Just music. Jazz mostly, but also the music that plays between two people who dream big artistic dreams. My husband found the plot simple. He’s right. But the filming is not. The actors are terrific. Who wouldn’t tap dance with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone? The movie has been filmed in Los Angeles and close by, in Pasadena, a small architecturally interesting city that I know fairly well, now that my son studies in the vicinity. The ending is not a happy ending and yet it is a happy ending.

And there are these views from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, a place that I also got to enjoy, thanks to my son.

losangelesTaken when I visited the Observatory

SENSORY SURROUNDINGS

Weather permitting, I always take a morning walk in my neighborhood and often a shorter one at night.

In the winter, nature demands more of our attention to appreciate its beauty. I try to focus on the wind playing in my hair, the sun warming my neck, a drizzle kissing my face, a branch brushing my arm, the earth holding me, the air meeting my lungs. A deep gratitude for these natural elements fills me.

I read somewhere that all French women love champagne and chocolate. Truth is I’m not especially fond of them. But I love my perfume. However, this winter I’m using essential oils, too. Another suggestion from one of my daughters; her brother must have been nearby because he offered me an oil diffuser for Christmas. I use it in my small office. Since I’m new to essential oils and love anything lavender I’ve stuck to lavender. And found out that one single drop rubbed inside my wrist and a few poured in the diffuser are enough to trigger calmness. Also just a drop smells like taking a walk through a lavender field.

If you want to learn more about essential oils you should visit Isabelle (French native who also lives in the US) on her website Univers Aroma. So far the information is only available in French, but if you read French you’ll learn which essential oil is best for headaches, inflammation, loss of hair, cleaning your sink disposal, and easing stress. Lavender seems a good choice! But I feel like exploring many more.

 

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How do you keep your mind and body in sync during the winter season?

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Comments

  1. judithworks says:

    What? You don’t like champagne!!!
    Winter – my least favorite season. Rain and rain here.

    • No, it’s true, I’m not a big fan of champagne. Although I love the elegance of the bottles and long-stemmed glasses, I will always prefer red wine over anything else:)
      I spent very rainy winters in France and I got tired of them too. I’d rather have a good snowstorm followed by these gorgeous New England blue skies.
      Take care, then, during this season, Judith.

  2. Winter is a testing time in New England. I like it. I’ve been drumming and learning guitar (I’m a beginner at both) and also, like many people, looking for more ways to get involved politically. It feels like a coming-together time for me, which is good, because in recent years I’ve often felt scattered and unfocused.

    • Winters in New England can be challenging, but they are also so beautiful. Like you, when I lived there with my four little kids, I always looked for ways to keep all of us busy. Even on cold days we would always go outside, even for a short time, several times a day. We played lots of games and I baked. I also cleaned my closets:) Learning the guitar is such a cool idea. My son is a percusionist and drummer, something I admire too.
      Take care up there, Susanna.

  3. These are (almost) all great ideas. I don’t think yoga and I would get along, but i do feel better when I exercise.

    • Ha ha! It’s funny that few men think that yoga would work for them. The “yogis” insist that yoga is for everyone since the practice requires absence of judgment and competition. With others and also with oneself. And when you start comparing yourself to others and imposing goals on yourself as well, yoga starts to feel exactly the way it should: relaxing and joyful. But I didn’t feel this way when I started.
      In any case, you’re right about exercise. Moving and being phsyically active certainly make us feel better (body and mind). And it’s especially true in the winter.
      Take care with all the snow you just got up North, Dan.

  4. Well that was a full and beautiful post! There’s a lot of living well here.
    I love that you love so many of the same things I do.
    I don’t know that I have to change anything beyond clothes in the winter to feel more in sync. Winter agrees with me more. 🙂

    • Aw…
      I’m glad to read that you like so many things I do, Joey.
      Just curious: do you practice yoga too?
      As for winter clothes: they can be quite beautiful. That’s the advantage when one lives in colder regions. Nice boots. Warm gloves. Pretty hats.
      Take care during this season.

  5. I like all kind of weather, Evelyne. Bring it on! I have to confess spending the last week persuading an overflowing creek that it didn’t want it to eat my driveway was a bit of a challenge, however. But it certainly served as a diversion from worrying about what may or may not be happening in Washington. Basically I am with you when it comes to reading a good book or watching an entertaining movie. As for Lavender, we have a lot growing just outside our door. The deer don’t like to eat it. (grin) I appreciated your post. People do get down in winter. (I had a bit of that when I lived in Alaska.) And it is valuable to have alternatives to sitting around and moping. –Curt

    • I’m not surprised that you like all kind of weather, Curt. I like all seasons as well. Too much rain and grey skies can bring us down, I agree. The lack of light in some countries would be hard on me, I think. Even winters in France when it’s dark at 9 a.m. feels strange and I don’t like it anymore.
      Lavender is a superb bush to grow in the West wherever deer adopt our yards as their homes. Rosemary works really well too.

  6. ah les poppys et le yoga excellente association , pas de neige ici en région parisienne, les enfants sont déçus et moi contente mais je crois que l’année prochaine des vacances à la montagne s’impose car ils ont envie de luge et de bonhomme de neige, bises evelyne

    • Tu es super jeune pour les Poppys, non? 🙂
      La neige, j’adore. Sauf sur les routes quand je dois conduire. Je ne skie plus maintenant depuis un accident, mais j’aime les marches dans la neige et les paysages. Paris sous la neige c’est beau sans les voitures!
      Merci pour ta visite, Stephanie.

      • il n’y’a pas d’âge pour les poppys d’ailleurs je fait écouter mes albums à mes enfants 🙂 oui sans les voitures, il faut être debout tôt le matin pour régaler sa vue sinon ce n’est que boue!

  7. When I moved to California’s Central Valley, the cold, dark, foggy winter days left me in a funk. I realized that I needed to find some sun which isn’t too hard if one heads to the Sierras or the coast.
    When An Elephant Falls In Love looks wonderful – I’ll need to add it to my Valentine book collection.
    I love the idea of sharing the songs from your book with the students. I am sure they loved your presentation.

    • Funny that you mention the weather in California, Claire. I added a few California pics to my power point presentation and some students were surprised to see snow. Kids who don’t know California imagine eternal blue sky and warm sun. When an Elephant Falls in Love would make a sweet Valentine’s gift and is a perfect addition to any PB collection. I wonder if it’s not the kind of book adults love more than kids. I have a couple more presentations coming up and I enjoy them a lot. 🙂

  8. I love the seasons… and I love the different clothes for the seasons… especially winter clothes… and yes, those lovely oils… yes, yoga is wonderful but just given it up for something else called minimum movement – at 79 years yoga is a bit tough. Unlike you, LOVE champagne… have a wonky liver, and discovered that if I’m going to drink, champagne is the easiest on me… and it’s a wonderful excuse to drink only champagne, which all my friends know about, and always serve it to me instead of wine !
    LOve this post,which prods us to look at what we are up to in the murkier months of the year !!!!

    • Thank you for your visit, Valerie and your fun comment. I also love the seasons and enjoy the opportunity to wear different clothes. I must admit being one of few people who aren’t unconditional fans of champagne. Unlike most it gives me headaches, and I never ever have any, so I stick to my glass of red wine 🙂
      I believe in the balance body and mind and try to keep them both as healthy as possible. Winter seems tougher to do that, but it’s in fact a quiet season that can help us refocus and even get more productive.
      And I love the shorter days which allow me to read earlier in the evening. Any excuse to read is a good one for me!
      Take care and thanks again for stopping by.

  9. What great tips, Evelyne! Sometimes the dreary weather does get me down (and waiting times on my submissions). That’s so great that you’ve picked up things like yoga and that you’re self-aware enough to make sure you de-stress yourself.

    • Waiting after submissions is the hardest, by far! But yoga has been amazing for me. To be frank I was not sure about its benefits since I like more strenuous activities. But yoga can be challenging, depending on the practice you choose. And regular yoga is helping me during these agonizing waiting times:)
      Thank you for stopping by, Jennifer.

  10. Yes, to Yoga, though not since I broke my leg, and no walking either… but winter is one of the precious four seasons to me… and I Love winter clothes.. and winter food,,, and winter nights… living in the present means all the seasons are a joy….

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