Winter rituals for wellness

I am just back from a most beautiful solo retreat on Cape Clear Island, where lots of time was spent walking, swimming, writing, recording, sitting, watching rabbits and other wildlife. I had some wonderful family members and friends coming and going, and of course, Pudsy, my tiny Jack Russell beside me 24/7, so my week wasn’t completely solo.  Of course, the kindness of locals and other visitors to the island provided great company too.  The week was, however, solo enough to delve deep into how we might winter well, the focus of this month’s edition.  This trip to Cape really laid the foundations for some lovely Winter rituals, because it’s time to get thinking about little ways to get organised and cosy for the changing season and lessening light.  

The raw, wild beauty of Cape Clear reminded me of all that is good and simple in life, the notion that less can sometimes feel like more. I deliberately left my laptop at home and had only limited or intermittent phone or internet coverage, no Netflix, no emails, sometimes no WhatsApp. A trip like this for me proved a good measure of my own resilience and resourcefulness and provided time to take stock. The holiday was a prize that my nephew’s partner won, and so it was literally a gift, one that I am very grateful for. My week was one of simplicity, making do with what I had and fostering a reliance on inner resources. I came back a different person, rested in ways, exhausted in others, perhaps a little bit wilder, and brimming with lots of new ideas for mindfulness programmes. Having a clear space and time stoked my creative side.

I was lucky to have a week with plenty of sunshine which is not the case today, the weather seems to change quite significantly every day. I began writing this on the Autumn solstice, equal light and darkness, time to hunker down a bit. Today, as I conclude the article, storm Agnes is making itself heard outside. How do we keep our minds fit as well as our bodies during these often quite dramatic seasonal changes? A steady and consistent morning ritual is really serving me well through this changing weather and the shorter days. Everyone has their own morning habits, and mine have long included a little meditation, a small pot of coffee and some journaling. I get up early because I like making the most of the light. Over the Summer I added a 30-minute mindful movement/dance to my morning, and I’ve managed to sustain the habit, which means that before I leave the house now, I feel myself set up for the day, rested and energised.   

But we are all different, maybe the evening suits you better for a small wellness ritual, or maybe, like me, finding a little bit of quiet time for clearing, sorting and organising for longer term Winter wellness. Because, fuelled by my digital detox on the island, I have been inspired to continue thoughtfully decluttering my home. In stark contrast to my minimalist existence on Cape, and despite believing that I lived a mindful, simple existence already, I was so struck when I came home, by how much stuff I have, as opposed to what I need. This mindful clearing process might take some time but could be the basis of some lovely Winter projects. For example, I have already found some real treasures, like handwritten letters from my grandad, which I absolutely love and plan to share.  

I had already started travelling through the contents of my attic in Summer, giving things away to people I thought might like them, doing a deep trawl through photos, documents, and so on. I can’t do it all at once; some of us tend to move slowly through this kind of emotional processing, paying attention to the detail of a lifetime. I have an intention set now for these longer evenings ahead, to turn off the laptop and other devices and have some quiet time clearing space within and around me. It can be very rewarding, to deliver yet another bag to a charity shop, hoping that someone will take joy in what you once loved. Letting go to let come, not in a material sense but making space for the new.

Reconnect and Re-engage free mindfulness programme for those who feel the need to reconnect and re-engage with themselves, nature and community will run on November 22, 29 and December 6 from 10.30 – 1.30pm. Please get in touch if you think this programme might be for you, it is run in conjunction with CECAS and supported by the REACH fund 2023.

Weekly drop-in compassion-based mindfulness practice sessions continue at CECAS, Myross Wood Leap on Tuesday mornings through-out October (3, 10, 17, 24 and 31) from 10am – 11am.  €10.  All are welcome to join this wonderful community of practice.

For more information,
phone: 087 2700572
or email:

Susan O Regan

Susan O'Regan teaches mindfulness and self-compassion courses and workshops in West Cork.

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