It’s dark when you go to work; it’s dark when you come home. And then, of course, there’s the cold. Yes, winter certainly has its downside, but it’s also nature’s hibernation (and consolidation) season. Here’s a five-step checklist on using winter wisely.

1. Your home
The filing cabinet is so stuffed you couldn't stow another page. Plastic containers without lids jam up kitchen drawers. Suitcases bulge with clothes you grew out of, physically or psychically, years ago.

Out-of-sight doesn’t necessarily mean out-of-mind and clutter is an energy-sapping force. It signals procrastination or indecisiveness. And it can make your home a stressful place to be.

Use the winter to systematically go through each room in your house. Anything you don't use, or that has bad associations, must go. You'll find treasures to revive, or pass on, and ancient paperwork to recycle or kindle evening fires. Give anything usable to charity. You know the drill. Your heart will be lighter.

2. Your friendships
A social life has a momentum of its own and less assertive friends can often get lost as we fall into social ruts carved out by the socially proactive. So why not use the quieter cold time to save these special friendships?

Invite seldom-seen friends around for tea and look up the long-lost people you really miss. Neglect can kill relationships, and most of us are far too complacent. But, with a little winter nurturing, you might find a whole new social life has sprouted and taken root by summer.

3. Your physical goals
You’ve heard it before, so we’re not going to labour the point: the lifestyle issues responsible for the bulk of debilitating health conditions out there are 1) smoking and 2) being overweight.

We know the threat of disease isn't a good motivator. But perhaps, this winter, spend some time thinking about the lifestyle you choose for yourself, the quality of life you want and what would make the people you love happy.

4. Your brain
As with friendship, neglect and complacency can truly "undo" your brain. Your actual nerves, or grey matter, are mostly determined by your genes at birth. But your white matter – the insulating "telephone wire" that helps transmit information – continues growing until you're about 45 or 50. As long as it's good, people won’t treat you as if you need special care.

What separates people with minds nimble as kittens from those who process thought like lumbering old Labradors is the amount of exercise they give their brains. Reading a book every week is the brain’s equivalent of a brisk daily walk. So take to that armchair with a riveting read and make this the winter you start turning off the TV and tuning into books.

5. Your five-year plan
Now is also the time to look to your heart. Are you living your dreams, using your talents, and feeling passionate about what you do? Are you happy with the steps you've taken since last winter? Can you live with the compromises you’ve made?

If not – and for some people work and passion can never really be aligned – then take time this winter to draw up a five-year plan that’s going to take you from where you’re now, to where you want to be. It might involve altering your geography. It might involve further study. It might also involve cutting ties or starting over. But, if the goal is your fire, then make it happen.


>> Stay healthy this winter
>> Health winter eating
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