Last week I joined Durango Nature Studies for a full moon hike. While the theme was animal hibernation, of course the plant kingdom has its own version. As the trees are dropping their leaves they are preparing for winter dormancy. So I wondered, should humans be practicing some version of it themselves?
Scientists at the Institute for Wildlife Ecology in Vienna, Austria found that hibernating mammals live longer. They believe the key difference is not competition for food or surviving harsh conditions as is generally thought but rather, less pressure from predators (1). In modern day Western human culture, pressure from predators can come in the form of a lack of sleep and movement; poor nutrition; high consumptions of sugar; being disconnected from natural cycles and light; work deadlines; stress; worry…name your “predator.” When we spotted one back on the African savannah, our physiology prepared us for fight or flight with only one goal in mind: to live. In a term called evolutionary mismatch or maladaptation, modern humans pursued by “predators” often live in a state of chronic stress and are unable to find the “off” switch. And so, it seems to me that we could use the wisdom of the bears and the trees by adopting some form of “hibernation” as we head into the winter months. Doing so can help keep us nourished in preparation for a healthy and productive Spring. It may even help us live longer!
- Go to a restorative yoga class
- Create a home yoga practice that is do-able (short, efficient) and addresses your needs with the right combination of components (postures, breath adaptation, meditation, reading from an inspirational book, praying, etc). If you have trouble waking in the morning, just a five posture practice with the right breath adaptation can serve as your caffeine. Feel free to comment below and I’d be happy to be more specific, depending on your needs.
- Spend time outdoors when it’s light as you are able, seek shelter and “gather around the fire” as our ancestors did when it got dark
- Sleep more when possible – again, as our ancestors did
- Plan ahead for the holiday indulgences by stating what you will do instead of what you won’t do; by remembering your end goal (i.e. not to put on those holiday pounds that get harder and harder to take off each year as we get older); by remembering that to resist those decorative sugar cookies is much more satisfying than giving into them and to be kind to yourself when you do. Berating yourself only serves to sabotage says Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal in her book on willpower.
- Suggest ways you “hibernate”