It's easy to pine for spring, but late winter was made for slow living - and it might be just what we need, writes Abi Jackson.
We're about to enter the dregs of winter - a time of year that doesn't tend to get much love. November and December are 'party season', but January through to mid-March, well that's just a drag; endless weeks of nothing but dreary gloom we'd happily do without.
But could we be missing a trick? Think back over the past couple of years or so. How many times did you find yourself thinking: if only I had some time to myself; wasn't so busy; could just slow down?
Well, maybe here's your chance. With a bit of rebranding, late winter - in all its empty-diary, tightened-purse-strings glory - might be exactly what we've been wishing for.
Life in the slow lane
Slow living - which is basically about dialling down a gear and being more present - was made for this time of year. You might be doing it already, or maybe you're desperate for it but aren't quite 'there', but the concept is a simple one.
It's about reframing our approach to time and shifting focus. Savouring rather than rushing. Knowing that sometimes having no plan is the plan. Rejoicing in the joy of a ploddy morning pottering around in your robe, exploring a new Spotify playlist and watching the birds through the window as the good coffee brews, rather than berating yourself for 'wasting time'.
It sounds so basic - and it is - but 'modern life' has made us masters at doing the exact opposite. We're often so used to running on stress and being constantly distracted and 'productive', even when we do get the chance to slow down, we're not sure what to do with it.
"By slowing down, we start living every moment fully. That means taking more pleasure from everything we do. We become more creative and efficient. We eat better, boost our energy and reinvigorate our health. We build stronger relationships. Slowing down also brings an inner calm and gives us the time and space to reflect deeply," says Carl Honore, author of 2004's global bestseller In Praise Of Slow, and 2012's The Slow Fix. "That means we can start seeing that everything and everyone is connected. A slow world would be kinder, more humane and more sustainable."
You make the rules
One of the biggest beauties of slow living is it's something you can just get on with on your own terms, as and when it suits. There is a Slow Living Movement, and of course you can seek inspiration from all sorts of sources, but this isn't about following a rigid formula, or abandoning all commitments and disengaging. Quite the opposite.
Even Honore says he's "not an extremist of slowness. I love speed. Faster is often better - we all know that. But not always better. And that's the key here. Being slow means doing everything at the correct speed: quickly, slowly or whatever pace works best.
"Slow means being present, living each moment fully, putting quality before quantity in everything from work and sex to food and parenting. Ultimately, it's about living your life rather than rushing through it," adds the writer.
It certainly shouldn't add to any sense of pressure either. When we're overwhelmed and overstretched, it's so easy for even self-care to feel like a pressure, another thing we 'should' be doing but are failing at. Honore agrees that this is a common trap, but we can step away from it.
"Part of what drives our roadrunner, always-on world is the toxic culture of perfectionism. The last thing we want to do is turn slowing down into another item on our to-do list, or a stick to beat ourselves with, or a performance to burnish on social media," he says.
"Life is messy and human beings are fallible, which means you're never going to live every moment at the perfect tempo. And that's OK. The secret lies in trying to find the right tempo for each moment, while accepting you won't always hit the sweet spot.
"Embracing slow is a lifelong adventure, where you're always learning, experimenting and pivoting. It's not a thing that you 'get done' and then move on with the rest of your life. It's a way to reinvent your life so you live it to the full."
So rather than wishing the dregs of winter away, how about embracing the chance to live a little slower? I'm voting for two-hour breakfasts and a good Sunday baking sesh.