Socialising my SAD Self - Workshop 6

Published: 20 February 2023

Our final Wintering Well workshop for the season; participants reflect on the role of relationships - old and new - in winter experience

This week we made a return to the Hidden Gardens and Tramway theatre. For what was our last facilitated session until March arrives we were returning to the venue where we had kickstarted the Wintering Well programme in October 2022. Our group now has a familiar feel, making the company comfortable and friendly, especially so when fuelled by home-made Wintering Well Biscuits among the other treats on offer.

 photo of a tub of light almond biscuits baked by a wintering well participant to share with others

The weather this past Saturday turned the sky to a palette of grey-on-grey: thin, stringy clouds drifting across a hazy backdrop. This could be “Glasgow Grey”, as one of our workshop participants quipped – a new product line in regionally specific wall-paint hitting home decor stores near you this winter! For our sixth workshop, we revisited an exercise in patch-of-sky-watching which we first tried in our very first workshop. Once again, participants ventured out into the Hidden Gardens equipped with white cardboard picture frames to hold overhead. The initial monochrome revealing character or colour for some, as discussed in later ‘sky talk’.

After our participants had spent some time revisiting their own wee ‘patch of sky’, they paired up to share observations and feelings. Memories played an important part in what people had to say. This time around, participants didn’t just comment on the new things they noticed in an unfamiliar landscape, but also recalled and reflected on what they had seen and felt the first time. The activity was a way of looking back together, an opportunity to take stock of the passing winter. Participants brought up memories from across the workshop series: the changing appearance of the garden since their last visit; a line or two that rang true from one another’s Letter to Winter; a passing suggestion to place ladders against boundary walls to provide the public with sunset-access to Glasgow’s Necropolis.

a photo of an individual looking at the sky through a large white frame, in the background is a brick smokestack

The workshop’s second outdoor exercise had participants spending time talking together about how much of their SAD experiences they share (or don’t share) with friends, or family members, or colleagues at work. Once we’d gathered as a group back inside, each participant presented some of the personal reflections that their partner had shared. We heard about talking to professionals about SAD, but also about how everyday conversations and encounters – just think of all that ‘small talk’ about the day’s weather – can occasion more social approaches to dealing with the winter, low light and SAD feelings, like sharing tips about how to cope with the darker days.

‘We’ve learned to see things differently’

It was particularly rewarding to hear our participants’ reflect on the ways that the Wintering Well workshops have been a reason to share and socialise their experiences. For some folk this has meant sharing the activities they’ve found positive and helpful with colleagues and friends. Others relayed how simply having to explain why they were busy on Saturday afternoons was a reason to open up a fuller conversation about SAD that otherwise they would likely have avoided. Ending our workshop series with the theme of ‘Socialising My SAD Self’ helped to turn our attention to the wider ‘biosocial’ communities that can form around the discovery of shared personal difficulties. It was also a way of look forward, to ideas for more social activities and informal gatherings that could continue the sense of community which has formed during the workshop programme.

With the completion of our last creative arts-led workshop, the ‘Living with SAD’ project is at a turning point. We’re looking ahead to new participant-led plans for organising further winter social gatherings, and we’re casting back at the many experiences, reflections and encounters that have been shared with us over the previous months. We’re thinking about how we can share these experiences, and of producing resources to support anyone wanting to form their own Wintering Well community.

This week, rather than recommending a specific workshop activity for readers to try, we’d encourage you to go back, to revisit an activity you found useful or return to a place you found warming during the winter. And if you’d like to share it with others, we’d love to hear more about it by email—or perhaps you can start a fresh conversation about wintering well with friends and family, a way to share positive words in the last stretches of a long, hard season.

Next time we meet, it will be spring, and there will be other stories to tell.

First published: 20 February 2023