Combatting the Winter Blues
The holiday season and the start of winter can be a fun time. There are parties, planning, gift giving, family dinners and traditions and a lot of holiday cheer. But the start of winter can also be a stressful time, sometimes even a painful time for many as the worry of family disharmony, financial burden and dreary weather can take its toll. Or maybe you know you suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder or SAD. Sometimes you may even feel like you can’t possibly make it through without some help from your doctor in the way of prescription drugs.
Ayurveda mind body medicine has another solution to give you the tools you need to get through the winter blues without resorting to artificial means of stress reduction. Here are 10 tips from Ayurveda to follow and you will be back to your old self in no time.
1. Wake up at the same time each day and shoot for a 6 a.m. wake up call
According to Ayurveda, there are different increments of time during the day which follow our bio-rhythms. For 5,000 years, Ayurveda has been tracking our nature and our body’s rhythms in coordination with nature’s rhythms. The finding, our bodies feel more alert, awake and refreshed if we wake up just before sunrise. The later we wake up, the more groggy we feel and have a sense of fatigue throughout the day.
2. Take time for meditation or quiet reflection in the morning before starting activity and again in the late afternoon for 20-30 minutes each time.
Our bodies work in cycles of rest and activity. When we follow our body’s natural cycles, we feel more centered, grounded and relaxed. When we resist, such as trying to finish every item on the “to do” list, we feel frazzled, stressed, angry or upset. Even if you do not have a meditation practice, you can do a quiet reflection time by closing your eyes in a room without any distractions and focus on your breathing. This break will bring you mental alertness, clarity and calmness.
3. Keep your “To Do” list to 6 major things per day
The night before, jot down on paper, the 6 top things you would like to accomplish for the next day then let it go. They don’t have to be in any particular order, but 6 is a manageable number and not too overwhelming.
4. Get your Vitamin D levels checked
Not necessarily from Ayurveda but since our limited exposure to the sun in winter can leave us with a depletion of Vitamin D, supplementation may be necessary.
5. Spend time outdoors
Depending on your Ayurvedic mind body type, spending time out in the cold weather may or may not be favorable to you. Try to spend a least a few minutes each day in nature or staring out into a beautiful nature setting spending time and reconnecting to the world around you. We spend so much time in front of a computer, smart phone or TV screen that we rarely take the time to observe and appreciate nature around us.
6. Learn Yogic Breathing Exercises
The breath controls the mind and the mind controls the breath. Learning breathing techniques which help calm the body will in turn calm the mind. You can use these techniques any time you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
7. Reduce or eliminate your consumption of alcohol
The feeling of being blue is enhanced by alcohol consumption. Ayurvedic philosophy believes that alcohol doesn’t nourish the body and allow it to run efficiently and effectively. In waking state it tricks the body into calmness and in sleeping state, it doesn’t allow your body to get a full cycle of sleep. Alcohol also dehydrates the body which is another contributing factor to mood changes and a feeling of stress. Replace your winter cocktails with a sparkling water with lime, lemon or make a ginger elixir which detoxifies the body.
8. Exercise 3-5 times per week
I know, I know you’ve heard this all before, exercise helps life your mood. But it’s true. You don’t necessarily have to hit the gym to be healthy. Take a brisk walk 3 times per week for 30 minutes and take 1-2 yoga classes per week. These two activities will give you a complete exercise program which include: cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility.
9. Ask yourself daily, “How can I help?” and “How can I serve?”
When we shift our focus away from our negative feelings or feelings of helplessness toward others our mood is easily uplifted. Focus your service on what you’d like to do to help instead of what you have to do. Helping out of duty or obligation can sometimes leave us feeling depleted. But when we gain great pleasure on helping other by contributing with our unique talents, we feel fulfilled. What are your unique talents? How can you help others using your unique talents? Take some time to write the answers to these questions down on paper and explore ways in which you can serve others happily.
10. Take time to laugh each day.
Laughter is the best medicine. Watch a funny movie, call up an old friend, play with a child.
At The Ayurvedic Path in Herndon, Virginia we offer the Perfect Health Ayurvedic Lifestyle Course which teaches you these principles and more. We also offer a meditation course called Primordial Sound Meditation where you will learn how to meditate in three short lessons. Take advantage of learning the principles in both of these courses this January and February at The Ayurvedic Path.