In February, the decreased amount of sunlight tells animals, plants, and humans that we are undergoing a seasonal change. Lack of sunlight primarily triggers Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, which can create an avalanche of hormonal problems. When sunlight enters our eyes, it activates the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, our feel-good hormones. Less sunlight means less feel-good. Seeing as we can’t crawl under a rock and sleep until March, as much as we may like to. Here are some natural ways to beat the winter blues that work.
1. Improve Your Nutrition.
Winter is all about stocking up on hearty, nutrient dense foods that will keep you sustained throughout the colder months. In February, these foods still serve an important base for the Ayurvedic diet, but this month is also a great time to start slowly introducing a few lighter ingredients ahead of spring and cleansing season.
Warming winter spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, fresh ginger, and rosemary, along with winter root vegetables, like carrots, squash, and sweet potato, can still be enjoyed and make for hearty soups, and slow cooked stews. However, as spring draws nearer, you can offset them with some light green beans, bitter kale, or a serving of easy to digest mung beans.
This is not a month for a full overhaul on your pantry, but instead an opportunity to help you gently transition from one season to another. If you are new to Ayurveda, or simply don't have the time to actually worry about what foods are best at what time of year, fear not!
Here at the Holistic Highway, we have taken all the hard work out of it for you by creating a one of a kind meal plan. It not only takes the season into consideration so you have fresh, wholesome meals year round, it also takes your unique Ayurvedic body type into account too. Start by taking our modern dosha quiz to find out what makes you, you!
2. Get Gently Moving
By the end of winter, your body can feel heavy, congested and you may feel lethargic. To combat this dull, sluggish feeling you may be experiencing in the morning, start your day off right with some cozy winter yoga.
This routine will help you transition from your warm bed into your busy day with ease. It will also help you cultivate a positive mindset for the day ahead. Best of all? It takes just 15 minutes, and can be performed in the comfort, and warmth, of your own home. Make sure you wear an extra layer if needed to stay nice and toasty during your morning practice.
3. Just Breathe
You can also warm yourself internally by ending your morning yoga with a few minutes of winter breathing, known as ujjayi pranayama. This breathing technique, also known as victorious breath, warms the body on a cold winter morning. It also helps shift the nervous system from "fight or flight mode" (sympathetic) to "rest and digest mode" (parasympathetic) so you can start your day with a calm and focused mind.
4. Invest In Self-Care
After the harsh cold and sharp winds of winter, you may be feeling a little worse for wear. Your skin often takes the worst of it, and can be left dry and lackluster by the time February rolls around. What better way to make use of the last of the dark evenings by taking some time for self-care?
A full body self-massage with oil, known as abhyanga, is like a nourishing tonic to the skin. It moisturizes dry skin, and also stimulates circulation, helping bring color and life back to dull or dreary skin. After a long day, run yourself a warm bath with some epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil to unwind and relax tense muscles.
5. Brighten Up Your Day
Go for a walk on a bright winter day (morning is often best). Bring more light into your home. Trim the hedges around your windows and clean the panes of any grime that has accumulated since last winter. Make at least one room in your home the bright room to which you can retreat on a dark winter’s day. Put your bedside lamp on a timer that turns it on half an hour before you are due to wake up. Better still, get a dawn simulator (they make great gifts), which will gradually light up your bedroom in the morning.
6. Invest In A Light box
If these simple measures don’t work, consider getting a light fixture specially geared towards helping people with SAD. Here are a few things to remember in choosing a suitable light box. The best-researched boxes have fluorescent light bulbs behind a screen that filters out UV light, and an illuminated area of at least one square foot. Again, morning treatments are best – the earlier, the better. Like all active treatments, light therapy can have side effects including headaches and eye strain, irritability and insomnia (especially when used late at night).
While the end of winter can leave you feeling drab and dreary, try implementing some of these natural ways to beat the winter blues. They'll help you boost your mood and prepare you for the impending transition to spring.
In Ayurveda, diet is the most important factor for both prevention and health maintenance, so don't forget to check out our customized meal plan. The recipes are easy to follow, and as an added bonus, the first two weeks are completely free!
The Holistic Highway Team