The long nights and short, cold days of winter can conjure happy images of warm wool sweaters, holiday parties, and snuggling by the fire. Winter can also, though, mean tiredness, weight gain, sadness and general crankiness. Seasonal depression can be serious, and you should always first visit a doctor to get your vitamin D levels checked, or see about treatments like artificial light boxes or medication. But if you’re only mildly out of sorts, or want to complement conventional treatments, the ancient practice of Ayurveda has ways to help your body embrace the natural rhythms of the winter season and get back in balance.
Eat for Heat
Winter usually means cravings for heavier foods. In listening to your body, look past that hunger for carbs to what you really need – more fuel to stay warm. Hearty soups and stews fit right in with the Ayurvedic principles of eating for the season. This is the time of year to focus on cooked foods, rather than raw or dry, made using natural oils and organic ghee. Support your digestion with spices like ginger, black pepper, fennel seed and coriander. Drinking a daily chai tea heavy with cardamom and cinnamon is a natural way to boost your mood. Cinnamon has also been found to increase memory and concentration.
Cold winds and overly enthusiastic indoor heating can take a toll on your skin, leaving it dry and flaking. As well, the lower temperatures and more sedentary ways of winter can lead to poor circulation. A way to remedy both these problems is through massage. Ayurveda recommends massage with sesame oil for warming and circulation, and almond oil for healing dry skin. It doesn’t have to be an appointment with a massage therapist, taking a few minutes for yourself, after the shower or before bed to can go a long way towards rejuvenating you.
Get Up and Get Moving
Exercise is a proven way to improve mood and increase energy. It also raises the core body temperature to help you achieve that all-important heat. Unfortunately winter is a time when sluggishness is at its peak. Don’t beat yourself up over unrealistic fitness goals, instead focus on moderate, regular exercise, like early morning yoga, or lunchtime walks. Try for group activities or classes that bring a social – and fun – aspect to exercise. It’s important for balancing out winter solitude.
Also Sit Still
Meditation is there to help bring clarity to thoughts that can run dark and heavy. Try taking ten minutes out of your day to focus on your breathing and on being mindful of the present. As well, listen to your body. Fighting the urge to go to bed early on a dark, winter night, or to read a book on a comfy chair rather than running errands in the snow, will only leave you feeling frustrated and out of sorts. Ayurveda is about living in harmony with the seasons and part of winter’s appeal is the chance to slow down and reflect on the year that was and the one beginning.