It’s that time of year when, as soon as the clocks go back, everything seems to get plunged into gloom – both literally and metaphorically. Along with less light, lurgeys proliferate, energy levels plummet and the drive to hibernate becomes overwhelming. I find it can take real effort to stay upbeat.
So I thought I’d put together a list to remind myself of what to do when SAD threatens to take over:
- Backbends AND inversions! Not immediately the obvious choice. But I remember many years ago, during a particularly dank and depressing winter spent in the Cambridge fens, I did a self practice alongside an extremely experienced ashtangi. I complained that all I wanted to do was fold up into some forward bends and stay huddled there. He pointed out that if that’s how I felt, I should infact go for the opposite. Of course, backbends energise and invigorate so it was good advice. If full back-bending feels too much, a supported bridge using foam blocks is always a yummy option or putting a rolled up mat horizentally under the v of your shoulder blades, and opening the chest that way, is a wonderful release. And having your head lower than your heart is also great for keeping your lymphatic system working well. Personally, so as to be mindful of my neck, I’m very careful about head and shoulder stands. Here’s an example of a great supported shoulder stand that I’d recommend instead
- Hot drinks. Freshly juiced apple juice warmed in a saucepan with added cinnamon to taste. Or Hemsley + Hemsley’s pep up tea – a delicious blend of lemon, turmeric, ginger and some cayenne pepper.
- The right nourishment. Ayurveda says during Winter, the digestive fire is actually stronger. Think of food that warms you from the inside. I’m a huge fan of the soups in Honestly Healthy’s first cookbook (I’m an amazon affiliate). The slow cooker also comes out in the winter months and having meals on hand which only need heating up, is a real bonus. If I’ve just come in from the freezing cold, knowing all I have to do is sling something in a saucepan and warm it up for an economical, nutritious and delicious meal, makes life feel much easier.
- Sunlight AND Vitamin D. My day job is in a basement. The seasons pass without my knowledge. So daylight is something I’ve really come to appreciate. And it also got to the point that taking a Vitamin D supplement was necessary. In the UK, often the winters can seem like they’re just one long uninterrupted monotonous grey – where you’re not sure if you’ve actually woken up or not. But there have been a few beautiful days with soaring blue skies and that special kind of vibrant winter-y light which accompanies them. In the UK apparently there isn’t enough UVB radiation in the sunlight from October to March, so our skin can’t make vitamin D. So when the blue skies happen, grab them! Even if it’s not giving you enough Vitamin D, at least it will lift your mood. Research supplements and eat Vitamin D rich food. If you eat fish and meat, there’s Vitamin D in eggs, red meat and oily fish such as salmon.
- Cold showers + warm baths It may sound counterintuitive but cold showers are amazing for blasting away any winter blues. Freezing cold water is an easy way to change your mood instantly and get your energy circulating again. After a cold shower you’ll feel alive and invigorated. Watch this kundalini yoga video (informative and funny) to find out how to get the most from a cold shower. That said, there’s nothing to beat soaking in a warm bath at the end of a long, chilly day.
- Go analogue. With shorter days and longer nights, winter is inevitably a time for slowing down. Blue light from smartphones can disrupt the release of the hormone melatonin which keeps our sleep cycles functioning well. So consider reading a great book or journaling with pen and paper before bedtime, and carefully monitor your use of your phone. If you’re not sleeping well you’re more likely to get run down, and if you’re run down, you’re more likely to catch any wondering lurgeys.
- Lift the corners of your mouth up Recently I went to see Frankie Boyle. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea and I wasn’t expecting him to be mine, but it turned out I found him hilarious! Laughter is amazing medicine. So seek out that which makes you chuckle, chortle and snort with laughter. But even smiling has amazing benefits. And even if you’re not feeling it, you can fake it to make it. Just lift the corners of your mouth 🙂 And watch the Indian Army doing some laughter yoga here