Some of us love the winter months (you pitta predominant people know what I mean) because there is a respite from heat and so much sunlight. Others of us are challenged this time of year (you Vata and Kapha predominant people know what I mean) because the cold and dark tend to make us uninspired and blue. If winter is a challenge for you or someone you love, read on to learn how to support happiness this winter season.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects many people this time of year. I have struggled with SAD for most of my life. At one point, I took a low dose of an anti-depressant for a couple winters. But, now I know how to combat the Winter Blues naturally. Using tools from Ayurveda, I have found ways to keep my spirit afloat during the winter. The help comes from the wisdom of balancing opposite qualities.
What does that mean? Let's look at how opposites play out this time of year. The environment is COLD, so we need to focus on WARMTH. The days are short and there is more DARKNESS, so we need to focus on LIGHT. The wind makes things DRY, so we need to focus on MOISTURE.
Creating warmth can happen through wearing more layers each day to ensure you stay warm, eating warm foods, drinking lots of hot tea (I am never found without my insulated hydro flask full of tea this time of year), and getting cardio exercise early in the day to get the inner heater going. Oiling your body (instead of using lotion) also helps it stay warmer.
Bring more light into your day by having a sunlamp at your desk or wherever you tend to spend time. Wake up before the sunrise and witness the world become light each day. On sunny days, go outside and spend 10-20 minutes in the direct sun, ideally without sunglasses on. Additionally, eliminating refined sugar from your diet will add to a brightness to your energy, a lightness of spirit, during this season (Don't let holiday parties get the best of you - you can do it). An old Ayurvedic prescription for depression is to take a walk in the early morning toward the rising sun.
Moisture helps us in the form of hydration from water but also from healthy fats. If you tend towards lots of dryness this time of year, drink lots of tea, add ghee to your meals, do a daily full body massage with sesame oil, and use oil in your nostrils and ears to keep those delicate tissues and mucosal membranes lubricated.
The winter is a time to connect with our deeper truths and each other, so reach out to family and friends who bring you alive. If you love the winter, help support someone who struggles with this time of year through connecting with them, inviting them to do things with you, and encourage them to try a couple of the suggestions here. If you struggle with SAD, know that others are there to support you. Try doing some things differently and see what the results are in your outlook and mood.