It’s here fellow New Yorkers, the “dead of winter” has officially arrived. I am not sure who came up with such an uplifting name for it, but indeed, it is an apt description. The months of January and February arrive and some how many of us sink into a mild to moderate state of dread as we embark on that stretch of winter that never seems to end. Despite the gusto of the many new years intentions and upcoming ski trips, something curious occurs and some of us find ourselves in the midst of a bleak, irritable, and fatigued experience of daily life. I notice it in myself as a mild lack of focus, a desire to close my eyes and rest my head at every possible break, and feeling that even the simplest tasks are as arduous as lifting a 10 ton block of cement. It’s not ideal.
I have not mastered the secret to avoiding the winter blues because I think they are inevitable, it is part of nature. However, I have come to understand that there is a process to it and the more aware we are, the more we can participate in the process with empowerment. The body is always shifting alongside the shifts in nature. In wisdom practice, we observe those shifts and work in flow with them to support ourselves.
So, first things first, the winter blues are REAL, it is a real thing, there is an ACTUAL chemical shift that occurs: darker days, less sunlight, and the increased sugar, carb, and alcohol intake of the holidays culminates into a series of many things in the body, one of which is a drop in serotonin. Serotonin aids in maintaining mood stability, healthy metabolism, healthy digestion, and strong immunity. With no judgement of yourself for feeling so crazed and low, start by accepting that this is true and you are not weak because of it.
Then, stock your fridge and cupboards up with winter aids. Vitamin D is a big one. A safe bet is to get 1000 IUs daily, look for vitamin D3, and generally the body absorbs gel caps better. Healthy carbs such as sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, andsquash can help increase serotonin levels. If you buy these things and they tend to rot before you get to cooking them, then consider grabbing frozen vegetables, they are healthier than canned veggies and easy to cook.
Next, get your heart rate up daily; go for a walk outside, walk up and down the stairs at work for a 15 min workout during lunch, do a 15 minute rotation of push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges first thing in the morning, and/or go to yoga class. Backbends in the morning are also very enlivening postures; doing 5 rounds of bridge or cobra pose will activate the nervous system and invigorate the body (see images below for guidance). Advanced yogis, consider doing headstand for 10 breaths or up to 3 minutes, it is stimulation for the pineal gland which regulates our circadian rhythms.
Boosting your circulation will flood all nutrients into the dark and distant corners of the body that sometimes get neglected when we quiet down and nestle into the blues.
All in all, the practice is one of paying attention and choosing to actively support the body rather than falling prey to feeling victimized. Feeling good takes effort…and wouldn’t you rather feel good?
Baby Cobra Pose