Autumn here in the Northeast has passed quickly. It’s already dark when many of us are coming home. There’s been a great drop in temperature and the cold winds reaching down collars and up hems send us scurrying indoors.
This is the season of The Winter Blues or what some call Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
In addition to less light & more bundling, I’m finding that right now its requiring even more discipline than usual to stay positive and happy. For me this demands frequent breaks from social media and the news, daily early morning meditation & Qi Gong and LOTS of deep breathing.
If anxiety and depression catch up with you around this time - YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
This is normal and consistent with what’s happening outside. Energy retreats into the earth in the winter and nature takes a rest. There is a wisdom to this - one that traditional cultures certainly were more in sync with.
Sometimes, however, this inwardness can feel overwhelming and suffocating.
Here are three simple tips that help me tremendously, and have been helping many of those I see in my practice.
+ 10 minutes of shaking--When the weather turns colder, your circulation changes. The blood vessels in your arms and legs constrict a bit - pushing blood back towards your center to preserve heat and nutrition in your vital organs. Cold weather also makes us subconsciously tense our muscles, worsening poor circulation and contributing to all sorts of other muscle discomfort.
Exercise is, of course, great and especially important during this time of year, but perhaps even better medicine is shaking your body.
Let your arms hang loose and floppy, bounce on your heels and move your spine in a relaxed and fluid way. Relax as much as possible while you shake. This fun practice relieves tension and pumps lymph through your whole body, improving immunity and lifting your spirits along the way.
+ 30 second cold shower--Trust me, I know the last thing you want to do is take a cold shower right now! But I don’t mean that your whole shower has to be cold. Take your warm shower as usual and then for the last 30 seconds, turn the faucet all the way to cold. Hop around and shout if you need to. Start small if you want. Try 10 seconds the first time and add 5 seconds each shower until you get to 30.
Or just go for it! For me - jumping right into the 30 seconds (or more) of cold water wakes me up and keeps me tingling for the rest of the day. (I do this after my shaking.)
Taking a cold shower is healthy! Some studies have shown that it increases your body’s concentration of antioxidants which protect your cells from damage. Others highlight the immune-boosting effect of cold exposure. Still other studies point to the activation of brown - mitochondria & iron-rich - fat in the body. This means that your body becomes better at transforming food into energy, generating heat. Yes. Cold showers make you warmer and burn more calories.
+ Social Connection--One big contributor to seasonal depression is a sense of isolation. No wonder this is the season to gather! In addition to the abundance of holiday opportunities to connect with family and community, this is the perfect time of year to sit by the hearth, share stories and nourishment. Reach out, stay connected and have some friends over especially when you don't feel like it. Light candles or a make a fire. Bundle up and gaze at the night stars. Say a Prayer.
And a couple more good ideas ----
+ Food--This is a great time of year to share a meal starring foods rich in antidepressant nutrients such as: Folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), magnesium, potassium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and zinc. You can find them in foods like:
Oysters and mussels
Sardines, salmon, mackerel and tuna
Bone broth (from a good, organic farm with healthy, well-treated animals)
Organ meats--especially beef liver (as above)
Leafy greens and lettuces
Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower.
+ Supplements--in the autumn and winter, even when you have great nutrition, extra supplementation does really help. These are my daily go-to’s for the whole family.
Vitamin D 5,000 IU daily / 1,000 IU for the little ones (click here for my favorite)
Cod Liver Oil--1 tsp for kids / 1 Tbs for adults (click here for my kids favorite)
Probiotics - look for high parts per billion (ppb), multiple strains including Bifidobacterium (click here for what I use)