Winter Blues can be described as a winter body, winter mind, and a winter heart. A winter body is dry, itchy, irritable, prone to a weakened immune system, and lethargic. One experiences a change in appetite, especially a craving for sweets or starches; weight gain, and fatigue. A winter mind is dull and depressed, with a tendency to oversleep, and has difficulty concentrating. A winter heart is very sensitive to mood swings and avoids certain social situations.
These conditions or symptoms may exist in combination or alone. In some people, they are more exaggerated than others, and may also vary as per the duration of the winter season, the intensity of it, the social support system, individual immunity and coping techniques, and the strength of mind. It is more common in women and residents of Northern states, where winters are longer and drearier. At times when the symptoms aggravate and intensify it is also called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Natural cures for combating winter blues
Try one or a combination of the following simple natural cures. These remedies aim at reducing stress and prepare the mind and body for the changing season so that one enjoys the transition instead of avoiding it.
Body: fatigue, exhaustion, laziness, oversleeping
Warm showers and baths: A warm shower has a relaxing effect on the muscles and nervous system. Taking warm showers during the winter season is soothing for the body and softly awakens the body to start functioning for the day.
Sun bathing: It has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Exposure to sunlight improves health and enhances the resistive powers of the body. When the sunlight shines on our eyes, this transmits a signal from the eye to the brain to make more serotonin. Infrared rays are the most important component among the three kinds of rays which benefit the body. They impart heat. The warmth of these rays relaxes and soothes muscles, reduces swelling, and relieves pain. The white light of the sun is made up of the light of seven different colors, as seen in the rainbow. Each color has its specific effects on the body, thus making it natural color therapy. Ultraviolet rays are of special importance. Vitamin D is produced in the body by the action of ultraviolet rays falling on the skin.
Lemon tea with honey: A study at the University of Maryland’s Medical Center has proven that the aroma and taste of lemon with its high content of Vitamin C can reduce fatigue. Lemons contain antioxidants and prevent infection that often leads to fatigue and exhaustion. Drink at least two to three cups of tea by squeezing the juice of half a lemon in a cup of hot water and add honey to taste. This is by far one of the best teas for detoxification, weight loss, and boosting energy levels.
Sun salutation: A couple of rounds of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar), with or without mantra chanting, is excellent to keep the body healthy and active during winter. It awakens the nervous system and increases/balances the serotonin levels, which makes one feel good and happy. A ten- to fifteen minute practice everyday can go a long way in keeping you healthy.
Mudra: Practice Prana Vayu mudra, three times a day for five minutes each, to increase the flow of pranic energy in the body. It removes the blockages in the energy pathways and increases the absorption of essential nutrients from the nourishment (food, water, sunlight, air) we feed the body. It helps in pumping life force into the body.
Body: dry skin, scalp and lips
Moisturizer: Mix one teaspoon of glycerin, one teaspoon of distilled rose water, juice of half a lemon, one teaspoon of Aloe Vera juice, two teaspoons of olive/almond oil, plus one drop of essential oil (lavender/ sandalwood/rose). Mix it properly and use everyday on the whole body after a warm shower. You may increase the quantity of all the ingredients as per the amount you want to make and store in the above-mentioned ratio.
Hair oil: Mix one teaspoon of olive oil, a half teaspoon of almond oil, one tablespoon of sesame oil and warm it over the burner. Apply this oil with the fingertips on the scalp in a circular motion. Leave it on the scalp for 45 minutes before a head bath. Do not shower with too much hot water.
Lubricate the body internally: Regular intake of flax seed oil, fish oil, Clarified butter (Ghee), in small quantities as part of your diet in winters, is highly beneficial for the body’s oleation. Alternately, you may also apply Clarified butter (Ghee) in your belly button after meals to keep the lips moisturized, reduce chapping, and prevent cold sores.
Mudra: Practice Varun mudra (join the tip of the little finger with the tip of the thumb, keeping the rest of the fingers straight), twice a day for five to ten minutes each, with one or both hands, to activate fluid circulation and absorption in the body.
Body: cold and allergies
Diet: A quantity of 500ml of carrot juice or a combination of carrot juice with beet juice and cucumber juice has been found beneficial in the treatment of allergies. In the case of mixed juices, 100ml each of beet and cucumber juice should be mixed with 300ml of carrot juice to prepare 500ml or half a liter of mixed juice. This should be taken once daily. Practice juice fasting regularly. This will cleanse your system of toxins and residues. Regular intake of lemon juice in a warm cup of water, sweetened with honey, throughout the winter season is an effective remedy for cold and allergies due to the high content of Vitamin C.
Mudra: Ling/Angushta mudra is great in lymphatic drainage; clearing up sinuses; de-congesting the bronchioles; and increasing heat in the chest cavity.
Yoga: Practice forty minutes of Yin/ restorative/slow-paced yoga everyday with a combination of asanas, mudras, Pranayama and Shavasana. This is a great way to boost the immunity and balance the metabolism and nervous systems. Special focus on Pranayama like Nadi Shodhan, Bhastrika, Kapalbhati and Bhramari help in conservation of energy, detoxification, and balancing sleep patterns. A long twenty-minute session of Yoga Nidra can be highly beneficial for restoring energy and dealing with deep-set emotions and cravings. Special focus on postures like Simhasana (Lion pose), Balasana (Child pose), Matsyasana (Fish pose), Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist) are strongly recommended.
Massage: Massage mustard/sesame oil every night on the foot soles, rubbing it vigorously from the heel to the toes with your palms (108 times back and forth, approximately for five minutes). This will keep the body warm and activate all the major reflexology points on the foot.
Rose petals: Boil a handful of rose petals in a glass of water. Add agave nectar/honey/crystal sugar to it as per your taste and drink it twice daily. You can also drink Rose Petal tea available in health food stores. It has a mood enhancing effect on the mind and induces a sense of well-being. Sniffing essential oil of rose once or twice a day may also bring a happy feeling. Mind responses very well to aromas.
Nutmeg and Indian Gooseberry (Amla): Mix one-eighth teaspoon of nutmeg powder with one tablespoon of freshly squeezed Amla juice. Take this mixture thrice daily.
Herbal teas: Teas like Chamomile, Liquorice, Cardamom, Tulsi, Rose Petal, and Sage have very uplifting effects on the mood. You should not drink more than three cups a day.
Almond oil head massage: Having a professional massage is not only de-stressing and relaxing, but it also increases endorphins, eases depression, and inspires an overall feeling of well-being. Massaging the body and head with herbal oil and then having a hot water bath does wonders for the body and mind.
When ready to sleep, focus on your exhalation. Exhale eight times lying on your back, sixteen times lying on the right side and thirty-two times lying on the left side to calm down and balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, thus inducing balanced and deep sleep.
Meditation: Meditation on a single object (light, dot, Yantra, color, circle, or breath) is an excellent way to increase the focusing ability of the mind. This technique is called Tratak and is highly praised among yogis for its therapeutic and spiritual benefits.
Mudra: Practice Gyan mudra once everyday during meditation for ten to fifteen minutes to release undue stress from the mind and calm the nervous system. This mudra also helps in activating the brain cells; increases oxygen absorption; and directs the flow of pranic energy to the brain for higher functions.
Disclaimer: If you are experiencing any or several of the symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about your condition. You must verify with your physician before applying this article’s suggestions to your individual situation.
Indu Arora, Ayurveda and Yoga Therapist considers herself a student for lifetime. She has been sharing about Yoga philosophy, Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda since 1999. She is inspired by and taught under Kriya Yoga, Himalayan Yoga, Kashmir Shivaism and Sivananda Yoga lineages. She has studied both Yoga and Ayurveda in a traditional Guru paramapara setting. Her teaching style is rooted in empowering and inspiring students to awaken the inner Guru. Her core philosophy is, ‘Nothing has the greatest power to heal, but Self!” www.yogsadhna.com