6 Natural Ways To Boost Positivity
The days get shorter, the cold whisks in and chills you to the bone, and you? You might just feel like hibernating until the seasons change again. Winter blues. They’re real. While this phrase may sound like just another old wives tale, we’ve learned that the winter blues affect many people every year.
While “winter blues” isn’t considered an official medical condition in the Western world, it’s been treated through Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for hundreds of years. In TCM, it’s believed that there are many factors, including seasonality, which can contribute to issues with the mind, spirit, and body.
The primary factors that can contribute to your winter blues are an imbalance of yin and yang as well as a disruption in your qi. You’ve probably heard of yin and yang before; it’s the representation of the two energies that make up everything on earth. It’s believed that we have both of these energies within us and issues arise when there isn’t a steady balance between them. Qi is what TCM practitioners refer to as our innate life force, or energy. Qi flows through each part and organ in our bodies and helps regulate our health and wellbeing. When certain imbalances in these factors happen, it can trigger your winter blues.
Looking to say “bye to the blues”? Here are 5 natural ways to overcome those low winter moods.
1. Eat to Nourish
In TCM, the season of winter is known to be saturated in yin energy. Yin is described as being a feminine energy and associated with darkness, cold, water, slowness, and clouds. Some of those words definitely relate to wintertime, right? Because you are surrounded by much more yin energy than usual, it’s suggested that you balance it with yang energy. Believe it or not, the easiest way to accomplish this is by adjusting your diet.
Like everything else in the world, food contains innate yin or yang energy. Nourishing foods containing yang include hot and spicy foods, pungent foods, warm herbal teas (try cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and anise), goji berries, ginger, and meat like lamb or pork. As good as that sushi or ice cream sounds, you’ll want to shy away from raw and cold foods during the winter as much as you can as these contain yin. You’ll also want to emphasize warm, nutrient-rich, slow-cooked meals. Soups containing lots of vegetables and spices are a great option in the winter. Be sure you get plenty of vitamin C from healthy snacks like citrus, berries, and leafy green vegetables too.
2. Stay Warm
You know when it’s so cold outside that your fingers and toes never quite get warm? And it feels like the cold is in your bloodstream? According to TCM, that might be a sign that you’re being impacted by one of the six excesses. It’s believed that these six elemental factors not only change the weather, but are responsible for causing pathogens to ignite various diseases and conditions on the body.
The two most likely to contribute to the winter blues are known as “cold” and “wind”. While it might seem obvious, it’s incredibly important to maintain warmth if you think the winter blues are getting to you. This is because when you’re experiencing that level of cold, it lessens your desire to be active and social. The lack of these activities also reduces the happy chemicals that are released when we exercise, visit with friends, or go out to parties and events. Thus, increasing our chances of feeling low during the winter.
Many TCM practitioners say that the neck and lower part of the body are particularly at risk of being damaged by the cold and wind excesses. Be sure you wear a scarf, thermal underwear, and lots of layers when going outdoors. And don’t let your guard down indoors, either! Adjust your heat, and stay bundled up with as many layers as needed to keep the cold out of your body.
One of the common issues that people experience with the winter blues is struggling to maintain a positive mental outlook. Many people report feeling increased levels of depression or anxiety. One way to process your thoughts and feelings is through meditation. This practice can be used to clear the head and set yourself up for a more positive day.
In TCM, meditation is recommended to help people overcome many different issues, from mental health struggles, to trouble sleeping, to recovery from trauma or grief. The practice of meditation is centered around keeping your attention on the present moment. Relax all the muscles in your body and take deep, even breaths in and out of your nose. Try to keep your focus on the breath, and let go of any distracting thoughts that might appear. You can also go through a list of things you’re grateful for or repeat some positive affirmations to start your day off right.
Sleep has always been a key component of good health, but it’s more important than ever during the winter if you’re battling the blues. Many TCM practitioners suggest that you match your sleeping habits to the schedule of the sun. That means getting to sleep earlier than normal and waking up later. Do your best to get between 7-8 hours each night. Getting those extra hours of shut-eye will help boost your energy and mood as well as give your body the rest and time it needs to heal each night.
If this sounds like a challenge to you, consider making your sleeping area more conducive to rest. Skip that afternoon coffee, try not to exercise 3-5 hours before bedtime, and for goodness sake, please put your phone down. Light a soothing candle or put on a calming essential oil like lavender. You might also want to practice meditation, yoga, read a book, or listen to music to help you relax and get ready for sleep.
5. Move Your Body
With the cold and wind making your circulation sluggish, it’s up to you to get that blood pumping. In TCM, circulation of blood and qi, or energy, is key to ensuring your body and spirit are healthy. When your natural rhythms are out of balance because of the winter blues, you can help restore the balance with physical movement and exercise.
Don’t worry if you aren’t a regular at the gym, there are many types of movement that can be beneficial. Taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood, stretching or practicing yoga in your living room, or heading to the ice skating rink are all easy ways to get the blood flowing. Of course, many healthcare professionals do suggest scheduling 3-5 days of exercise into your week. Whether that’s weight training, tai chi, swimming, cycling, a dance class, or going for a run, consistency is key. Frequent exercise can help maintain your energetic balance all winter long.
6. Get That Lemon Zest
You don’t even have to drink it, simply bring a pot of lemon balm herbs into your house during the winter. When you’re feeling low, take a deep whiff and allow that intense lemony scent banish the blues. Looking for a little more? A cup of lemon balm tea with a squirt of St. John’s wort tincture works better than either herb alone for winter blues.
How Do I Know If I Have the Winter Blues or SAD?
Studies have shown that the minor, or short term experience of mild depression brought on by the change of weather is considered winter blues. A more serious version of this experience is considered Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you have SAD, you’re more likely to experience the following symptoms:
- Consistent depression
- Low interest in hobbies and activities
- Low energy
- Sleep issues like insomnia
- Minimized interest in food
- Mood swings
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms or think you might be suffering from SAD, consult with your medical professional.