After spending an awesome couple of weekends presenting Chair Yoga at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in Sydney and Melbourne, it got me thinking about how we can take care of these three essential parts of ourselves during the coldest season of the year.
If you find yourself feeling a bit ‘meh’ in June, you’re not alone! There’s actually a scientific basis for the winter blues - and it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD :( Research shows that around 1 in 300 Australians are affected by SAD every year, with symptoms ranging from lack of motivation, low mood and oversleeping to changes in appetite and carb cravings.
But instead of curling up in bed until springtime, here are some surefire ways to beat those winter blues.
Feed your mind
It’s easy to fall into a bit of a mental slump when the weather is miserable, but an active mind helps stave off the effects of seasonal (or any) depression. So if there’s a hobby you’ve been thinking about taking up, winter is the perfect time! It could be anything that suits your interests, like learning a language or an instrument, doing a winter sport or writing a blog. Bonus points if your new hobby is a social activity as well, such as joining a dance class, community group or choir.
Sometimes, winter can feel like the loneliest time of the year because everyone you know is in hibernation mode. Studies have shown that we can prevent loneliness by maintaining strong social connections - and it IS actually possible to keep up a busy social life indoors. For example, you could host a dinner party for your family, or get your friends together for a board game night.
Nurture your body
While it’s important to look after your body all year round, we need to pay special attention during the dark winter months. Because you’re exposed to less sunlight, you might be lacking in Vitamin D - which can have a negative impact on your bones and muscles. Make sure you’re topping up your body’s supplies with sunlight when you can. Melanie Olde (Naturopath) recommends eating foods that are rich in Vitamin D, including mushrooms (Maitake and portobello), fortified cereals, tofu and nut milks. Here’s one of my favourite Maitake Mushroom recipes that will send your Vitamin D levels soaring.
It’s also vital to stay physically active, even if this just means going for a walk in the middle of the day when it’s not so freezing! And if you can’t face the cold outside, you can exercise without even leaving the comfort of your couch or desk. Chair yoga helps you combat the dangers of sitting - and just 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference to your physical and mental health. Here is a sequence to help you get fit where you sit!
Nourish your spirit
Just because it’s gloomy outdoors, doesn’t mean you have to feel that way too. Make the most of the shorter daylight hours by moving your desk closer to the window, and brightening up your room or office with plenty of soft artificial light. Remember, music is a great mood lifter as well, so put on something positive and upbeat and maybe you'll be compelled to bust out a few
And lastly, don’t forget to spend some time meditating - it’s great for your mind, body and spirit. Practising mindfulness on a regular basis has a proven effect on your overall well-being, releasing hormones which increase brain activity in the areas linked to happiness and decrease activity in the parts of your brain associated with stress.
It only takes a few minutes to add some meditation to your day. Here are my top 3 tips for getting started in your meditation practice:
Enjoy your winter wonderland!