The wind is mighty chilly. The heater is blasting all night. The smoke from the fireplace is lingering in the air. And perhaps you’re feeling a bit blue. Is it from the news or the cold, dark days? Wintertime takes its toll and wreaks havoc on the body, mind, and spirit.
Ayurveda is the “science of life” or the holistic health system that originated in India and includes wholesome lifestyle, nutrition, therapeutic bodywork, and prevention and treatment of disease. According to Ayurveda, the cold, dry, light, windy, rough, Vata qualities of winter can lead to several imbalances, such as:
- Dry, cracking skin and joints
- Cold hands and feet
- Weight gain
- Lethargy and sadness
These are also indications of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a pattern of “winter blues” and other symptoms due to shorter daylight hours and less natural light.
In the book Positive Options for Seasonal Affective Disorder, authors Fiona Marshall and Peter Cheevers suggest that creating routines in the winter can allow you to feel more in control and lessen the guilt that may come with feeling sluggish this time of year. They suggest: “View autumn and winter as a chance to slow down and allow yourself to take life easier. Slip into a different rhythm from that of the busier days of spring and summer.”
Establishing a consistent start can help you start your winter days on the right foot. No matter what pops up on your newsfeed, whether or not that driver flips you off, or what challenges arise throughout the day, you’ve already set the tone of self-care. Whether you’ve got kids or pets or deadlines, this time in the morning is for nourishing you.
These suggestions for morning habits are inspired by traditions in Ayurveda; however, the invitation is to try them out, do what feels right, skip the ones that don’t, add ones that balance you best. They can be done in any order. Whether you’re already an early riser or more of a drag-myself-out-of-bed, stumble-to-the-coffeemaker, why-is-it-so-bright, kind of person—these tips will help you get a jump on your day.
Rise with the Sun
- Set your alarm 15, 30, or 60 minutes earlier to make this happen.
- See the natural light arrive through the windows and start your day.
Scrape Your Tongue
- Get a tongue scraper at your local health food store or online, or use the edge of a spoon.
- Start at the back of the tongue and pull forward several times.
- Rinse the scraper in between swipes.
- The built-up crud is called ama, considered the root of many diseases.
- Brush your teeth and floss while you’re at it!
Wash Your Face
- Use warm water and organic soap.
- Splash your face five to seven times.
- Pat your face dry with a clean towel.
- Spread on a quarter teaspoon of coconut oil to lock in moisture.
- Start with a blank page and a pen you really like.
- Write anything! Express gratitude for what you have. Draw a picture. Write down five goals you’re working toward.
- If you’re writing turns into a to-do list, get out a separate piece of paper.
- Sometimes it’s helpful to choose an intention card or consider the moon phases or note if it’s a special day and write on that. Write about what you’re looking forward to in your day, what happened last night, what’s going on this weekend, or your private thoughts about world events or about your community.
- (I do this while I journal. A two in one!)
- Prepare warm water to flush the digestive system.
- Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, enjoy ginger tea to warm the digestive fire, or sip St. John’s Wort, known to ward off depression and seasonal sadness.
- Although Ayurvedic winter recommendations encourage little or no caffeine, if you must drink coffee, do so mindfully, taking each sip with care and awareness.
Sit in Meditation
- Find a comfortable seat on a cushion or chair. You can sit out side if it’s warm enough out, you can sit with your dog licking your hand, or with your kids playing nearby. Just sit.
- Set an alarm for five to fifteen minutes.
- Sit in stillness and focus on your breath.
- Find a guided meditation or sit in silence.
- Open the door and let the rush of winter air hit your skin
- Open the window and suck in deep breaths of fresh air
- Get the body moving. Bundle up. Take a brisk walk. Notice beauty along the way. The Vitamin N (for Nature!) will be invigorating.
- If it simply isn’t possible to go outside due to weather, safety, injury, or otherwise, go to the window and open up the curtains. Let as much natural light in as possible. Gaze out the window and visualize yourself walking (skipping! jumping! dancing!) down the street.
- Begin with Sun Salutations to welcome the day.
- Let your intuition guide you to flow through any poses that feel good in your body.
- Stretching your legs and lower body are great to start your day grounded, stable, and confident.
- Stretching the shoulders and upper body helps energize the body and start the day with an open heart.
- Use a natural bristle brush.
- Brush long, repetitive strokes from the outer limbs toward the heart.
Abhyanga or Self Massage with Oil
- Pour a few teaspoons of organic sesame or coconut oil into your palm.
- Deeply massage over your entire body.
- (I used to think this would take forever but it only takes me about one minute! One minute of self-nourishment!)
- Rinse and wash to start your day fresh.
- Make something nourishing and delicious for yourself.
- Include warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger (such as in oatmeal or a warm apple dish).
- Eat cooked and protein-rich meals and locally grown foods that are in season.
Enjoy your day!
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Marshall, F., & Cheevers, P. (2003). Positive options for seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Self-help and treatment. Alameda, CA: Hunter House.
Richard Louv. (n.d.). Home - Richard Louv. Retrieved from http://richardlouv.com/
Sharma H. (2015). Meditation: Process and effects. Ayu, 36(3), 233–237. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.182756