As the last vibrant gold and reds of Autumn descend into Winter, we’re reminded that change is happening all around us, and within ourselves too. If you live in a country that has marked seasonal shifts, you may notice that how you feel and what you need shifts throughout the year too. In the bright, ‘yang’ months of Summer, hydrating sweet fruits like watermelon and pineapple tend to be more appealing, whilst in the depths of Winter, savoury meals and warming dishes are usually what the body craves. If we listen to these innate needs of the body and mind, we may start to notice that Summer drives us to extroverted socialising and a hunger for adventure, whilst Winter encourages a more introverted lifestyle and a yearning for more sleep. Following these calls of nature is the basis for ‘seasonal living’, something that may sound trendy, but is really the most simple and human practice we can do today.
Seasonal living is only challenging when we forget how human we are; when we spend endless hours in front of a screen; when we choose to scroll through social media instead of looking up and around whilst out walking; when we choose the frozen imported meal rather than humble vegetables and in-season fruits; and when we force ourselves to push on when our bodies are asking for change. Whilst we might all have different demands, abilities and privileges, there are tiny changes almost all of us can make to align with the seasons for our own wellbeing. When it comes to Winter, this is the season to really start listening to your needs – just as animals are preparing for hibernation and plants are hitting the pause button, we too would hugely benefit from understanding that it’s ok to do a little less, it’s ok to slow down, and it most definitely is ok to change from season-to-season. Read on for three ways to start moving into Winter-mode, and the gifts and tools to help you get there.
Care For Your Mood Like You’d Care For Your Immune System
With shorter days and decidedly dark nights, a twinge of SAD or ‘seasonal annual depression’ affects about 3 in every 100 people, and the other 97 are just as likely to feel low if they’re not looking after their mood levels. Whilst the immune system gets a lot of attention in Autumn and Winter, our ‘mood system’ should also play an important role too. Sunlight has a direct impact on neurotransmitters like dopamine, which play a key role in motivation and mood, and which when depleted can also impact levels of depression. As we tend to expose our eyes and skin to less sunlight in Winter, it’s more important than ever to start implementing practices to balance and boost our moods on a daily basis. Here are a few ways you can get started:
A: Expose your eyes to natural sunlight within half an hour of waking. This helps set the body clock, which means you’ll also likely fall asleep a little easier at night. This morning dose of natural light also supports our natural cortisol rhythm, and gives us a release of that motivating neurotransmitter dopamine. Studies show that the later we experience this morning light, the more likely we are to feel low or even depressed.
B: Scent is extremely powerful, and has a direct link to parts of the brain that govern thought and emotion. Use the Scenetred Be Happy Therapy Balm on your pulse points, with hints of uplifting grapefruit, lemon, myrtle and spearmint to lift your spirits. It works so well that Scentered even call this balm ‘sunshine on a stick’.
C: Practicing gratitude can increase optimism, goal-achieving and happiness, but studies show is also has links to reducing anxiety, depression, and illness. When we feel grateful, this helps shift the mind into a positive state, which has big benefits for the body too. Lot of people have a practice of writing a gratitude list in the morning, but if you carry the handmade Petal & Vine journal with you, you can write your list on lunch breaks, whilst commuting, or at a time that suits you. Make it a regular habit and you’ll notice the mood boosting benefits in no time.
I feel like a lot of us feel like we need to slow down, but don’t necessarily know how to. Are you one of those people too? If so, start to see Winter as the season you start slowing down and taking more care of you. Seasons like Spring and Summer are naturally conducive to lots of activity, planning, doing, achieving and generally living life to the fullest, but if we try to live like this 24/7, this can easily lead to burnout. In order to live a more sustainable lifestyle in a way that helps you feel balanced and well, it’s important to shift how much energy you expend throughout the year. Think of Summer as your ‘doing’ season, and Winter as your ‘being’ season. Winter is a time to slow down, relax, dream, imagine, and allow creative, original ideas to enter your mind. If we’re constantly in a stressed-out ‘doing’ mode, we prevent ourselves from being creative and reflective, which means we don’t allow ourselves to explore new ideas and different approaches to life and work. Winter is your down-time, but it’s in this time that we can reflect upon what we actually want in life, whether we want to switch direction, and what we want to bring into the new year. When Spring rolls around again, it’s then time to start manifesting those dreams and ideas. Here’s some tips on slowing down:
A: Swap one of your high-intensity workouts or strong vinyasa flow yoga classes for a restorative or yin class. Those of you who are A-type personalities might balk at the idea, but this is what your nervous system needs. Rest and rejuvenate deeply this season, and your body, mind and nervous system will be so grateful when you jump back into action in Spring. Gift yourself the Yogamatters x Bespoke Binny Turquoise Waves Bolster and Organic Cotton Yoga Blanket and settle in for a soothing restorative practice.
B: Learn how to bring more slowness into your life with Melanie Barnes, who authored the beautiful Seeking Slow: Reclaim Moments of Calm In Your Day. Despite how modern life is set up, we don’t all have to actually be busy, stressed and tired all the time. If we allow ourselves, we can feel more calm, rested and therefore vibrant.
In bright Summer months, it’s natural for us to sleep a little less, but most of us sleep way less than our bodies need to anyway, so this Winter is definitely your invitation to snooze more. If we look at the natural rhythms of light and dark, it makes sense than we need to sleep more in Winter when nights are longer. For thousands of years, this is what our ancestors would have done. With the invention of electricity and indoor lighting and of course Netflix however, it’s too easy to stay up long into the night. When we sit in front of bright screens in brightly lit houses at night, our brains assume it’s still the middle of the day, and we prevent our bodies from releasing melatonin – a hormone that enables us to sleep well. In order to get the sleep we need this season, start to dim the lights when the sun sets, and either opt for non-screen activities in the evening like board games, reading, listening to music or chatting, or wear blue light blocking glasses if you are watching screens. Here are two more ways to encourage better sleep this Winter:
A: Start your evening wind-down session earlier (i.e. don’t try and cram it all in 5 minutes before you want to sleep), by soaking in the Tisserand Sleep Better Bath Salts, and take inspiration from Dakota Hills and Sierra Brashear’s Moon Bath Rituals book whilst you’re there. Having a warm bath about 90 minutes before you want to sleep can also make it much easier to nod off; when we get out of the bath, the body is warm, but as it starts to cool, this dip in temperature triggers the release of melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’ mentioned earlier.
B: After bathing use the Yogamatters Restore Organic Sleep Lotion with deeply calming lavender and neroli. Focus on the arms, chest and neck area for the ultimate sensory experience, then slip into bed and focus on slow, calm breathing to send you off to sleep.
The post Moving into Winter: everyday practices to help you live more seasonally appeared first on Yogamatters Blog.