It's winter. It's cold, glum, dark and you don't want to move. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is in full swing, you feel empty, and pasta seems like the only answer to all of life's toughest problems. So what can you do to burst your slump and get back to feeling alive? Here are six crucial things that I always encourage my patients to add to their winter wellness regime.
1. Get into nature.
Many of us are living in a concrete jungle, which taxes our nervous systems creating stress and tension. Over time, this constant stress zaps us of energy and creates low-level inflammation all through our bodies. We NEED to reconnect with earth and water; surrounding ourselves in nature will combat this inflammation. Ever heard of negative ions? The negative ions found in nature are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy. Negative stuff that is positive...who knew?
2. Know your Khavaigunya.
Whaaat? Your Khavaigunya is an Ayurvedic term that means the place in your body that is the weakest. Essentially, your Achilles heel. For example, when some people get stressed they immediately get neck pain. Other people get migraines, back pain, allergies, anxiety, or become emotional. So get in touch with your body, identify the first place that goes out of whack, and then make sure you're nurturing it during winter.
3. Surround yourself with AGGRESSIVE positivity.
Think Richard Simmons. On Bulletproof Coffee. And a truck full of puppies. It's true, that kind of aggressive positivity will help propel you through the winter blues and any bout of moodiness. You are effectively tricking your mind into feeling happy—until it does actually feel happy. The first thing you need to do when you get up in the morning is put on the happiest song you can think of while you brush your teeth, and then on your way to work actually practice smiling at people. Recall five things in your life you're truly thankful for and count them on your fingers. YouTube some motivational videos. Call and meet up with positive people in your life and respectfully avoid people and situations that bring you down (it's OK to say no).
4. Go for some energy work.
Whether it's acupuncture, massage, rolfing, or osteopathy, having someone actively heal your body on a weekly basis is crucial mood-boosting material. Healing work also increases serotonin release, which is another way to get this happy drug into your bloodstream, helping you feel supported, sane, and balanced. And I think we can all agree there's no better way to feel in the middle of winter.
5. Eat light, fresh, and clean.
It's a scientific fact that sugar, processed foods, dairy, and alcohol mess with our moods. Books like Wheat Belly, The Happiness Diet, and The Ultramind Solution outline how what we put in our body directly affects our state of mind and well-being. And the less crap you put in mouth, the less crap comes out in the form of whining, complaining, negativity, or sadness. Try these super foods for a boost: swiss chard, lemon, kale, blue potatoes, tomatoes, oysters, and cherries.
6. Start sweating.
I know this is hard, but getting your butt in the gym, to yoga, to barre, or wherever you like the sweat releases endorphins, gets the blood pumping, and immediately improves mood and confidence. It's going to be a struggle the first couple of times, but starting a pattern of movement will get easier after the third consecutive day. And once you're on a streak—you're unstoppable. Can't manage to leave the house? There's a fix for that, too; find numerous online workouts and fitness channels to subscribe to and get a personal training session right in your living room!
Dr. Paige Bourassa is the founder of Shen Medicine, an Acupuncture wellness practice in the heart of New York City and Shen Medicine South, in Nashville Tennessee.
Paige grew up in Vancouver, Canada and became passionate about Alternative Medicine after having several remarkable experiences with it at a young age. After High School she enrolled in Canada’s first Holistic Nutrition program at the Canadian College of Natural Nutrition and graduated a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. From there she traveled extensively through Asia where her passion blossomed into studies as she began taking an interest in Ayurveda, an ancient East Indian medicine. After living in India for several months she moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to pursue her Ayurvedic training further studying alongside the famous Dr. Vasant Lad at his Ayurvedic Institute. Following Ayurveda, Paige pursued a Psychology degree at the University of Colorado and began to assimilate what she had learned of Eastern Medicine with Western Psychology. Understanding that disease in the body is most often attributed to disharmony within the psyche/emotions, a concept called “Psychosomatic Illness”, Paige was drawn to the integrative philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine where everything is believed to be interconnected. After falling in love with the TCM approach to health science, she went on to complete a 4-year Masters of Science degree as well as a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Traditional Oriental Medicine from Pacific College of Health and Science.