How to Beat those Winter Blues

winterbluesAfter the hustle and bustle of the holidays has come and gone, I’m ready to get on with springtime. For me, this means about 3-4 months of waiting and wishing and whining about the weather. I’m less interested in my health, being active, and lack motivation. I know that a lot of my patients feel the same way and this cold winter weather brings about more than just increased aches and pains – we start to get depressed.

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s a type of depression that occurs during a certain time of year. For most people, its starts in late fall and continues through the winter months. It can affect mood, energy, sleep patterns, and everyday life. SAD is often correlated to a lack of sunlight, disruption of your circadian rhythm, and drops in melatonin and serotonin. Although you may not be suffering from a full-blown case of SAD, many of us get a little down in the winter. Here are my tips on beating those winter blues so you’ll be ready to enjoy spring to its fullest.

Hang Out With Your Favorite Acupuncturist

I often hear from patients that they want to come in for a treatment but would rather wait until the weather is “better” and they don’t feel like they’re in such a winter-slump. However, weather conditions permitting, keeping up to date with your acupuncture treatments might be just what you need. Acupuncture naturally releases endorphins which make you feel bright and sunny – even when the weather is not so. Wouldn’t winter be a lot more bearable with a happier mood, improved energy, and restful sleep? Not to mention, a nice, warming moxa treatment can banish those chills from your bones and joints and keep your immune system strong to ward off those seasonal colds.

Cook Yourself Happy

Cooking your meals might be one of the nicest things you could do for yourself. Not only does it ensure that you’re getting better nutrition, but it’s time when you can focus on feeding your body and soul. Since winter is the most yin season, it’s best to balance our lives with a little yang energy. The stove is the perfect source. Make hearty, warm, seasonal soups, roast, braise, and bake things. Warm yourself from the inside out – literally and figuratively. We treasure handmade gifts because of the time, thought, energy, and individuality put in to them. Give yourself the gift of healthy, homemade meals and your body will thank you. Read more about healthy eating in the winter here.

Make Moves: Part 1

Human bodies were meant to move. Colder temperatures and never-ending snow (like we’ve had in Indianapolis) can make exercise seem rather unappealing when you’d rather be on the couch watching TV under piles of blankets. We know, however, that exercise also releases endorphins, boosts mood, improves circulation, and is just plain good for you. Exercise is also very important to move your “Liver Qi.” What does that mean?  Less irritability, depression, and mood swings. If you are new to exercising or just can’t find the time to get to a gym, try doing some stretches at your office desk or walk around your office once every hour or so. If you’ve come in for an acupuncture appointment, I’ve likely shown you a Qigong exercise or two. Five-minute breaks at work are a perfect time to practice your Qigong. If you can bear to bundle up on a sunny winter day and go for a walk, that’s even better.winterhappy

Make Moves: Part 2

If you’re bored of hibernating and ready for action then get (gently) going! Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Is there a hobby or project you’ve been meaning to start? Something on your to-do list that keeps getting shoved aside? Now is the time to act. Research has shown that positive behaviors and productivity can banish those depressive thoughts. Even completing a small task everyday can make you feel empowered and recharged. For bonus recharging-power, resolve to accomplish a small task first-thing every morning like making the bed or doing a sun salutation. This will prompt you to get out of bed and you’ll already have an accomplishment under your belt within the first 10 minutes of being up which sets the stage for a successful day.

Savor the Waiting

As someone who would rather be in a sundress than a sweater almost any day, it’s hard to imagine enjoying the winter past the fun of the holiday season. Winter has its perks though, and post-holiday-craziness is the perfect time to really enjoy it. In Chinese medicine winter is a time of thoughtful introspection and R&R. As your energy turns inwards, focus your thoughts and intentions inward as well. It is a great time to journal, read, practice focused exercises like Qigong/Tai Chi or yoga, and plan for the year ahead. Spring is a time of outward growth, movement, and excitement so savor the calm energy of winter while it’s here.

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