11 ways to beat the winter blues : Self Care for Northern Living

Honestly, what I've found to be the MOST effective winter Medicine is to be really involved in a creative endeavor. I think of the deep winter hibernation as a diving deep into the creative soul, and working with what I find there... The years I was least affected by SAD and SAD-esque symptoms were the years I was most involved in the theatre, acting in and directing multiple shows at once... In the wintertime here, we make our own sunshine out of our community - there's so many local bands and local artists and local theatre companies - way more than you'd expect for a town our size... Maybe check out First Friday art events where you are if nothing else.

1: Vitamin D : this is so so so huge! Take between 8,000 and 10,000 IU per day for winter maintenance. Vit. D is called a vitamin, but it actually acts more like a hormone in the body, so not having adequate Vit D levels messes up all kinds of body systems.

2: Warm foods : if you eat meat/meat products - BONE BROTH!!! Regardless of dietary preferences, Ayurveda (and traditional foodways of many northern cultures) recommends eating warm cooked foods in the winter time. If you like curries and spicy foods, that's great too! Rather than eat salads, eat roasted sweet potatoes and carrots and beets and bell peppers. Saute or braise your greens. Think warming and nourishing.

3: Epsom salt soaks! These make a huge difference for me. (I used to live without running water , so I rarely took full body baths.)  Epsom salt foot soaks are a great simple option.  To make them that much more luxurious add either your favorite essential oil or dried herbs (I use dried calendula cause its sunny Medicine). And foot soaks are easy, they don't take a lot of commitment to make happen, and you can have your feet soaking fairly unobtrusively while the household evening happens.

4: Facial Steams : in Fairbanks at least, part of the intensity of winter is how very dry it is. So facial steams feel lovely on the face, and also help hydrate the sinuses and mucus membranes. There's all sorts of herbs you can use...

5: Mud masks - on your feet and on your face! This is a great grounding practice, which is especially important during this season when the earth is buried under cold and snow.

6: Hearth: we have a woodstove, and I spend ALOT of time in front of it, hanging out with Fire energy and elementals while I read or sew or eat or whatnot. If you're in an apartment and don't have a woodstove... think about a place that you can cultivate a Hearth and invite Fire energy. Maybe your kitchen stove and/or crockpot; maybe a shelf or windowsill with lots of candles. If you're living with others who aren't on the same wavelength, you can use symbols that aren't super woo-woo or crunchy but still have meaning for you.

7: Any sort of excercise to keep blood and lymph and synovial fluid happy and healthy! Spend time actively IN your body. If motivation is the issue, find a friend to be your partner, either meeting for an at-home practice, or signing up for a class series together. 

8: Breathwork : Nadi Shodana is great great great to balance and clear stagnation. If you're up for a more intense breath practice and/or have a good teacher, Kapalabhati (skull polishing breath) is warming and cleansing.

9: Spend time outside, even if its just to walk around the block, or the five minutes it takes to make a snow angel.

10: Spend time with friends - and if they're wild women friends that's even better ;-)

11: PROBIOTICS! This is so huge for mood (and therefore motivation). The gut's health affects the body's health and the brain's chemical balance in ways that are so beautiful and magical! The Vagus nerve carries seratonin - the happy hormone- from the gut (where it's produced) to the brain (where its' processed), and an unhappy gut doesn't produce the right balance of hormones. This article is a wonderful read to get into the topic http://www.nytimes.com/.../say-hello-to-the-100-trillion... You can eat yogurt with live cultures, kombucha, kimchi, saurkraut, or simply take a supplement.