How S.A.D. Changed My Life For The Better
Growing up in the Midwest meant that winters were just the norm. No sun, puffy coats and four walls didn’t seem to bother me much as a kid. I was fortunate to grow up with a brother and sister, and our young creative minds kept ourselves more than entertained. While building faux forts still sounds fun, it doesn’t quite hit the same as you get older. As I got older, I started to build anxiety before winter hit and found myself feeling stuck and depressed during the winter months. It wasn’t until I moved to LA for college that I realized how greatly the winters had impacted me. I remember anticipating the gloomy feeling coming over me as soon as November hit, but it never did.
I maintained a light and higher vibrational perspective through the winter which changed everything for me. Of course, there were so many other factors at play when I moved, but the shift I experienced in myself was visible to even my friends and family. When I moved back to Chicago in 2016, I was a little worried to experience the winter blues. However, I was very confident in my grounding practices and the spark of my spiritual awakening to keep me level through it. Although this foundation helped, I found myself in denial of having seasonal depression. This denial came from the limiting belief that “I can always find things to be grateful for”. So, I would amp up my gratitude practice and try to ignore how unhappy I was feeling.
I also held on to the belief that “I need to take responsibility for my own happiness”. I cannot blame a whole season for my depression. There must be other factors that are contributing to my own dissatisfaction. It took me a while to admit that I am sensitive enough to experience seasonal depression and to fully feel my sadness. I am grateful for the science of Ayurveda to help me understand the energetics behind seasonal depression and help me move through the winter blues with grace and ease. And that is exactly what I will empower you to do, as SAD is incredibly common yet often not discussed nor diagnosed.
SEE ALSO: How To Connect With Your Higher Self
Ayurveda, the holistic sister science Yoga, understands pathology of diseases and their roots through the lens of the Doshas. There are three doshas – Vata, Pitta, Kapha – that govern everything from the seasons, to the times of the day, to our body’s unique physiologies and personalities, to the energetics of the foods we eat. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a vitiation of the Vata and Kapha doshas, which rule the late Fall through early Spring. Using this understanding, I began to pacify and balance my imbalanced Vata and Kapha doshas naturally, in order to bring the body, mind, and spirit back to balance during the peak SAD seasons. This topic is especially important during a time when traditional advice – get outside to soak up Vitamin D, travel to a sunny destination, etc. – may not be feasible due to pandemic restrictions.
So what energetics are at play? We are in the thick of Vata season in the northern hemisphere, which can also combine with Kapha traits as well.
- Vata (air + ether) takes on the qualities of being cold, dry, rough and unstable.
- Kapha (earth + water) takes on the qualities of being cold, heavy, dense and stable.
Nature is projecting bitter, cold temperatures and cloudy skies. As a result, some of us are more receptive to these qualities and it manifests as seasonal depression (heavy, dense, unmotivated, lethargic, etc.) Our Ayurvedic template says that whatever qualities/doshas we are in excess of, we use the opposite ones to balance.
- Elements in Excess: Earth + Air + Ether
- Elements to Balance: Fire + Water
The fire element brings warmness and passion to our lives. It rekindles our inner fire, so we are inspired to take action! The water element lubricates our tissues and keeps us in the flow of nature.
Three actions to achieve balance
So, what THREE actions can we take to incorporate more fire + water?
- FOOD- Choose foods that are warm and unctuous this time of year. Raw vegetables are harder to digest in the wintertime and should be avoided. Root vegetable-based soups and vegetables that are cooked in oil should be favored. Benefits: This will soothe the GI tract to promote optimal digestion and healthy elimination. Digestion is king in Ayurveda! If we have strong digestive systems, we have optimal energy to shake out the wintertime blues.
- MOVEMENT- Warm and free flowing exercises are the perfect recipe for frigid temperatures. Power vinyasa classes can move stagnant energy while stabilizing the body. Dance classes also have a similar effect. Benefits: Free flowing movement invokes the water element and lets creativity flow. This ignites inspiration within and gets us out of feeling stuck. Breaking a sweat detoxifies the body of stale energy and lubricates dry, crackly joints. Not to mention, it stokes our inner fire and rekindles our passions!
- BREATHWORK- Breathing can invoke any element we desire. It is the quickest tool we have for shifting our energetic state. The best breathing technique for this season is breath of fire. Start by sitting upright or in Sadhasana. Forcefully exhale out your nose while pumping your naval in. Find a steady rhythm and continue for 1-3 minutes. Benefits: Invokes the fire element to heat our bodily system. This practice purifies the body of stagnant energy and stimulates naval intelligence. An activated naval intelligence brings passion, willpower and commitment to our lives.
Personally, I love getting into a virtual dance class! It shakes out my rigid mold of winter and allows creativity energy to flow. Now, even though I live in sunny LA, I have my practices to support me whenever I visit family in Chicago and spend time in the rough winters of the Midwest. For me, SAD helped me listen to a nudge that my soul desperately wanted me to hear. I had been wanting to move back to LA for some time, but I felt that I couldn’t because of how far away I would be from my family. This pain gave me the push I needed to make the decision that was right for me, and I’m thankful everyday that I get to wake up in the warmth and walk one block to the ocean.
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