Ayurvedic Solutions to Winter Depression

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Dull, damp and dreary days are here and they are here to stay for quite a while. November gremlins are lurking everywhere and you never know when they will get to you.

Sun is the biggest source of positive energies and Sattva guna in our world. It drives away Tamas i.e. darkness, which is the root cause of depression. Shorter days and lack of sunlight during winters, change our  circadian rhythm making us prone to being depressed.

Winter depression is a type of seasonal affective disorders (disorders which develop due to environmental changes of seasons). It is more common in women than in men.  Whether it’s a full blown depression (as a disorder) or occasional bouts of depressed moods; proper care needs to be taken to ensure health and happiness even during these bleakest times of the year.

What are the signs of winter depression?

  • Decreased level of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Increase in appetite
  • Increased desire to be alone
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Weight gain

Which people are more prone to winter depression?

The cold and dryness of winters causes imbalance of Vata and Kapha Dosha in our body. The dryness increases Vata while, cold and damp conditions aggravate Kapha. Hence, people with Vata and Kapha body types are more prone to developing winter depression.

Although, the  fire dominant Pitta people don’t mind winters; they should nevertheless be careful not to get affected by the merciless November gremlin. Since all the three doshas are present in our irrespective of our body type; we should always be watchful for the signs of imbalance.

What should you look out for?

Winter Blues in Vata body type-

Easily provoked anxiety, volatile moods, short attention span etc, are the natural traits of Vata body type. Due to favorable weather conditions, these qualities become more dominant and bothersome during winters, in people with Vata body type. They may also experience digestive disturbances, constipation, aches and pains, excessive skin dryness, disturbed sleep, restlessness and fearfulness during winters. Vata has major influence over our emotions and our train of thoughts. Aggravation and imbalance of Vata can thus lead to severe emotional disturbances.

Winter Blues in Kapha body type-

Sluggishness, low energy levels, love for sleep and tendency to pile on pounds, come naturally to people with Kapha body type. Hence, winters are not the happiest times of year for these people. Desire to be alone, lack of happy emotions, inability to cope with daily chores and work, stubbornness, lack of hunger yet excessive binging, slow digestion, water retention, excessive sleep etc may be experienced by Kapha people during winters.

Kapha people have the most stable emotions among all the other body types hence emotional disturbances in Kapha are seen at a very subtle level. Their introvert nature also prevents them from openly expressing their emotions and troubles. They are the ones who prefer to suffer alone in silence. Hence, people and loved ones’ around them should always be watchful for any signs of altered behavior and be supportive towards them in these difficult times.

Winter Blues in Pitta body type-

Pitta people are full of zest and energy; thanks to the dominant fire element in their body. However, they are also the ones’, which have the most intense emotions. Naturally, they are more prone to emotional tumults.

Sudden changes or dip in energy levels, erratic emotions, changes in sleep and appetite patterns should be seen as red flag of winter blues in Pitta people. Increased agitation, anger, lack of patience, excessive appetite, sleep disturbance restlessness, intolerance towards partner, other family members or colleagues are some of the signs of winter blues in Pitta people.

The inbuilt dislike for cold in Kapha and Vata type of people also makes them hate winters. Ayurveda has given great deal of attention to seasonal changes and their effects on our body, mind and spirit. A detailed description of food, lifestyle and supplements that suits every seasonal has been given in Classical texts of Ayurveda.

Based on some simple yet effective Ayurvedic principles, here are diet and lifestyle tips that will help you keep winter depression at bay-

Overeating Tamas dominant foods should be avoided by all body types during winters. Tamasic foods are heavy to digest. When eaten excessively ( in large quantities or on regular basis) they have immediate impact on our mind, making it dull and depressive.

Examples of Tamasic foods are:

  • Most stale foods (precooked foods, overcooked, re-cooked leftovers,  canned, refrigerated, frozen foods, processed foods, GMO’s).
  • Fruits- Avacados, watermelon, canned fruits
  • Vegetables- mushrooms, garlic, onion, pumpkin
  • Dairy- Cheese
  • Beans-black beans, pinto beans
  • Meat-Beef, pork, lamb
  • Fish and eggs
  • Bread and bakery (eight hours after they are cooked)
  • Alcohol of all types
  • Most fast foods (as they are processed and precooked)

Winter do’s and don’ts for People with Vata dominant body type-

  • Favor warm freshly cooked foods with sweet, sour and salty tastes.
  • Winters are perfect times for generous use of Vata pacifying ghee- clarified butter in your diet. Also, Vata pacifying oils like sesame seed oil are great for winters.
  • Drink plenty of warm water with added with a dash of fresh lemon juice.
  • Snacking on soaked nuts like almonds and dried fruits like prunes and raisins helps to streamline the flow of Vata in our body.
  • The diet that compliments Vata body type should be strictly followed during winters to avoid imbalance of this most dynamic Dosha.
  • The nature of Vata people can be compared to that of children. Just like kids, they tend to be more calm and happy, when they stick to a predictable daily routine. Maintaining a stable daily routine especially regarding meal time and bed times is very important.
  • Massage with warm sesame seed oil or classical Ayurvedic oils like Mahanarayana oil, Bala-ashwagandha oil are best for this season. More attention needs ot be given to lower abdomen, lower back, hips, thighs, sole of feet, head and ears during the massage. Massage helps to calm down Vata and leaves you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
  • Shirodhara which involves slow pouring of warm medicated oils on the forehead is yet another effective therapy for winter depression. For more severe cases of winter depression in Vata types medicated enema or Basti therapy is  highly recommended.
  • Any activities that over stimulate our mind e.g. watching television, video games, loud music, excessive talking, strenuous exercise, over exposure to cold and wind can aggravate Vata further and should be avoided. Soothing music, reading, crosswords, puzzles, floor games that encourage the whole family to come together and play should be favored during winters.

Winter do’s and don’ts for People with Kapha dominant body type-

Kapha is slow moving and most grounded of the three doshas. Activities and foods that are energizing and stimulating to the body and mind should be preferred in winters by Kapha people.

  • The diet and lifestyle that compliments Kapha should be followed during winter to ensure Kapha balance.
  • Drinking plenty of warm water with mint and ginger, ginger tea, herb tea etc helps in improving digestion and balances Kapha.
  • Trikatu- which means a classical Ayurvedic blend of three pungent herbs- Ginger (dried), Pippali (Piper longum) and black pepper is an ideal blend of spices for stimulating digestion and circulation in Kapha body type especially during winters.
  • Snacking on  brain energizing dry fruits like walnuts , almonds etc. is most suitable for Kapha people as they can tolerate the heat generated by these foods.
  • Warm deep tissue massage with oils like mustard oil, sesame seed oil, almond oil, Dashamoola oil etc is great for Kapha people. Deep tissue massage not only improves circulation; it also balances Kapha and boosts positive emotions.
  • Instilling two drops of classical oil blend- Anutaila, in the nostrils helps in cleansing and balancing Kapha in the head and neck region. This cleansing therapy is called Nasya, and itshould be performed by a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner. You can also apply Anutaila on the inner surface of nostrils with your little fingers. This routine is a good alternative to Nasya, and can be done every day at home early in the morning.
  • Kapha people should engage in regular exercise and sports especially during winters to boost their energy levels. Also, they should constantly engage in both physical as well as mental activities to avoid dark moods taking over.

Winter do’s and don’ts for People with Pitta dominant body type-

Pitta people cope with winters more effectively, due to the dominance of Fire element in their body. However, they should take care not to over-eat things that increase Vata, Kapha or Tamas during winters. Dosha balancing diet should be preferred during winters by Pitta People too.

Brighten up Winter with Yoga

Relaxing and grounding Yoga poses like the corpse pose (shavasana), diamond pose (vajrasana) etc are extremely helpful in calming down the movement of Vata. Any form of exercise should be kept to minimal by Vata people and more attention should be given to relaxation exercises.

Kapha people can enagage in flowing yoga poses or vinyasa, rapid sun salutations (surya namaskara) etc. Rigorous and body warming yoga poses can be well tolerated by Kapha body types.

Also, balancing poses like the eagle pose (garudasana), tree pose (vrkshasana), half moon pose (ardhachandrasana), king dancer pose (natarajasana) etc are good for bringing about balance of emotions and energies in our body during winters.

Pranayama or yogic breathing is also an excellent way of boosting positive emotions. Pranayama ensures smooth flow of living force or Prana throughout our body and mind and leaves us feeling calm, refreshed and relaxed.

Meditation is yet another very effective way of dealing with winter depression. It helps to re-energize our senses and boosts our positive energies. Moreover, meditation helps to settle an anxious mind and increases positive thoughts.

Try and soak in as much as a natural sunlight that you can manage during winters, whenever there are sun breaks. Also, keep your house bright and warm during the daytime. Bright light helps us adjust our body’s rhythms and helps drive away negative thoughts and energies.

References:

  1. Jeanne Molin, The influence of climate on development of winter depression, Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 37, Issues 2-3, 12 April 1996, Pages 151-155
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One thought on “Ayurvedic Solutions to Winter Depression

    How to Overcome Depression said:
    November 27, 2011 at 2:30 am

    Please permit me know the normal way of managing high blood presure.

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