It's that time of year where the cold begins to envelop the city and settle deeply in our bones. This season has now broken a records for all time low temperature and looking around, it's easy to see the effects. More people are staying in on weekends, more frustrated commuters on the TTC, and there is less desire to do physical activity or partake in healthy eating habits. SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects many of us in this part of the country, and while some can be affected to the point of being unable to perform daily tasks (2%-5%), many just struggle with feeling down, unmotivated and sluggish (15%).**
For us Canadians, these months can last for a while, and that's why there are many great resources online for supplementing for the winter blues. (Vitamin D is a must!) In addition to what is already out there, I wanted to list a few more easy daily practices that can help manage not just your physical or mental well-being, but also your emotions as we move through the season.
1. Morning Mantra
We've all heard that the way we begin our day sets the tone for the rest of it. In winter, many of us are waking up while it's still dark, which makes it so much more difficult and often results in us dragging ourselves out (after hitting the snooze button too many times) and mindlessly following our morning routine. However, this little life hack can begin your day with a bit more intention and positivity. Every evening before bed, write yourself a message/mantra that you would like to start the next day with, and put it under your pillow or on your nightstand. It can be as simple as "I feel motivated" or " I feel energetic", but do include the word FEEL as part of it, as a reminder to anchor emotionally. When you wake up, take a look at the piece of paper to remind yourself and repeat this message in your mind while you are still laying in bed, at least 10 to 15 times. As you do, focus on the emotion that you feel when you allow yourself to believe the message! This is a sneaky way to bypass our mind and set an emotional baseline for the day.
2. Shake it off
Sure, it would be ideal to get up and go to the gym to get that boost of serotonin first thing in the morning, but if you are dreading the idea, there are other ways we can connect to our body. Once you are out of bed, take a few moments to do a couple of basic stretches (i.e.rotating the neck, rolling the shoulders, stretching your hamstrings). Once you are done, begin to shake each part individually and then together. Start with each leg, then each arm, and allowing yourself to really let loose and shake yourself free of resistance and stiffness. Our bodies are in a constant state of contraction during winter months, and allowing it to expand through movement can affect our whole being! The looser the physical body, the looser our emotional and mental bodies become too!
*Tip: Do a forward fold and allow your head to hang loosely, with a micro bend in the knees and your arms resting where they land. Stay here for a few moments as having your head below your heart is great for your circulation and calms the nervous system.
3. Smile yourself into a better mood
One of my personal favorites, smiling therapy has gained a lot of merit due to it's effectiveness and simplicity. In fact, it's been discovered that that the same amount of endorphins are released in the brain regardless of whether the smile is real or fake. This means, even when we are smiling without the authentic emotion attached to it, our body doesn't know the difference and we are still reaping the therapeutic effects!
This therapy is even more effective when done in front of a mirror, so let yourself break into a grin first thing in the morning as you finish brushing your teeth, and sneak an extra few throughout the day!
4. Talk about your emotions
One of the most common misconceptions we have about being honest or authentic about feeling down is that others will dismiss us or change their view of us. But in fact, when we are able to share our truth, we inadvertently give others the permission to do the same. Talking about our emotions and how they affect us is an important part of our basic needs, as we are social beings looking to connect on a deeper level. We get so caught up projecting an image, we begin to suffer in silence, unnecessarily. So next time someone you trust asks you how are you doing, answer honestly and you will see that some of the weight is lifted just in sharing!
5. Hug, snuggle, kiss and hold
Physical touch is so important, especially in the cold winter months when our bodies are using up all that energy reserve to keep us warm. Fuel yourself emotionally and physically by giving longer and more frequent hugs to your loved ones. ( If they are ok with it, of course!) With partners or friends, hold hands, interlock legs, rest your head on their shoulder, share massages...keep that physical contact ongoing as it is known to improve overall quality of life, boost self esteem and strengthen our physical health.
Hope you all find this article helpful! Of course, if winter months are affecting you in ways that feel a bit too hard to manage, please reach out to a professional to get the help you need.
Wishing you lots of warmth,