S.A.D: Six Ways To Keep Your Brain Active And Happy During Winter

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There is proven research to show that seasons do influence our mind and more importantly our brain function. There are mood disorders associated with change of seasons. During Winter, people report undergoing SAD or seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that sets in during deep winters when the days are short, not enough sunlight, excruciating cold and gloomy weather, empty streets, no greens and a ubiquitous darkness in the environment, made worse by a feeling of low, lethargy, and lack of interest, and in extreme cases suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm. Here’s what you can do stay mentally fit, sharp, productive and alert even during the peak of winters, according to the oriental sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda.

1. Yoga

Research shows we are more likely to do better in tasks that require sustained attention during summer but the performance is reduced during winter. But tasks that involve the use of memory can be usually done better during autumn and winter months versus summer. Here’s where spiritual practices come into play. With regular practices of yoga and pranayama and meditation, brain performance can be sustained at a high level all around the year.

Here’s why you need to practice yogasanas during winter

·       Calms your mind

·       Gets the happy hormones like serotonin flowing, which get imbalanced during winter

·       Strengthens your immunity which is often compromised during winter

·       Improves your mood

·       Heats up the body engine

Some yogasanas you can practice during winter

·       Headstand

·       Boat pose

·       Plank pose

·       Bridge pose

·       Twisted chair pose

All these yogasanas remove the stiffness from your joints, get you moving, and improve cognitive brain functions as you practice focusing on the breath while practicing the asanas. The practice leaves you feeling more energized, happy, productive and ‘in the zone’.

2. Pranayamas or deep breathing practices

Practicing deep breathing techniques or pranayamas infuse your system with more oxygen, and more prana or life force, that helps to keep you energized from within even when the external circumstances are not very compelling. A few warming pranayamas you can practice during winter include

·       Lion’s breath

·       Kapalbhati or skull shining technique

·       Ujjayi breath (victory breath)

3. Sudarshan Kriya Yoga

The SKY or Sudarshan Kriya Yoga meditation is one of the most powerful rhythmic breathing techniques to get you past the dreariness of the winter. The technique is practiced by over 450 million people all over the world. Irrespective of what your state of mind is, how lethargic you are feeling right now, just 10 minutes of SKY helps you move through lethargy to a state of wakeful rest, energy and poise.  

It involves deep breathing practices like Ujjai breath (or the victory breath), pranayamas followed by a cyclical breathing technique cognized by global spiritual master, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The practice removes stress and emotional toxins seated accumulated in each cell of the body.

Benefits of SKY

·       Regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga activates the vagus nerve, the key to depression treatment.

·       It activates the Parasympathetic Nervous system, responsible for rest in the body.

·       this powerful breathing technique can improve Prolactin (well-being hormone) secretion by 50%,

·       has alleviated many around the world of depression, anxiety and stress.

·       EEG Alpha waves increase with practice of the technique showing relaxed state of mind.

·       SKY training has been seen as a powerful non-steroidal intervention to counter cardiovascular risk in patients with anxiety/depression disorders.

4. Take care of your diet

a) Don’t get tricked into stuffing yourself with carbs

As winter peaks, we tend to crave more carbs. The sweet servings trick our brain into releasing serotonin that makes us feel happy. You can instead go for a protein rich breakfast to compensate for the lack of energy. You can practice SKY or meditate to manage the serotonin levels in the body and stay off carbs. This is because you are likely to kill less calories during winter than other seasons.  

b) Have foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids

These foods are anti-inflammatory and yet a healthy sources of fat. Have roasted pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, ground nuts rich in essential amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D3. They lubricate the joints, reduce rheumatoid risks, improve bone health and is a good source of good cholesterol or hdl.

C) Spices

Warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, turmeric or cloves help your body stay warm, clears up sore throats and helps digestion.

D) Avoid raw salads

According to Ayurveda, raw salads should be preferably avoided during winters when you are prone to Vata afflictions.

E) Have more fiber

If you have seniors at home, make sure their diet is rich in fiber during the winters to take care of their immunity and digestion. Fibrous foods like oats, nuts and apples are sources.

5. Self-Abhyanga

Self-Abhyanga is the practice of giving yourself a deep detoxifying massage using herbal oils that have been formulated to balance doshas. Vata and Kapha dosha tend to get imbalanced with the onset of winter. An essential Ayurvedic practice in Ayurvedic teachings and can help you get through seasons that have depressive overtones. It helps put your mind and body at ease, it is also an energizing and stimulating practice that gets your body prepared to perform at its absolute best.

Shankara’s Sundarya Oil is a winter special body oil that brings with it the vast benefits of winter oleation, exclusively prepared from the richness of sesame oil, sunflower oleic oil, hempseed oil, aloe vera oil, essential oils made from Rose-Geranium leaf, vetiver, sandalwood, ylang ylang, jasmine and vanilla.

• The body oil has a nurturing effect on the body

• Luxurious floral essential oils to awaken your inner and outer beauty• Sensuous and uplifting, leaves skin feeling supple-just what you need to get you through the winter

• Can be used as moisturizer, massage oil and bath oil

• Rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Strengthens and lubricates the joints and muscles.

6. Avoid noon naps

They can cause more fatigue and lethargy. Only if you are ill or elderly, they you can do yoga nidra or yogic sleep (a meditative practice where you take your awareness through various parts of the body and relax them one by one).

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