According to the NHS, 1 in 15 people in the UK will have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter months. Its symptoms mirror those of generalised depression; what differentiates SAD is the time of its onset, which coincides with winter’s shorter days and long, dark nights.
Small rituals can uplift the soul, waking up to a positive sound or something that makes us smile, even if only internally, it spreads positivity, influencing our thoughts and elevating our mood. Rituals can be practised daily, such as taking deep breaths, or seasonally, like having ginger and turmeric in the colder months.
Being immersed in nature, opening our senses and being in harmony with the natural world can help us heal and make us happy. Increasingly, the benefits of being outdoors are being recognised scientifically and by mental health organisations.
A recent study by the University of Exeter has found that spending just 2 hours a week in green spaces like parks, woodlands and fields has been linked with people feeling healthier and happier. This isn’t a significant amount of time, and can be spread over a week or enjoyed in a single dose. You don’t have to be physical either, simply sitting on a bench admiring the natural environment is enough to have a positive impact on your health.
According to Ayurveda: The magic of living wisely, we have come from this earth, we are not born into it, and therefore being in nature brings us home and connects us with our true selves. This is true regardless of dosha and, without listening to this need, we can begin to see imbalances in our health.
According to Ayurveda, sleep is just as important as diet, so ensuring we create an environment that allows and encourages sleep is crucial.
Coming home, you want to enter a space that immediately brings you home, to yourself. Lighting, colours and scents all play a role in allowing you to arrive into your home space. Evening music can help create a warm, inviting atmosphere, working with the dim lights and maybe candles to evoke that sense of night time stillness.
Making a practice of sitting still for five minutes and enjoying a cup of your favourite herbal drink – such as Night Time and Night Time Berry tea – will help make those things a ritual and become part of your evening positivity, easing the mind into sleep mode.
Many indulge in milky drinks before bed, but these can be charged with sugar or caffeine which can disturb our sleep. Alternatively, herbs such as lavender and chamomile have been used for centuries to calm, relieve stress and improve sleep.
Ashwaganda is a powerful adaptogen that has been growing in popularity recently. Adaptogens relieve stress by controlling the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands.
Want to know other natural ways to help yourself sleep? Our team of herbalists have written How to sleep better at night, naturally.
In the winter months, we can become more susceptible to heavier emotions and thoughts. But rather than dismiss this, try to feel and observe the wave of emotion. Sit with it. Take a moment to feel and acknowledge what you’re thinking and experiencing. Take long, deep breaths as you do this. Simply be, let yourself observe you, follow your thoughts and memories and see how that causes a shift in your emotions.
Everyday, take a few minutes to think about things that have really brightened your mood. Perhaps it’s the person who pronounced your name oddly when they gave you your coffee, the beautiful crisp winter air or meeting a friend for lunch. During more difficult times, this practice will allow you to find solace in those moments.
Mira Manek is a writer, cook and wellness expert with a passion for yoga and Ayurveda. Mira has been hosting supper clubs and retreats and has also launched her own café, Chai by Mira, inside Triyoga Soho. ‘Prajna: Ayurvedic rituals for happiness’ is her second book.