At some level we are all affected by the changes in the seasons. When the sun is shining we may feel warm and happy but with shorter days, longer evenings and colder climate closing in, many of us can suffer from the winter blues or a type of depression also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that can affect our daily life.
Symptoms of low mood can set in and is often coupled with the tendency for binge eating and cravings for highly sugared foods. As you start to notice the effects of these changes, you can make many adjustments to look after yourself during this autumn and winter period especially since the clocks went back recently.
Just as each one of us has a unique mind-body type (your constitution based on the 5 elements - ether, air, fire, water and earth), the seasons are also influenced by the same qualities, and these seasonal variations have an impact on our biological rhythms. As we move from summer to autumn, we move into the Vata season and then the Kapha season in the deeper winter months.
As the climate becomes cold, dry and windy, it encourages the Vata (space and air elements) within us to become increased, especially if we have a Vata dominant constitution. Vata is the energy force that governs all movement in the body including muscles, blood flow, breathing and blinking. It has qualities that are dry, cold, rough, light, subtle and mobile. When Vata is aggravated, symptoms such as dry skin/hair, flatulence, constipation, aching joints, restlessness, nervous disorders, anxiety and fear can start to surface.
Though you may be feeling ‘SAD’ we can turn it around with Ayurveda by embracing our ‘Seasonal Ayurvedic Dinacharya’. Dinacharya are daily health rituals and Ritucharya are our seasonal guidelines. Following these principles can help balance Vata and pacify its adverse symptoms during the autumn:
Reduce intake of dry, light, cold and raw food as well as foods with excessively bitter pungent and astringent foods. E.g. leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, popcorn and crackers
Eat regular meals - do not skip meals. It’s a time to really listen and honour your hunger patterns
Favour sweet, sour and salty foods. Eat well-cooked foods. Choose foods that are oily, unctuous, nourishing and warming. Foods choices can include wheat, oil, ghee, corn, mung beans, root vegetables, fresh seasonal fruits, soaked almonds, black gram and jaggery
Drink warm herbal teas and warm milky drinks. Avoid excessive caffeine
Vata likes regularity so stick to a regular routine when it comes to sleep, exercise, meals and work
Stay out of the harsh cold and windy environment as your body slowly adjusts
Gentle to moderate exercise if fine and is best to exercise early morning between 6am - 10am
Vata needs mental grounding so engage with breathing exercises and meditation as a regular practice morning and evening
Daily body and head massage with Vata balancing oil followed by a warm shower/bath
Herbs such as help to balance Vata such as cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger and cloves. Chyawanprash is a great herbal jam to take over this season to prepare winter health as it Triphala for our digestive care. Other herbs can also be suggested depending on your health concerns such as ashwagandha for stress and strength
Get plenty of exposure to sunlight or a natural fire as an alternative
For more serious issues of anxiety, sleep and depression - please consult a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner.