Ayurveda For Winter Depression- Part II

Dull, damp and dreary days are here to stay for quite a while now that Winter Season has officially begun! Winter depression is a type of Seasonal Affective Disorders (SAD) which affects many of us during this season. Whether it is 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.

Winter Depression Ayurveda For Winter Depression  Part II
Winter & Cold creates a type of Seasonal Affective Disorders (SAD) which affects many of us during this season.

Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle is immensely beneficial in Winter Depression. Guidelines for taking best Ayurvedic supplements for keeping depression at bay have been discussed in the article ‘Ayurveda for Winter Depression- Part I’. This article will walk you through some easy to follow and effective Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle for managing winter depression.

Tamasic Foods and Winter Depression
Food has a profound effect on our emotions and overall health of our mind.1 Overeating Tamas dominant foods should be avoided by all body types during winters. Tamasic foods are heavy to digest and have a tendency to cause blockades in body channels. Also, most Tamasic foods are deficient or lacking in life energy or Prana. When eaten excessively, they can make us dull, depressed and sedentary.  Tamasic foods need to be taken in extreme moderation during winters, especially by those who are prone to or already suffering from winter depression.

Examples of Tamasic foods are:

  • Stale foods (precooked foods, overcooked, re-cooked leftovers,  canned, refrigerated, frozen foods, processed foods, GMO’s)
  • Fruits- Avocados, 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
  • Fast foods (as they are processed and precooked)

Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle Modifications for Winter Depression:

  1. Warm Up: Drink plenty of warm water with added with a dash of fresh lemon juice, mint, ginger etc. Herb tea, green tea, lemon tea are also great beverage choices for  keeping the mind alert and free of cluttered, depressing emotions. Also, eat freshly cooked and warm food. Warmth facilitates free movement of life energy /Prana, whereas cold creates blockades.
  2. Rev -up your Digestion: Good digestion is mandatory for preventing surge in Tamas. People with Kapha  and Vata body type are prone to having sluggish  and erratic digestion. Trikatu-  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. Eating a small piece of ginger (about ½ inch) with salt and lemon juice before lunch and dinner is ensures health digestion. Ginger helps in cleansing the body and mind of toxins. Research studies have proved that ginger is also an effective remedy for depressive disorders.2
  3. Foods that Help: A diet which has plenty of fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, cereals, olive oil, sesame seed oil and low dairy and meat products is considered ideal for depression  by scientific researchers. Ayurveda also favors the eating fresh foods that are alive with good energies like fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals and healthy oils and fats. Not only are they Sattvic (Promote Sattva Guna) by nature, they also contain many vital nutrients which are essential for balancing our moods and emotions.3
  4. Going Nuts: Snacking on brain energizing dry fruits like walnuts , almonds and seeds like sunflower seeds etc. is best for Kapha and Vata people. Also, they help in boosting positive energies and Sattva guna of the mind. However, overly roasted, salted or flavored nuts should be avoided. Dried fruits like prunes, apricots, raisins etc. should also be included in diet especially by Vata people to streamline the flow of Vata.
  5. Massage: Deep Tissue Massage with warm sesame seed oil, mustard oil or classical Ayurvedic oils like Mahanarayana oil, Bala-ashwagandha oil is best for winter depression. Deep tissue massage not only improves circulation; it also balances Kapha, Vata and boosts positive emotions.
  6. Shirodhara: This is a procedure which involves slow pouring of warm medicated oils on the forehead is yet another effective therapy for winter depression. It helps in relieving stress, balances emotions, and promotes awareness and alertness. Shirodhara Therapy is available at most Ayurvedic Health Centers.
  7. Nasya/ Errhine Therapy: Instilling two drops of classical oil blend- Anutaila, in the nostrils helps in cleansing and balancing Kapha and Vata in the head and neck region. This cleansing therapy is called Nasya.  This procedure must be performed by a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner. If you don’t have access to an Ayurvedic physician, you can apply Anutaila on the inner surface of nostrils with your little finger early in the morning. This routine is a good alternative to Nasya, and can be done safely every day at home.
  8. Get Moving: Sedentary habits and inactivity are Tamas itself personified! Hence, physical activity and exercise are pivotal in the management of Depression. Kapha people should engage in regular exercises 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. Vata people should exercise in moderation to avoid over-stimulation of Vata.
  9. 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 engage in flowing yoga poses or Vinyasa, Rapid Sun salutations (Surya Namaskara) etc. 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.
  10. Pranayama: Pranayama or yogic breathing is also an excellent way of boosting positive emotions. Pranayama like Anuloma-Viloma, Bhramari, Ujjayi, Bhastrika, Kapalbhati and Omkar, ensure smooth flow of living force or Prana throughout our body and mind, thus leaving us feeling calm, refreshed and relaxed.
  11. Meditation: 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. Meditation teaches us to detangle our self from emotional clutter and strengthens the mind for resisting imbalances like the winter depression.

This regime is simple to adopt and has immense benefits in keeping our entire being happy and healthy during winters. Although diet and lifestyle for Pitta has not been highlighted, Pitta people should also be on a vigil for depressed digestion and metabolism during winters. Also, 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.

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. Sa´nchez-Villegas et al, Mediterranean diet and depression, Public Health Nutrition: 9(8A), 1104–1109
  2. Li-Tao Yi, Qun Xu, Yu-Cheng Li, Lei Yang, Ling-Dong Kong, Antidepressant-like synergism of extracts from magnolia bark and ginger rhizome alone and in combination in mice, Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, Volume 33, Issue 4, 15 June 2009, Pages 616–624
  3. Sa´nchez-Villegas et al, Mediterranean diet and depression, Public Health Nutrition: 9(8A), 1104–1109
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Author:

Having practiced Ayurveda in entirely diverse cultures like India and United States, Dr Chetali Samant has experienced the myriad facets and the true meaning of Ayurvedic Health Care. She has received her master’s degree in Ayurveda (M.D Ayurveda) from Gujarat Ayurveda University- one of the most prestigious universities of Ayurveda in India and the only Ayurveda University in the world. She has been honored with a gold medal for her academic achievements during her postgraduate studies. After specializing in the field of mother and child care, she realized that the health of one family member indeed depends on the health status of every member of the family. Ever since, she has encouraged and educated many families in promoting and maintaining health.

Comments

  1. Great advice from the Ayurveda point of view for the winter depression, I am sure everyone can follow these to change their life style a little for their own good.

  2. Thanks Carol..

  3. I am diabetic and cannot lose weight, I am 5’1″ tall over 60

  4. Diabetic and over weight 5’1″ tall over 60year old weigh 140lbs

  5. Please don’t show on the Facebook any of my questions thanks

  6. Another great Ayurveda article from Dr. Chetali, I have to see how much I can follow from this article for this winter season

  7. I am reading this article now when winter season is almost ending, will follow these lessons in the next winter season…

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