Don’t wait till you are in pain or have an injury to come in for an osteopathic treatment this winter. Osteopathic treatments using, the Biodynamic model, help us to get back to our midline and experience more ease and comfort. That sense of things being right, increased capacity to make right choices, and inner peace are part of the sensory experiences that are caused by balance in the autonomic nervous system. And in the winter being off balance can mean weight gain, depression, and the end of new year’s resolutions. This colder, darker time of year, as winter deepens and the glow of warm holiday celebrations fade, the shorter days can create internal challenges to maintaining our balance. If you are noticing increased sadness, lower energy, or increased anxiety or irritability, you are not alone. Many people suffer from what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, but lots of people suffer some of the symptoms without having the full disorder.
What does this look like? You may have less interest in exercising, your new year’s resolutions might start to look less like hopeful goals and more like impossible have-tos and eating healthy definitely looks like torture. Who wants a salad during winter?
If you can’t get in for a treatment, or even if you can, you can also find solace by turning inwards. One moment of just slowing down to find your own rhythm will help you discover that you aren’t depressed or anxious. You aren’t actually feeling defeated and incapable of meeting your own goals this year. What you are, is off your own midline. You are not moving in your own tempo. You are not synchronized with the natural world – which is actually part of you.
The thing about our current lifestyle is that its not seasonal. We work the same number of hours, in fact we work during the same hours, whether there is sunlight for 8 hours or 12. We often eat the same foods in the winter and the summer because the market imports anything we want all year round. We have the same chores, the same responsibilities and many of us get exercise indoors all year round. So to find yourself feeling off in the winter makes a lot of sense. You are off…. off your own midline.
The confusion about this has to do with the fact for the most part we only give lip-service to the idea of body-mind-spirit unity. We know intuitively we are an integrated organism, a living system and that the environment we live in affects us. We are connected to the environment, it is a part of us. But we don’t live this way. I suspect you are thinking, “of course, I know that.” But then why are we all ignoring it? Why do we insist on keeping the same pace, the same schedule, the same diet, the same activities all year round, regardless of the weather, the light, the cycles of the moon?
And in reality, even if we accept this truth, what can be done about it? I would not ask a patient to change something in her life that is impossible to change. You can’t call in and say, “I’m going to leave earlier all month because the sun is going down earlier. I’m going to take the day off, it’s a full moon.” You can’t stop doing the laundry and shopping and taking care of your child. And chances are you don’t have time to take a hike or even get to the coast the one sunny day this month.
But there are little things we can do… and usually little things add up to larger rewards than we expect. So here are some simple ideas to try as the cold tries to have its way with you.
1. Candles: Candles bring warmth in and resonate with a part of our heart and our psyches that remembers the wholeness. They are a good way to transition between times in your day, such as upon waking, at the end of the work day or before bed.
- Light a candle when you wake up and take one minute to breathe deeply.
- Light a candle before dinner and bring up a memory of gratitude from your day. If you are having a meal with your family, ask each person to say one thing they are grateful for.
- Light a candle before bed and take a few minutes to check in with how your body is feeling.
2. Warm water: Warm water is soothing to your soul.
- Have it to drink as a cup of tea. Green and herbal tea have many health benefits.
- Make it a meal as a bowl of soup. Increase your immune resilience by drinking healthy bone broth.
- End your day with a hot bath filled with epsom salts and lavender. Lavender essential oils is a stress reliever and epsom salt allows the body to absorb magnesium which has many health benefits, including balancing cortisol, a stress hormone.
3. Natural light: Though there is less daylight hours, we can maximize our response to light by being mindful.
- Find ways to unplug from screens – make a plan not to check your email or social media or news for at least the first hour of your day. If you can’t wait that long, give yourself at least 10 minutes.
- Similarly, turn off computers phones and other devices at least 30 minutes before you get into bed. Try reading a book instead of looking at a device.
- Take advantage of breaks in the rain – bundle up and go outside during daylight hours and walk, even for a few minutes. Don’t worry about scheduling an all day outing, just go outside and walk down the block and then come back inside.
- Do it again in the dark. Take a minute to go outside at night and stare up at the stars – really, just a minute,but stretch your spine as you do and then notice how good it feels to be in your warm house when you get back inside.
Each time you do one of these small things for yourself, notice how you feel. When you take a moment to reconnect with yourself, it makes a difference. When you notice that difference, you draw the experience and perceptions of it into your consciousness, which amplifies the effects, deepening the relief your system will feel as you move back closer to your midline and your connection with the natural world.
Don’t batten down the hatches and wait for the winter to be over. Take some time to find your own inner rhythm. Reclaim your connection to the darkness, the seasons and your own inner truth. You may find yourself looking forward to the long dark cold of winter as it creates the space for your inner fire to blaze to life.