Tips to Thrive! this Deep Winter
We have a few cold dark months ahead of us here in New England. Thankfully, with the help of a few practices I’ve learned from Ayurveda, one of the oldest healthcare systems in the world, I’m starting to adjust to this icy time of year. With snow on the way this week, I’m eager to share these practices.
1. Drink warm water. Our normal body temperature is about 98 degrees, yet many people drink icy beverages even in the winter when we’re trying to stay warm. Switching to warm water— with a squeeze of lemon when you can— will feel warming and soothing. And then you’ll probably find drinking cold beverages when it’s 20 degrees outside just plain silly. Ayurveda tells us we should start each day with at least one cup of warm water (before that wonderful first cup of coffee) to rehydrate after a long night. Makes sense, right?
2. Try spiced tea. Dr. Vasant Lad, Founder of the The Ayurvedic Institute, recommends a special spiced tea to increase internal warmth, improve circulation, and eliminate mucus, which can build up in the winter. Add these herbs to a cup of hot water, wait five minutes and enjoy: ½ teaspoon dry ginger, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of clove. He cautions to avoid this tea if you have an ulcer.
3. Self-massage with sesame oil. In Ayurveda, this self-massage is called Abyangha (a-bee-yan-ga). Sesame oil is thought to penetrate and nourish the tissues, promote relaxation, and improve the quality of sleep. (organic, cold-pressed is best). If sesame oil is too warming for those who run hot, grapeseed or coconut oil can be used instead. Daily massage can be life-changing, but even just moisturizing with sesame oil after a shower can rejuvenate wintery dry skin. Here’s a how-to video with Hilary Garivaltis, Executive Director of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, who introduced me to Ayurveda many years ago.
4. Get outside. Even when it is cold, bundling up and going out for a brisk walk each day breaks up winter’s stagnation and is a great remedy for “cabin fever”. A 20-30 minute walk will warm you up, increase your metabolism, boost your mood, and improve sleep. Make sure to wear a hat to protect the delicate inner ear and prevent heat from escaping through the head.
5. Eat warm, moist foods. This will counterbalance winter’s cold drying effect on the digestive system, which can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. Make stews, soups, and moist rice dishes using healthy fats. Vegetable-based oils like olive oil, avocado, and nut butters are great. If you’re feeling adventurous, try ghee, clarified butter, which can be found in many grocery stores and has a rich, creamy, nutty flavor.
6. Learn about Moon Milk. As part of your nightly routine, try a warm spiced milk made with a bit of the herb Ashwaghanda—known to counteract stress and anxiety. Here’s an article about moon milk, which includes a few thoughts of mine.
7. Take hot baths with Epsom salt and essential oils. This is spa-luxury in your own home. People have been soaking in Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, for generations to soothe tense muscles at the end of a cold day. Adding your favorite essential oils is lovely. My favorites are sandalwood, lavender, sweet orange, and bergamot.
After fifteen years in New England, I’m trying my best to embrace the winter instead of white-knuckling it until spring. I hope you’ll also try a couple of these tips and enjoy them as much as I do.