As the days grow colder and winter approaches, we may find ourselves feeling unmotivated and uninspired. When it’s cold, rainy, or snowy, we’d probably much rather curl up with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa, our favorite pet by our side, than to do something productive or healthy.
Colder, wetter days increase what Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, calls Kapha, one of the three doshas, or mind-body constitutions. Kapha is a combination of the elements earth and water. The two other doshas are Vata, a mixture of air and space, and Pitta, which is fire and water. Humans are composed of all three doshas in various proportions, and a person may be more of one or two doshas or exhibit a fairly equal combination of all three.
Together, earth and water make mud, which can explain why Kapha is a sturdy dosha. Kapha individuals are the people we can rely on, good and loyal friends and family members, supportive in so many ways. They also tend to be very happy to while away a weekend on the couch, binge-watching their favorite shows, and a bit reluctant to get out and move when the family dog approaches, dragging her leash behind her.
When it’s cold and wet outside, regardless of our respective doshas, we can all feel the effects of earth and water and feel sluggish and a little lazy and unmotivated. Sometimes it’s a lot of fun being in such a relaxed state. At other times, though, we have no choice but to accomplish things on our to-do lists that demand our attention and action—including all-important self-care.
Fortunately, there are simple things we can do to ignite that inner fire:
- Meditation: Spending even a short time in silence can help clear out the thoughts that are fogging our minds. Whether we focus on an internal mantra, a repeated sound, or an external point, like a candle flame, we can calm the mind and body. Keeping our eyes closed, we can repeat a mantra silently to ourselves. Whenever thoughts or noises interrupt our silent repetitions, we just return our attention back to silently repeating the mantra. If we focus on an external point, we can still use a mantra. When the mind strays into thoughts and the eyes begin to look about the room, we simply return the eyes to the point of focus and the mind to repeating the mantra.
- Movement*: We can also combine our meditation with walking or some other form of mindful movement. If the weather is too ferocious to venture outside, we can do a walking meditation—eyes open, of course—on a treadmill. Practicing Yoga, particularly flow or hot yoga, is also a great way to bring heat and energy to the body, raise the heart rate, and improve mental clarity. Essentially, any form of movement, done with our full attention, will help move us out of the rainy-day doldrums and help us feel more energized and inspired.
- Bright Colors: One of the ways we clear the cobwebs from the Kapha mind and enhance our energy is by surrounding ourselves with bright colors, which we can add to our environments through things like vibrant room décor or bright clothing. We can also employ a full-spectrum lamp to chase the clouds away.
- Aromatherapy: The sense of smell is indeed powerful. We can energize the mind and body by using invigorating scents like ginger, eucalyptus, and peppermint. Incense is one way to bring these scents into our environments, as are high-quality candles and essential oils.
- Self-Massage: In Ayurveda, a self-massage is called an abhyanga, which benefits both the nervous and endocrine systems and can be done before we take a morning shower. To balance the Kapha dosha, we should use a light oil, like sunflower oil, or a warm oil, such as almond oil. Whichever oil we choose, we can warm it slightly before using it. And, because oil is involved in this process, we may want to have a towel on the floor to prevent slips and falls.
- Using the flat part of the hands and the fingers, we massage the scalp, moving to the face, ears, and neck.
- From there, we massage the arms, using long strokes along the long bones and a circular motion on the large joints.
- Next, with light pressure, we massage the trunk, first the front and, as best as we can, the back.
- We move next to the legs, using the same technique as we did on the arms, then to the feet and toes, paying careful attention to the toes.
- After we’ve completed the massage, we can sit for a moment, allowing the body to absorb the oil, and then rinse gently with warm water, leaving a very light film of oil on the body if possible.
- Reimagined Comfort Foods: Kapha is already a heavier dosha. But when we think of cold, damp days, we also think of heavy comfort foods—macaroni and cheese, stews, and creamy soups. Indeed a cold dosha like Kapha does well with some warmth, but not so well with foods that are heavy and can build body mass. Still, we don’t want to discount the value of comfort foods; we just have to get a little creative. For instance, we can replace a creamy soup or gooey macaroni and cheese with a spicy lentil soup with quinoa. The spices will invigorate us, and the lighter soup and quinoa won’t weigh us down. Instead of hot cocoa with a marshmallow or two, a cup of ginger tea provides warmth with a heap of natural spice that will satisfy us and keep us moving.
As with all new practices, we may want to try one, two, or all of them, depending on what we’re able to integrate into our routines. But using any one of these tools when cold, dark days befall us may be just the thing to motivate and inspire us.
*For your safety, please check with your physician before embarking on any exercise program.