Give Serotonin a bit of a Boost

Snow Storm, Dec. 2008

As I peer outside my window, I’m amazed by the world of white outdoors.   Living in Barrie, Ontario, my winter is often white.  But this year there are just a few more snowflakes than usual.  The snow banks tower of the cars and the sidewalks and roads have a perpetual sprinkle of snow.

One of the challenges with winter is that we spend a lot more time indoors.  Whether it’s due to the chilly temperatures or the lack of sunlight, spending time indoors can create havoc on both our health and mood.   Yoga is one of the amazing tools that you can use to fight both of these winter challenges.

How Yoga Helps Fight Depression:

According to Yoga Journal’s medical editor, Timothy McCall, Yoga may impact the level of serotonin in the body.  His research indicated that those individuals who both suffered from depression and did yoga,  experienced a surge in their serotonin levels.

Alex Korb in a blog on Psychology Today describes serotonin as the molecule of will power.   Not having enough serotonin, can result in the lethargy, fatigue and lack of ambition that can be experienced by individuals who are currently experiencing SAD.  Korb states that the four ways of spiking serotonin levels is through sunlight, exercise, massage and recalling happy experiences.

In winter, sometimes getting authentic sunlight can be challenging.  But in those days when the sun is beaming (no matter how cold it is),  bundle up and get outside.

It’s time to Play 

Getting outside can combine 3 of Korb’s tips to increase mood enhancing serotonin.   When outdoors, get moving and have fun (relive your childhood winter wonderland).  Here are some tips to play in the snow:

  • Get your breath pumping with a full sun salutation A.  Reach up to the sun with wonderful mountain pose and inhale the chilly winter air.  Allow your body the experience of touching the snow as you go down into Plank and rise up again in Cobra.
  • Make snow angels.   Stretch your body up and down, creating movement and enjoying the tactile sensation of snow.
  • Tree Pose:  Balance in Tree.  When you feel yourself swaying allow yourself to fall.  Enjoy the pleasure of landing in a wonderful pile of snow.
  • Do a mini mediation.  Breathe in the crisp air and take a moment to embrace  the sounds and sights of winter.

Continue your Practice Indoors:

Heart openers are great for increasing prana (your life energy), also any activity that promotes vigorous activity and breath are excellent for alleviating depression.

Timothy McCall from Yoga Journal encourages involving sun salutations, bridge poses and other challenging poses (including arm balances) into your practice.  McCall emphasizes that vigorous activity has the dual benefits of relieving anxiety while increasing focus: both which can greatly help those that are experiencing any level of depression.

In addition to exercise, remember to take care of your body.  Eat food that nourishes both your mind and body ( vegetables/fruits/nuts/fish), drink lots of water and get a regular amount of sleep.  Add flowers or other wonderful items to greet you at home and create a loving space for yourself.    Most of all, connect with others and bring laughter and love into your life.   Personally, I find nothing more uplifting than having a warming cup of tea with those that you love.




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