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We all have times of the year that we prefer more than others, yet for some of us, as the weather changes, so too do our energy levels, sleeping and eating habits. If you find you are feeling particularly low during a specific season or time of year annually, it could be a sign that you are experiencing SAD, or ‘seasonal depression’.
Common symptoms can include
- a persistent low mood or loss of enjoyment in your regular pastimes
- feelings of stress, anxiety, or irritability
- changing eating (increased or decreased) habits
- feeling tearful or sad without a clear reason
- decreased or loss of self-esteem or libido
- feeling sleepy or lethargic during the day, or being less active than typical
- difficulty getting up or sleeping for longer than usual
Most commonly experienced by those aged 18-30, our seasonal light changes and dark, gloomy weather can all be contributing factors towards more and more of us reporting symptoms of SAD. If you think you may be experiencing SAD, it’s important to speak with your GP to help find the optimal treatment option for you. CBT, talking therapy and antidepressants can all help to combat symptoms of SAD. Optimising what you eat and ensuring you are getting enough nutrients can help to combat the symptoms of SAD, whilst some who experience it report hypnotherapy has helped them.
If you are looking for a complementary, holistic form of therapy that can help combat the symptoms of seasonal depression, there are a variety of options that can help.
Meditation and positivity
Reiki teacher Edyta recommends increasing your exercise, practising positivity, and trying meditation. “Studies have shown meditation and facing daily life with a positive outlook can effectively increase serotonin naturally. Regular meditation is also known to increase the body’s levels of other important mood-enhancing neurochemicals. It is safe, easy to do, and its positive effects can be immediately felt.”
Designed to treat the whole body, aromatherapy can help with healing, rest and recovery. Typically working through smell and skin absorption, if you haven’t tried it before, essential oils can be a good place to start as they can help lift your mood and increase your energy levels. Discover different ways you can use essential oils to help feel more relaxed and calm, or energized and invigorated.
Forest bathing has become more popular in recent years, with many reporting a decrease in feelings of stress, anxiety and depression after spending time in nature. By spending more time outside, natural sunlight can help trigger mood stabilising hormones, helping us to feel more positive. Taking forest walks can also be a gentle way to increase your exercise and activity levels. Regular exercise has shown to have positive mood-boosting effects for those with mild to moderate depression. If you struggle to fit in your recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week, try these exercise inspirations you can fit into your daily routine.
Mimicking natural sunlight, just 30 minutes of light therapy may help with SAD. Significantly brighter than most lights, you can buy specific light therapy lamps, alarm clocks, or lightbulbs. These can help stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and suppress your natural release of melatonin.
Time spent with friends and family, exchanging thoughtful gifts and eating delicious festive food are just some of the reasons we love Christmas here at Therapy Directory. That being said, we recognise the stresses that come along with the festive season.
Relationships can become strained, money (or lack thereof) may cause problems and the sudden influx of social invites can feel overwhelming. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that Christmas can often be the most stressful time of year.
To help you stay serene, calm and in control (so you can actually ENJOY Christmas), we’ve put together a few helpful tips:
Don’t overbook yourself
During Christmas social invitations come flying from all angles, leaving us with too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Aim to be realistic with your time this year and learn to say no. If you can’t make a certain party due to other more pressing commitments, simply explain this and schedule a catch-up in the New Year instead.
Get some quiet time in
If you’re introverted or struggle to keep your energy levels up after a lot of socialising, be sure to schedule in some quiet time. Have an evening where you stay in and look after yourself – read a book, write in a journal or simply kick back with a boxset. This will help you reserve your energy so you feel more social when you do attend parties.
Take time to be grateful
When your to-do list is growing and you feel under pressure, take five minutes to step back and think about what you’re grateful for. What (or who) do you have in your life that you’re thankful for? This helps you gain a little perspective and develop a positive mindset.
Avoid overindulging… too much
We know, Christmas is the season of overindulgence! But if you eat lots of rich foods and over-do it on the alcohol front, chances are you won’t feel too energetic. Try to maintain a sense of balance and, when you do indulge, do so mindfully and enjoy every bite (or sip!).
Embrace the festivity
Our final tip is to simply embrace the festivity! Head outside for some winter walks, have a family day decorating the house and get cosy with a tasty cup of chai tea.
Remember, Christmas can amplify emotions and make situations feel worse than they are. Try taking a step back from time to time and think about how you’ll feel about the situation in a year’s time – will it matter?
We hope this helps and wish you all a very merry Christmas!
When the clocks go back, nights get longer and it can be easy to feel lethargic and unmotivated. Exercise feels like a chore and we crave comfort food over nutritious food, which can exacerbate fatigue.
There is light at the end of the tunnel however, and there are plenty of things we can do to get in sync with the seasons. Below we reveal our top tips to help you stay motivated, energised and well throughout autumn/winter.
Wake up to the sun
If you can, rise with the sun and spend time looking outside or being in daylight first thing. This will naturally get your system waking up and raring to go. If you wake up before the sun rises, invest in a light up alarm clock which mimics the sun to help your body clock adjust.
Add energising essential oils to your shower
Aromatherapy oils can have a great effect on your energy levels. Adding a citrus or menthol scent will engage your senses and help you feel motivated to take on the day.
Adjust your exercise routine
If you’re struggling to stick to your workout routine when the weather turns, consider changing it up. Consider gentle exercises like yoga stretches or change the time of your usual run. Find what works for you at this time of year.
Make the most of longer evenings
Longer evenings don’t have to be a bad thing. There are plenty of ways you can use this time – why not invite friends over for hot chocolate and catch-up in front of a roaring fire. Get under a blanket and start a new book. Head to the cinema with your partner and talk about the film over dinner.
Autumn/winter has some delicious and nutritious foods to offer. Embrace root vegetables, homemade soups and comforting stews. Enjoy oats, apples, cinnamon and berries – comforting doesn’t have to mean unhealthy!
Reflect on the year
Darker, quieter times of the year are perfect for self-reflection. Think back to what you’ve achieved so far this year, what you’ve learnt and how you can move forward.
In the cold, dark month of January, it is intuitive that we slow down, meditate and hibernate. After the December festivities we focus on shedding the toxins and emotional baggage that has taken over our bodies.
This season however, we turn to the practice of Ayurveda to learn more about the winter cleanse. Whether you are interested in revamping your winter cleansing routine or are starting from scratch, these recommendations should help you to take your winter wellness to a new level!
The season can often slow down digestion so it is important to be mindful of our body’s reactions. You may be craving basic, filling meals and may not be handling complex flavours well. If you start to notice changes, it is important to make adjustments to your diet.
A good way to stay nourished during this time is by fuelling the body with a warming bowl of rice, beans, vegetables and warming but flavoursome spices. Be sure to choose spices that are quickly and easily digested.
Don’t fight it
While we may not have a choice in the matter, recognising the seasonal change and revamping our routines to match is important. The more we resist the shift in weather and daylight hours, the more at risk we are of feeling drained, unwell or unsettled.
Changing with the season can be as simple as starting the morning with a quiet meditation or stimulating the body with dry brushing or a massage. You may want to wind down a bit earlier in the evening than you normally would, perhaps simply take a bath and get comfortable.
Keep in mind that cleansing means cleansing the whole body. We often neglect the mind when we look for change, which can lead to stress and indigestion.
Making a commitment like joining the gym is good, but it is important to take care of yourself and listen to your body. What does your body really need? Rest, a nutritional change or a morning yoga practice?
For many of us, the start of September signals the beginning of school, work, homework, regular sleeping patterns and exercise regimes. For others, it may be a small welcome to a smooth transition into the change of weather conditions, darker days and digging out the old knitwear collection.
Regardless of our different lives, it is important to stay in good health around this time of year. With illness, dry skin and tiredness being regular side effects of the season change, here are three things that may simplify the transition:
The summer-autumn transition is the perfect time to cleanse your body of the toxins, pollutants and pesticides collected over the last three months. Try to eat plenty of vegetables and make sure to drink lots of water to cleanse and purify the internal organs.
Quiet time for ourselves is one of the most powerful things we can do during the time of seasonal change. This ‘me time’ allows us to simply be who we are, focus on the stillness, the silence and nature around us. Taking time to actively honour some peace every day will allow the mind to correlate the day’s activity and rest the body.
If you have fallen out of meditation practise, take this opportunity to recommit. Returning to a routine after a busy summer season, rushing from one thing to another requires time to sit and listen to the world around you. If you are a regular in meditation practice and have continued the habit throughout the summer season, perhaps take the time to go deeper into the quiet. Take a look at practising ‘yoga nidra’, a yoga-like sleep.
Recapping your day can be powerful in enhancing your ability to make choices. It allows you to look at the activities completed throughout the day and observe your decisions. This is best done at the end of the day, when you are tucked up in bed and in a positive, relaxed state. Here is a simple method to recapitulation:
- Sit upright in bed, against a pillow and close your eyes.
- Take deep breaths as you get settled.
- Play back the day in your mind, start from when you woke up and move through each experience, conversation and movement.
- Play through the details quickly, like watching a film, make it enjoyable.
- Observe, relax and settle for a restful sleep.
After the glorious sunshine we had last weekend, it appears as if spring has finally sprung in the UK. For many of us this is revitalising – filling us with energy to start the new season afresh. With every new season there are ways we can attune ourselves, from the foods we eat to the exercises we do to help us harness nature’s cycle in our own lives.
Spring is perhaps the most important time of year to be aware of seasonal living. Marking a time of renewal, nature’s energy is rising in spring – and ours should be too. Look to eat plenty of fresh green vegetables, but be mindful to keep dishes warm. Stir-fry dishes and spring green soups are ideal for this.
Giving your house a spring clean will go a long way in helping you feel more energised, so be sure to rid your house of any clutter to feel lighter mentally. In terms of exercise, spring is a great time of year for detoxing – so try to get that circulation and lymphatic system moving with cardiovascular work. Brisk spring walks and stretching exercises like yoga will help to pull you out of that hibernation state of mind and get you ready for summer.
When summer arrives, days are longer and lighter giving us (what feels like) more hours in the day. Energy levels are usually high, so take advantage with a cardio-based exercise routine that includes plenty of swimming, running and aerobics. Getting out in the sunshine will provide you with mood-boosting vitamin D, so be sure to take your routine outside when you can.
Eat a diet of raw foods when possible, snacking on summer berries and salads. Take some time to keep everything balanced with meditation and yoga for a bit of down-time during this high-energy season.
As the weather turns colder, changing your diet to include warming foods like curries and spicy foods is key. Coughs and colds are common during autumn, so restrict your intake of dairy and keep vitamin levels high with seasonal fruit and vegetables.
Your exercise routine should start to move indoors and focus more on strengthening and conditioning – to build up your immune system ready for winter. Consider taking up pilates and lift weights to build muscle. Aim to keep your house warm, dry and brightly lit so you don’t miss the summer sun too much.
Rather than stocking up on stodgy, unhealthy comfort foods – look to include root vegetables and winter berries in your diet. Warm soups and herbal teas will keep you warm when the snow starts to fall outside. Look to meditate during winter to keep energy levels balanced and stress to a minimum.
Keep up an exercise routine that is focused on strength and flexibility to keep joints healthy. Bikram yoga and tai chi are ideal options for this time of year.
Do you live seasonally? Let us know in the comments below.
View and comment on the original Natural Health article.
With the whirlwind of a year that was 2020, it’s no surprise that the topic of healing has become increasingly mainstream. Although an ancient wisdom, Ayurveda continues to provide practical solutions to many modern-day ailments and concerns.
Anxiety? Dry Brush. Stress? Oil pull. Crush not texting back? Meditate. 2020? Discover your dharma – and more on what that means later!
In college, I was teaching health and sanitation in the slums of New Delhi when my own health began to deteriorate. Intuitively, I knew there had to be a deeper reason and, within it, a solution for my body’s imbalances. Enter Ayurveda and an entire lifestyle holistic health evolution that led me to live my la vida kriya (flow) and put me on the fastrack path to my dharma.
I want you to experience the same ananda (bliss) that I feel every single day. So, here are 10 relatable ways to apply Ayurvedic wisdom to your modern life.
1. Tongue scrape
For this first practice, grab a mirror. While admiring your beautiful self, say, “ahhh” and stick out your tongue. If you are met with more “eww” than “ahhh”, you definitely want to consider tongue scraping. Tongue scraping is the practice of using a metal scraper to remove toxic buildup. It can help you avoid weight gain, acne, illness, bloating, gas, constipation and other imbalances.
2. Dry brush
Your skin is the largest organ and one-third of your body’s toxins are excreted through it. That’s why I recommend dry brushing, otherwise known as the practice of gently scraping the body with a dry loofah before showering. This can remove toxins and dead skin cells, and stimulate the lymphatic system. This is a five-minute routine and will only cost around £5, but it has infinite benefits!
3. Oil pulling
This ancient “mouthwash” will give your chemical-filled wash a run for its money! Oil pulling involves swishing oil in your mouth to remove toxins. On the oral side, it helps prevent tooth decay, improves breath, prevents cavities, whitens teeth, removes stains, heals bleeding gums, and strengthens gums.
On the digestive side, it helps remove oil-soluble toxins from your system, improves digestion, prevents inflammation and enhances your immune system. For a simple swig, it’s a win-win.
4. Drink something hot in the morning
Did you know that the temperature of your water has everything to do with its hydrating superpower? Ayurveda recommends starting your day with a hot drink because it is more hydrating and healing than something cold.
5. Learn your dosha
We’re all made of unique energies, called doshas. Your dosha is your mind-body type and will inform you of who you are, the best foods for you, your ideal self-care, how you are in business, relationships and the world! Basically, it’s the secret sauce for life!
There are three doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. If you’d like to discover your dosha, I’ve made a super easy and fun quiz to help you.
6. Meditate for your dosha
Meditation is not a one size fits all kind of deal. Just as each one of us identifies with a specific dosha, there’s a meditation style specific to you, too!
- Vata minds: To keep focused, try chanting an affirmation or mantra. I recommend the Sanskrit mantra ‘ram,’ which grounds you, connecting you to your root chakra.
- Pitta minds: Pittas must understand that meditation isn’t a waste of time – it’s actually going to make you more productive! Try practising a cooling pranayama-like alternate nostril breathing.
- Kapha minds: Kaphas have to stay active and engaged, otherwise, it’s sleepy time. I recommend using mudras or engaging in dancing meditations such as five rhythms or ecstatic dance.
7. Eat for the seasons
Each dosha is associated with a calendar season. Vata is cool and crisp like autumn, Kapha is cold and moist like winter and early spring, and Pitta is hot and fiery like summer. It is important to consume more of the foods that pacify the temperament of the seasonal dosha.
8. Practice yoga
There’s not enough page space to go into all of the benefits of a regular yoga practice – even just five minutes can improve your day!
There are pose-specific asanas that coordinate with your dosha, allowing you to bring Ayurveda to yet another space within your life and improve your overall balance. What are some poses that you can try? Chaturanga, Dancer, and Warrior, to name just a few!
9. Follow the Ayurvedic clock
Ayurveda splits the day into six, four-hour periods. Each period is related to one of the three doshas and repeats twice during the day.
- 6am – 10am (Kapha): This is a time to ground yourself. Begin your day with warm water and eat a light breakfast.
- 10am – 2pm (Pitta): Your energy is at its peak. It’s time to tackle those email responses!
- 2pm – 6pm (Vata): Time to be creative and solve any problems that came up during your day!
- 6pm – 10pm (Kapha): It’s time to take things slower. Do some yoga or try meditation.
- 10pm – 2am (Pitta): This is the most important time to catch some zzzs. Turn off your electronics and practice some self-care rituals!
- 2am – 6am (Vata): This is the best time for deep sleep and connecting with the dream world.
10. Discover your dharma
I could write a whole book on this topic — and I did! Dharma is your divine purpose on this planet, the unique vibration only you can carry out in the world. Eight years ago, I sat with the question, does my life really have a purpose? This led me to the realisations that I share in my upcoming book, Discover Your Dharma.
So many spiritual books are missing information on how to take action on your dharma. For that reason, I’ve identified nine dharma archetypes. You can learn your dharma archetype to help you turn your dreams into reality!
These 10 modern Ayurvedic practices are not a miracle cure, but I promise that if you practice even one, it will help you keep your dosha in check, your dharma in line, and everything will feel a little bit more aligned!
Sahara’s book Discover Your Dharma (Hay House Publishers) is available to purchase from Amazon and Waterstones from 5th January.
A holistic approach to illness, herbalism has been used for many hundreds of years to treat ailments using the healing power of the natural world.
So I sat down (virtually!) with sisters Karen and Fiona, aka the Seed SistAs to understand how we can use herbalism to grow our own well-being, strength and spirituality from our very own kitchen windowsill!
What are the benefits of herbalism and tapping into nature to promote overall wellness?
Herbal medicine is the oldest form of healing. Introducing plant-based nutrition and medicine thus harnessing their potential for health is so much more than just a tool for when you feel poorly. It’s a way of life, a direct path into nature. Observance of the change of season brings awareness of the circle of life and a deep appreciation of the green world around us – leading to greater happiness and well-being.
We share the same ancestors as plants. We have evolved together. This is demonstrated through the interaction of plant compounds with receptors located within the human body, compounds which can be almost identical to hormones or neurotransmitters. We are in essence made of the same stuff.
Plants and people have lived together, side by side from the very beginning, sharing a rich, colourful history. We are intertwined.
This is where some of the greatest magic lies in working with plants. The creation of health-giving life.
How can we use plants and herbs for spiritual growth when we may be feeling a little lost in the current situation?
Growing herbs is one of the easiest ways to connect with plant medicine and to empower yourself. From watching the first sprout of seed come up, to the revelation of leaves followed by the growth as it pushes skywards, is truly mesmerising. You can get very technical and complex about gardening but it can be extremely simple, just one pot with one seed growing on the window sill.
One of the most profound feats of spirituality is growing new life, taking dormant seeds, with careful attention and preparation to support and facilitate the growth of food, beauty and medicine is a deeply creative and nourishing action. Planting a seed is a ceremony in itself.
Can gardening and tending to living plants support our well-being?
Cultivating plants for food and medicine is one of the most positive and proactive endeavours you can take on. It’s so rewarding, watching your own garden grow, seeing the magic of germination in front of your eyes and having the bounty of nature gift you, your family and community with super health and positive connection.
We love growing herbs in our homes, gardens and community spaces, watching the whole process from seed to harvest and remedy creation. This is where some of the greatest magic lies in working with plants. The creation of health-giving life.
Culinary herbs are a super beneficial addition to any herb garden and keep you gently nourished day to day in your food. No herbs are really just culinary; they all have wonderful medicinal properties that can be linked in with support for differing body systems.
Culinary medicinal herbs that can be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill or out in the garden include parsley and peppermint. The following herbs can be included in your diet to support specific function and ease health concerns.
Please consult a qualified nutrition professional prior to making any changes to your diet.
Lymphatic and immune support
- elder tree
Nervous system tonics and relaxants
- a patch of wild oats
- lemon balm
The Seed SistAs homegrown herbal recipe to support overall well-being
Elder is widespread, found on railway embankments and roadsides, in hedgerows and parkland. This perennial tree is bushy and relatively short, growing to a maximum of 15m over a lifespan of around 60 years.
Known as ‘the medicine chest of the people’, elder is one of our most prolific and useful plants. For us to be healthy, it’s essential for fluids and energy to move freely through our system, but times of ill health can lead to physical, emotional and spiritual stagnation. Elder gets things moving again.
Her medicinal actions open the body’s channels of elimination, cleansing the system and promoting flow. The diaphoretic action (from the berries and flowers) relaxes the blood vessels and promotes circulation, thus raising body temperature and causing sweating, which is useful in the management of fevers. The diuretic action (from the berries) will increase urination, helping to detoxify through the kidneys.
Perfect for springtime, use this cordial as a daily drink, diluted with fizzy water as a special delicious treat, or as a syrup for yoghurt and desserts.
You will need:
- elderflower heads (a pan full)
- water to cover
- fresh mint leaves (handful)
- juice and zest of 3 lemons
- sugar (use your preferred kind or swap out for honey or apple concentrate – 1 ½ honey or apple to pt liquid)
- Pick a pan full of elderflower heads, just as the flowers are opening. Place in a pan with the lemon zest and cover with water.
- Bring to the boil and turn off the heat. Add a handful of fresh mint, cover and leave for an hour.
- Strain the tea and the lemon juice through a muslin and measure the volume.
- Add 1lb of sugar to one pint of liquid and place back into the pan.
- Bring to the boil and simmer very gently until all of the sugar is dissolved, simmering for a few moments longer.
- Bottle in sterilised bottles and label.
Karen and Fiona are the Seed SistAs, authors of The Sensory Herbal Handbook and founders of herbal education group Sensory Solutions. Combining medical training and years of clinical practice with a passion for plants and creativity, their teaching gives people more autonomy in their health by connecting them with their local medicinal plants and the magical nature of the green world. Find out more via their Facebook and Instagram pages.
According to one study, an overwhelming 88% of us head out into the garden to help improve our mental wellbeing, while another revealed over 80% of us feel happier after visiting gardens. But what therapeutic benefits can gardening have? And how can we make the most of them? We explore seven simple ways getting back to nature and spending a little quality time in our gardens (or with our window boxes and favourite indoor plants) can help boost well-being.
1. Improve your physical and mental health – gardening can have a surprising impact on our overall health and well-being. Along with encouraging a healthier lifestyle, gardening offers a range of physical benefits that can help you maintain mobility, burn calories and, over time, strengthen your bones, muscles and joints.
Gardening can also have positive results for those with arthritis; with the help of an occupational therapist, you can discover ways that gardening can play an important role in helping keep up your levels of physical activity whilst directing you towards the right tools and techniques you can use to avoid causing pain. Arthritis Research UK offers some great tips and self-help advice specifically for gardeners.
As Thrive explains, research shows gardening can help improve communication, learn new skills, boost confidence, and increase concentration for those who may be experiencing ill mental health. Regularly caring for your garden can help create a new structure within your life, offering more opportunities to meet new people whilst giving you a greater sense of achievement as you watch your plants flourish.
2. Boost your mood with natural sunlight – we’ve all heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but it can be easy to forget that natural sunlight can have a positive effect on our moods even if we don’t experience SAD ourselves. Spending time outside, basking in natural sunlight can help trigger the release of serotonin, a mood stabilising hormone that can help us feel more positive and productive.
Spending time outside tending to your garden, allotment or window boxes can be a great way to combat feelings of depression. It can also help stimulate the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone, meaning it can encourage a naturally better night’s sleep.
3. Bring a touch of mindfulness to your routine – mindfulness can have a surprising impact on our mental health and overall sense of well-being. The term mindfulness refers to a specific way of paying attention to what is happening in the moment, rather than allowing all of the pressure and everyday stresses to cloud our thoughts. Helping particularly to combat feelings of anxiety and depression, mindfulness can help reduce stress, insomnia, and has even been proven to have benefits for those experiencing addiction and chronic fatigue syndrome.
While you can work with a mindfulness counsellor to help incorporate the practice into your life, there are plenty of ways you can begin introducing the habit into your daily routine. Focusing all of your senses on your plants as you care for them can be a good way to connect with the moment. Focus as you touch the soil to see how dry it is and check the leaves for damage. Try clearing your mind as you water, weed, and care for your plants.
The flowers you tend to can also have additional benefits. A geranium flower essence is known for giving focus, whilst lemongrass can help calm your mind and thoughts. Exploring the different benefits of various flowers can have added benefits, helping you to feel more calm and peaceful.
4. Discover the benefits of herbalism – used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years, herbalism can offer a holistic approach to certain illnesses and conditions, treating the underlying condition rather than the symptoms alone. Working with a professional herbalist can be one of the safest and simplest ways to get into herbalism and better understand the positive effects it can have.
Once you have begun speaking with an experienced herbalist, there are a number of ways you can benefit from herbalism at home. Growing and tending your own aloe vera plants can be a great first step. Offering soothing effects, aloe vera can be great for treating minor cuts, sunburn, insect bites, as well as dry or chapped skin. Lavender can be another simple plant to try. Thought to help ease insomnia, reduce irritability, and relieve pain, lavender can be harvested during the summer and dried or infused with oil to prolong its healing benefits.
5. Gain a sense of achievement – the more care, consideration and time you put into tending your plants, the greater your sense of achievement will be. As you watch your garden grow and thrive based on your hard work and dedication, you can feel a sense of accomplishment in a low-pressure setting. If you struggle with confidence or motivation, this can act as a catalyst to help you improve across other areas of your life.
6. Explore western herbal medicine – combining ancient methods of traditional medicine with modern scientific knowledge, western medical herbalism, also known as phytotherapy, has grown in popularity over recent years. Medical herbalism practitioners use the whole plant in its natural form to help heal both the body and mind. A type of complementary therapy, practitioners take a holistic approach rather than illness-focused.
While seeing a professional, experienced herbalist is advised, there are a number of beneficial, medicinal herbs you can grow in your garden. Southern Ginseng leaves can be used to help alleviate anxiety and stress, helping lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. Stinging nettles, once cooked or dried, can provide high levels of minerals and vitamins that are thought to be beneficial for those with allergies or arthritis.
7. Start a sustainable self-care routine – self-care has become somewhat of a popular buzzword when it comes to well-being, but what does self-care actually mean? Essentially referring to looking after ourselves and our own mental and physical health, it’s easy to dismiss self-care as something that is ‘nice to have’ or that we’re ‘too busy’ to do. Self-care is an essential part of looking after our own well-being, learning to identify our needs, and starting to take the steps to meet them. Looking after ourselves shouldn’t be our last priority.
Caring for a garden or indoor plants can provide you with a positive, gentle reminder to practice self-care. By getting in the habit of checking on your plants and looking after them, you can really ground yourself and start appreciating the moment as it happens. Not only that but it can also act as a physical reminder of the impact a little care and attention can have in helping you (and your plants) to flourish.
No matter how you celebrate, the holidays can be a stressful time filled with responsibilities, juggling family and friend expectations, all while making sure you still have the time to enjoy the moment yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and stress of Christmas and the New Year, but wouldn’t you like to feel a little more present this year?
Whether you are looking for a way to relax ahead of the holidays, treat yourself for being one step ahead of the crowds, or are fighting off a seasonal bug and want to start putting your own well-being first, make this December all about presence, not presents. We share seven ways you can relax, unwind, and enjoy the little moments this holiday season.
Keeping active – during the cold, wet winter months, it can be tempting to stay curled up indoors under a heavy blanket with a big mug of hot chocolate. We know we should keep being active year-round, but it can be tough to keep our motivation going strong. Staying active isn’t just good for our physical health, it can also have a big impact on our mental well-being. The NHS says physical exercise can help those with mild depression, protect against anxiety, increase our sense of self-esteem, and positively impact our moods.
Each of us should do at least 190 minutes of exercise per week. If you’re worried about fitting in a trip to the gym or your regular fitness classes are cancelled over the holidays, try switching things up and making it a family affair. Go for a brisk walk together with your loved ones, or if you’d rather escape from the chaos at home, extend your regular walk with your dog. Try ditching the car and walking to the local shops or work where possible, or start parking further away to get in a little extra exercise where you can.
Seasonal aromatherapy – aromatherapy can be a simple way to de-stress and promote calm at home or as part of your self-care routine. Used through skin absorption or smell, seasonal fragrances can be a good way to stay in the holiday spirit whilst increasing your overall sense of well-being and decreasing stress levels.
Essential oils used in aromatherapy can help assist your body’s natural ability to rest, recover, and heal from seasonal illnesses and stress. Try using peppermint oil to promote relaxation, boost energy, and spread the seasonal scent of candy canes. For a metabolism boost, pine scent can help, or frankincense has therapeutic properties that can help decrease anxiety and stress.
Making me-moments – the holidays may be a time to celebrate with friends and family, but that doesn’t mean you should allow your self-care routine to suffer. Take a look at what you have planned over the festive period and block in some regular ‘me-time’. Going at things full-tilt during every day off you have in the lead up to the holiday may leave you feeling overwhelmed by stress, and underwhelmed by your own sense of holiday cheer and satisfaction.
Find what works for you. Maybe that’s making time for reading, meditating each morning before you start the day, reflecting each evening through a journal entry, or taking half an hour out to try an energising yoga routine. If you’re feeling worn out, don’t push through – take that nap. Instead of giving in and putting on seasonal cartoons, take back the remote and put on your own favourite movie. Don’t wait to find time to take care of yourself – make time for it. When we don’t prioritise our need to relax and unwind, we risk becoming even more stressed, overwhelmed, or starting down the path to burnout.
Therapeutic laughter – even science agrees that sometimes laughter can be the best medicine. Laughter can go a long way towards helping you feel calmer, more balanced, and back on track. Not only can a good laugh help release endorphins and increase brain connectivity, but it can also help foster feelings of safety and togetherness if we are feeling particularly down or anxious.
Research also suggests laughter can help protect our hearts, providing an anti-inflammatory effect that can protect our blood vessels and heart muscles from the damaging effects of cardiovascular disease. What better excuse do you need to switch over from the seasonal tear-jerks and heartwarming movies to a comedy film or two?
Practising mindfulness – take some time out to pay attention to the moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Mindfulness can bring small moments of calm and focus to our daily lives, helping us to feel more present and connected within ourselves and with the world around us.
If you aren’t sure where to start, we’ve created a list of 10 apps to help you relax and be more mindful to help you get going. Offering a wide range of features from sleep stories and breathing exercises, to guided meditations and advice, there is something for beginners and experienced practitioners alike.
If you’d rather find a tech-free way to get the whole family involved, mindful colouring can be a great way help children and adults alike feel calmer and less anxious. Fun, cheap, and accessible, mindful colouring can help you increase your awareness of the world around you as well as your place in it as you move carefully from colouring one pattern to the next. If you’re looking for some free resources to get you started, Happiful have a range of free mindful colouring resources and mindful activities to help kids, teens and adults feel less stressed, anxious and worried.
Calming cuppa – having a sit down with a cup of tea can be surprisingly beneficial if you opt for a herbal blend. Chamomile has been used for centuries as a remedy for illnesses including colds, fevers, and stomach troubles. Known for its relaxing properties and calming effects, having a cup of chamomile tea can be a soothing way to settle any physical ailments you may be experiencing whilst giving you a moment to be more mindful, focus on the warmth of your mug, and forget future worries and past stresses.
Taking your relaxing cuppa in the early morning sun can be an extra way to boost your feelings of wellbeing. A lack of daylight exposure during the winter months can be a contributing factor to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Grabbing a few extra rays in the morning or over lunchtime can help combat this.
Going tech-free – just hear us out on this one. Put down your phone, switch off from social media, and declare some downtime free from gadgets, the internet, and outside influences. Take the time to bask in the moment, catch up with friends and family, and ditch the FOMO (fear of missing out) and urge to document every moment on Instagram or Facebook. Constant alerts and checking our messages can be exhausting.
A 2017 study estimated us Brits check our phones more than 28 times a day – that’s over 10,000 over the course of the year – while a 2018 study revealed we spend an average of 24 hours each week online. Take a stand this December and declare an evening phone-free. If that sounds a bit daunting, try starting off small with an hour of device-free while you do something together with your loved ones. You might be surprised at how different you feel when you stop focusing on what’s going on elsewhere, and start enjoying each moment as it comes.