Mind-Body Health

Ask Dr. Suhas: How Can Ayurveda Help Beat the Winter Blues?

Guy walking in winter snow
Guy walking in winter snow

Every month, Dr. Suhas will answer questions from our followers about men’s health and wellness. If you have general questions for him, please send us an email to askdrsuhas@chopra.com, and your question may be the one he answers next month.

This month, Dr. Suhas answers questions around seasonal blues.

Question 1: What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Dr. Suhas: SAD is a mood disorder characterized by the predictable onset of depression in the late fall/winter months. Millions of people in United States suffer from this every year. It is often experienced from November to March.

Chronobiological mechanisms related to circadian rhythms and photoperiodism play a significant role in many cases of SAD. Reduced sunlight can disrupt your internal genetic and molecular clocks. Lack of natural sunlight in the winter months causes reduction in serotonin production (a neurotransmitter) and an increase in the level of melatonin.

The common symptoms are the following:

  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Lethargy
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Weakened immunity

SAD can also lead to social isolation, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse, and is more common in women than men, especially pre- and post-menopausal women.

I mention a few recommendations below to treat SAD and beat the winter blues through Ayurveda.

Question 2: How Can Ayurveda Help Beat the Winter Blues?

Dr. Suhas: From an Ayurvedic perspective, this is the Kapha time of the year. You should favor Kapha-reducing foods. Consciously minimize the use of simple starches, sugary sweets, dairy, cheese, and alcohol.

The tastes that increase Kapha are sweet, sour, and salty. You should favor pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Food should be warm, cooked, spicy, and fresh. Avoid sugary carbs close to bedtime.

Brisk cardio, warm yoga, weights, and rigorous physical activity that promote sweating is the best way to beat the winter blues. It is a good idea to use some specific adaptogens like bramhi, tulsi, and ashwagandha to manage stress and boost emotional health. It is also a good idea to include a vitamin D3 supplement and B complex into your diet. I often recommend phototherapy via a light box (BLT) and psychotherapy.

Brisk pranayama and daily practice of meditation promotes inner calm and helps you manage stressful family reunions and social anxiety. The key is to hydrate, moisturize, stick to a good daily routine, drink warm herbal teas, and get some sunshine.

Question 3: What Are the Benefits of Daily Oil Massage?

Dr. Suhas: Daily oil massage (Abhyanga) is one the best self-care rituals that can help you slow down the aging process. It strengthens the body, tones the muscles, and increases stamina.

During the low light, cold, and dry winter months, you experience Vata aggravation. Hot oil abhyanga is a self-referral activity that calms the mind, promotes relaxation, and improves the quality of your sleep. Daily oil massage is extremely beneficial for you skin to prevent drying, wrinkles, age spots, and poor lymphatic circulation. It can also promote cellular regeneration, boost immunity, and promote a sense of joy and well-being.

If you are able to use herbarized Vata, Pitta, Kapha massage oils, you may be able to absorb the herbs trans-dermally and experience the benefits. Here are the most suitable oils for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha body types that I often recommend:

  • Organic sesame or almond oil for Vata,
  • Organic coconut or olive oil for Pitta
  • Organic sunflower or mustard oil for Kapha.

You can also use dosha-specific oils at Banyan Botanicals.

Discover your dosha type here.

Join Chopra Chief Meditation Officer, Roger Gabriel, on the Chopra iPhone app for a FREE 7-day program designed to help you regain balance as you enter the new year. Through daily meditations and inspirations, you'll learn to let go and create space for the new, while nourishing mind, body, and spirit.