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Winter: Defeat Seasonal Depression

ArticleMarch 10, 2022

Do the winter months get you down? Missing the sunshine and water time of spring, summer and fall?

Even if you’re able to paddle all winter where you live, chances are the shorter days and waning sunlight could still be affecting your mood and energy levels.

Here are my top five mood and energy boosting tips for winter to keep you stoked and active, while honoring winter’s invitation to go within:

Learn How or Dedicate Time for Meditation

Because it’s still dark outside during the early morning hours of winter, it’s a good time to start a meditation practice.

Most of our suffering comes from regretting the past and worrying about the future. The past literally no longer exists and we have no idea what will happen in the future. The only thing that is real is right now. This present moment is all we have.

I like to pause and ask myself what the quality of this moment is. It makes me look around and tune into my body and mind. This is especially helpful if I’m feeling stressed or anxious. Listing the qualities of the present moment makes me aware that what I’m stressed about is not happening right now. This is very calming and inspiring.

sitting cross-legged with hands on knees and eyes closed

Meditation is not about banishing all thoughts from the mind. My favorite way to practice meditation is to concentrate and follow the path of the breath through the body. I repeat the mantra ‘inhaling I breathe in,’ ‘exhaling I breathe out.’ I keep repeating this mantra to follow along with my breath.

When I notice that my mind has wandered to the past, the future, to judging, strategizing or worrying, I simply label that ‘thinking.’ I say that word to myself with humor and compassion. ‘Thinking.’ Then I return to my breath and to the mantra.

Meditation is about noticing the thoughts in our minds and bringing our minds back to the present moment. It’s a continual practice.

Set a timer for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes or however long you want to start with. From there you can increase your time.

Take a Hike

For some of us the joy of outdoor sports continues throughout the winter. We hit the slopes and the trails and we continue to feel stoked, positive and full of energy during winter.

If you’re someone who doesn’t have a favorite winter activity or lives in a place where there’s not a lot of snow to play in, it can be easy to get complacent and spend a lot of time inside.

It's really good for your immune system to get outside during the winter months (yes, in the cold) and walking is one of the most underrated outdoor activities. Walking in nature has been shown to reduce stress, balance hormone levels and improve cardiovascular health among many other benefits.

Put on some layers, get outside and get your sweat on. You’re body and mind will thank you.

hiking with a pet dog in a snowy forest

Start a Yoga Practice (Along With Your Daily Meditation)

Winter is the season to pull in your energy and go within. If you observe nature, the trees pull in their energy to incubate new growth for the spring, and seeds stay buried in the soil dormant.

Unfortunately, our culture resists this going within. Instead, we’re expected to be producing and outward moving all the time. It’s healthy to have practices like yoga and meditation in the winter that invite us to incubate our goals for the upcoming spring and summer seasons.

Taking a yoga class gives you a guided, mindful, inspiring practice in a community setting. Being in community can be very uplifting during this darker time of year.

The benefits of yoga for paddling are many and you’ll also be prepping your body to be healthy, flexible and strong for the upcoming paddling season.

Get Some Pool Time

If you’re a whitewater kayaker then winter is a fantastic time to work on your roll and have fun in community at your local pool sessions.

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of practicing and playing around in a pool once a week all winter. Instead of having to shake the rust off come spring run-off, my clients who keep up with their rolls and enjoy time in the pool during the darker months come into spring paddling season fully tuned-up.

For SUPers, many pools are now offering floating yoga and fitness classes in the pool. It’s definitely not as much fun as doing it outside on your board, but it will keep your core strength and balance up!

Drink Golden Milk

Which is a blend of milk (dairy or non-dairy), turmeric and other warming spices. It’s comforting warmth and taste is a perfect winter treat.

Turmeric is widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and according to Ayurveda, drinking warm milk before bed helps with sleep.

There are many recipes that you can Google online. I like Gaia Herbs’ Golden Milk blend with turmeric, ashwagandha (adaptogenic herb), black pepper, cardamom, dates and vanilla. I don’t have to think about mixing the herbs because they come prepared! I mix 1 tsp of the mixture into 1 cup of milk, heat and enjoy before bed.

If you don’t do dairy (I only do it in the fall and early winter) then you can use almond milk, coconut milk or your non-dairy milk of choice.

Want to learn more about seasonal diet and lifestyle choices for optimal health? Check out Anna’s Wellness Coaching and Art of Self Care Retreats to live and paddle better! mindbodypaddle.com

With 20+ years of experience as an accomplished whitewater paddler and instructor, NRS Ambassador Anna Levesque is the leading expert on kayak instruction for women and yoga and wellness for paddling, including SUP Yoga.