More and more friends and family members tell me that they are suffering from a very low energy and mood during this peculiar time. There are a few tweaks that don't take much time but they might be just what the doctor ordered.
Yes I know. As if you have not tried it already. But smiling releases hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, both of which are important for the regulation of emotional and mental health. Studies have also shown a lowering of the heart rate after recovery from stressful situations ( https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/smiling-facilitates-stress-recovery.html ). So let's try this: go to your bathroom and stand in front of a mirror and fake a smile for 60 seconds. Look deeply into your eyes and mean it! Cheeeessseee!! If you feel like an idiot, don't worry, nobody can see you. Keep going and immerse yourself in this big smile of yours. The movements of your facial muscles, genuine or fake, trigger the release of happy hormones and can help you to get out of your low quarantine mood. Try this simple technique every day for 60 seconds before or after (or during) your shower. And if you feel up for it try an online Laughing Yoga class which can be a fun alternative!
Breathing is so important for us. We all know from our biology class (waayyy back) that we need oxygen in order to live. There is so much more that most of us don't know about the breath. In yoga we strongly believe that we draw Prana, Qi, Chi, Energy from the air that we inhale. The ancient yogis developed particular breathing exercises that help you to charge your body with Prana, some of which are more complicated than others. Today I want you to try the following technique called Sama Vritti (Equal breath):
Sit comfortably and close your eyes
Inhale for a count of four
Retain the breath for a count of four
Exhale for a count of four
Retain for a count of four
Repeat for 2-5 mins.
Regular breath work recharges your batteries and sets you up for the day when practiced in the morning. If you feel tired during the day take two minutes aside and use this simple breath to ground and energize you.
3. Keep it cool
Ishnaan or cold water showers have been used by the yogis for many centuries. The cold water stimulates the blood circulation and strengthens the nervous system. The list of benefits is endless! Ayurveda and Yoga connect mental well-being to the nervous system hence the stimulation with this technique might help with that low mood during lock down. Kundalini yogis take cold showers before their practice in the morning to elevate their vibration and strengthen their magnetic field (https://www.3ho.org/3ho-lifestyle/daily-routine/hydrotherapy). Wim Hof states that regular exposure to the cold can increase mental focus, increase your energy and reduce stress levels (https://www.wimhofmethod.com/). The list of benefits is endless and there are plenty of different methods out there. I like to shower with warm water first and then switch to cold water for 30- 60 seconds at the end. TRY IT! It takes some will power at first but you might find that this little trick might just be enough to give you that extra energy.
4. Nature walks
Being stuck inside can have a tremendous effect on our mental well-being. Take that 20 minutes per day (or more if you have!) and just walk in nature. Go to a close by park, common, woodland, river or whatever it is that is close to your home. Leave that phone at home and just take the beauty of nature in without any distractions. In Japan this is called Shinrinyoku- forest bathing and it is used for stress management and relaxation (https://www.shinrinyoku.co.uk/what-is-shirinyoku/). Try to spend at least 20 mins. in nature on a daily basis and maybe keep a little journal to write down any emotions, thoughts or ideas that came to mind during your nature immersion.
5. Ceremonial Cacao
This beautiful plant medicine acts on the cannabinoid system and helps with the release of anandamide or the happy/ bliss hormone in the body. It is also super rich in minerals and other neuro- chemicals. The introduction of pure Cacao into your morning routine can get your mind set up and ready for the day. Cacao is also seen as a heart opening plant that brings you in touch with yourself.
Here is a great little read about cacao: https://criobru.com/blogs/news/cacao-and-cannabinoids-working-to-empower-you-conquer-your-day
I like to heat up 100 ml of water (I don't let it boil as I don't want to destroy any nutrients within the Cacao) and melt my 1 oz Ceremonial Cacao in it. I then add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of honey to it (some like cayenne pepper in it as it is suppose to bring out the benefits of the cacao more but given that I am already quite a Pitta constitution I will keep away from that for now). There are plenty of different recipes out there so maybe have a look and try for yourself to see what works best for you.