Ways to thrive in Delhi winters!
Delhi winters are reasonably moderate as compared to winters in many places, yet some love it and some, not so much. And if you are like me, sleeping as November ends and waking up somewhere in February seems like the best plan, but somehow that doesn’t make logical sense, nor would it be a productive use of human life. Three month long beach vacation may not be an option for many and the warmth of a short beach vacation doesn’t last long. And although, I am not against using room heaters, personally, I avoid using any kind of room heater as much as possible, as I feel they make me more sluggish and lazy (I prefer using a hot water bottle instead).
So, do you feel excessively cold even when others around you are comfortable? Your hands and feet are always cold? Experience low mood, gloomy, sluggish, persistent blocked nose, headaches etc in winters? This, might not be just in your mind.
I used to think most of the people who are cold sensitive must be following some daily “to do tasks” to help them thrive through the winters but after talking to some people, including some of my clients I realised they are making their “winter blues” symptoms worse. Many times it also happen that we may not feel physically so cold but may suddenly start becoming irritable or depressed, overeating, oversleeping, develop headaches, etc. This could be something to do with this season and can be managed by following some behaviours. Note that certain health conditions/hormonal imbalance may also decrease the tolerance for cold, so definitely that must be considered as well.
Below are few things which I found useful to thrive the cold here. Point 6 is something I am trying for the first time and I am pretty pleased with how it’s making me feel.
1) Soak in that sunlight as much as possible.
Though Delhi winters are cold, but thankfully our winters are mostly sunny. So go out and get that Sun as much as possible.
2) Make most of the daylight.
Short days in winters are connected with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Even if you don’t have access to direct sunlight, daylight is good too. Sit on the balcony, draw the curtains in your rooms and let the daylight seep into your house, even on overcast days. It may not feel warm but day light can make a significant difference in your mood and low energy. There are some light therapy lamps that replicate natural daylight, which can help as well, although I haven’t ever used them.
3) Breathing exercises like Kapalbhati and Bhastrika.
If you are sensitive enough to your internal sensations, you might feel your core warming up with these breathing exercises. Both techniques have an energising effect on our system. They bring in alertness, increase the heartbeat and amp up the metabolism. They make one feel invigorated and alive. These exercises have also been reported to manage depression symptoms and backed by many scientific studies. Personally, they help me leave my blanket and move into action, also very helpful to overcome that winter lethargy and brain blankness. A note here: These breathing exercises are contraindicated in some medical conditions. Do check with a yoga teacher/therapist before you start with these. Check out energising breath work practice.
4) Energising asana practice.
According to T. Krishnamacharya, yoga practice must also factor in the season. Try adding some energising asnas and sequences to your practice, focus more on movements and vinyasas (sequences) than hold poses during the practices. You can also add some sun salutations and focus more on inhalations during practice. Needless to say, add a good warm up. Such a practice will gently increase the heart rate and help in blood circulation. It will also take care of joint stiffness and muscle tightness. It will reduce lethargy from body and mind. I have observed asana practice has an effect which lasts even after the practice. In simple words, it can make you feel overall light and bright. Check out energising asana practice.
5) Continue to exercise, try light cardio or brisk walking.
It keeps the metabolism up and also works as a mood elevator. Many people stop exercising during winters. Why??? I am yet to check the science, but my theory is, exercising in winters can help people lose more weight as - a) When one exercise, it takes them away from food :). b) When we exercise in cold weather, we feel warm, which is a nice feeling in winters as compared to summer when body heating is not comforting and can give rise to lightheadedness, weakness, and early fatigue. c) In summers, people often end up eating more or drinking more sweet stuff post exercise as the body feels weak due to heat and water loss. d) Most healthy behaviours go together, so if you continue an exercise regime during winters, there are more chances of you to sticking to other healthy behaviours as well, like healthy eating. I can give more points to support my theory, but the point is to continue exercising during winters (stay hydrated) and don’t get carried away with that winter lethargy and ‘don’t feel like moving’ mode.
6) Add cold showers/immersion, they actually have a warming effect post shower.
No, I haven’t given up hot showers; I have added cold showers. I have recently started with cold showers and it’s not as bad as the mind makes it appear. According to scientist Dr. Susanna Soeberg if we do at least 11 min of cold exposure in a week, it helps towards cold sensitivity and increases metabolism. It also has positive effects on mood. I have started with 2-3 mins of cold showers after a hot shower on weekends (total of 5-6 mins) and on weekdays I wrap up a hot shower with a quick10 secs of cold shower. Yes, it takes mind control to do it for the first time; it took me 20 mins of tapping before my first attempt! But it made me feel alive after I did that. Felt like an inner heater turning on in my body immediately after a cold shower. Was nice to see my body’s thermostat still functions ;). I also found, even a very short cold shower after a hot shower makes me feel less cold immediately after a shower. Though I am not sure why exactly is that but It kind of makes sense as our body loses heat after hot showers and most Indian houses don’t have heating in bathrooms. Some things to note, make sure water temperature is uncomfortable but bearable (at the moment Delhi’s overhead tank water is doing a good job). Avoid being ambitious, start with a shorter duration and gradually build up, we don’t want to get into hypothermia. Avoid doing it if you are unwell or have some health issues. Keep it in the first half of the day. Also, I don’t wet my head. Check out interview of Dr Susanna Soeberg. Wim Hof has also popularised colds water immersions.
7) Regular Steam and/or Neti.
Taking steam really helps me to sleep at night. I often get allergic rhinitis and blocked nose, which can get aggravated with cold, dry and polluted air. Steam not only helps to release nasal blockage, but it calms my nerves, literally. It works like a pranayam :). I do it approx. twice a week and if I have a cold; I do it once or twice every day.
Neti is also good, however it has a technique which needs to be taught, also I have observed neti only helps to clear nasal passage and sinus inflammation to some extent but steam helps both sinus issues, chest congestion and relieves winter headaches and earaches. At times, I do both steam and neti. For steam, I simply heat water in a pan and cover my head with a towel over the pan and inhale vapours. There are some face/nasal steam devices in the market that can be used as well.
8) Gargle at the slightest sign of throat discomfort.
I know this seems like a covid therapy, but some people are more prone to throat soreness than others. Whenever I suggest gargling to anyone, no one likes it, they rather choose to buy vicks and honitus and still complain about throat pain not getting better. I get it, I didn’t liked it either as a kid when my father who was a medical doctor (MD) would tell me to gargle and steam when I had cold. (We were rarely given any medicines for cold or cough, unless there was some infection as well). of course I would resist, but thankfully I was a wise kid and tried it once just for him and wow, it worked. Ok he wasn’t distracting me! Bottom line is, old school gargle (with salt water) is the best and most effective therapy for sore throat that I know, whether it’s covid sore throat or non covid sore throat. Want to add here, personally, my first line of action for any sign of throat discomfort is chewing cloves (gargling is second when I notice soreness), but many people can’t handle the strong taste of cloves. By the way, cloves are amazing mouth fresheners and have antiseptic properties.
9) Cover your head and ears (besides the rest of the body).
If you suffer from earaches and/or pressure headaches in winters (I literally feel my brain contract inside my skull) covering the head and ears helps. I have observed, even when I am not feeling cold, inside of my head would feel uncomfortable and my brain would feel stalled. Often I take time to realise that it could be because of the cold. Two years back, I switched to a fur cap which looks like a Russian cap and it has really helped to reduce the winter headaches. That completely insulates the head, far better than the woollen caps that I have tried.
So, if you follow all this, would that make you love winter?
I’ll leave this for you to find out.
About me, I’ll say, I feel most comfortable in moderate temperatures and light clothing. I look forward to spring, warmer temperatures and cottons, but yeah, following these helps me to thrive in Delhi winters not suffer them.