Press Room
Shamamabear's 10 Tips to Beat the Holiday Blues!
Monday December 1st, 2014
Evelyn Rysdyk & Allie Knowlton

Over the years, I've learned a few good strategies to beat back the blues. Here are a few you might want to consider as holiday season and the darkest time of the year arrives.  

1. Practice Gratitude every day  

Gratitude has the power to transform your inner emotional landscape. In a study of organ transplant recipients, researchers from UC Davis and the Mississippi University for Women found that patients who keep "gratitude journals" scored better on measures of mental health, general health and vitality than those who keep only routine notes about their days. Test subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group kept routine daily notes about medication side-effects, how they felt about life overall, how connected they were to others and how they felt about the upcoming day. Patients in the other group answered the same questions but were also asked to list five things or people they were grateful for each day and why they were grateful for them. They were asked to reflect on what they wrote as well. After 21 days, mental health and general well-being scores had risen for patients in the gratitude group but declined for those in the control group.  This is particularly important as feeling better has been proven to actually translate into becoming more physically and emotionally well! It may seem counterintuitive, but if you can feel better first, you will be more likely to get better!  
Here is a
CD that can support you in your gratitude practice!

2. Get outdoors 

Nature has remarkable restorative benefits. The changing season, phases of the moon, and shifting weather all remind us of the larger cycles of which we are a part. As nature goes "up and down" we too have rhythms and when we can allow ourselves to notice and honor our own natural cyclic flow, we can move through our life a little easier.

3. Eat like your brain depended upon it! 

Often at this time of the year, we fall into poor eating patterns. We may eat too much and/or choose foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Poor diet is a contributing factor to seasonal blues as well as true depression. Our brain needs balanced nourishment to be able to function well and remain healthy. Get support to clean up your diet and stay on an even keel!

4. Have your Vitamin D level checked

Many of us in the Northern Hemisphere have chronically low Vitamin D levels. This can lead to depression as well as several chronic health issues. To know where your level stands and to get an appropriate a "prescriptive strength" dosage regime, it is imperative to work with a doctor or nurse practitioner.  They will order simple blood tests to keep an eye on your levels of Vitamin D and calcium to make sure you get enough without worry of a toxic overload.

5. Go for a walk

Any exercise that moves your body in a healthy and fun way is great. Walking, swimming, dancing, even shopping all help to support a healthy metabolism which in turn supports a healthy mental state!

6. Find or develop a reason for your life 

In my mind, a rich life is when you have something outside of yourself that excites you about getting up in the morning. Whether it is a job that you love, a friend that could use some support, volunteer work or something else, it is vital to have some passion that motivates you. Finding yours and nurturing one if you already have identified it is an essential part of feeling good about life. Keep trying things until you find just the activity that generates inner excitement.

7. Enter into a relationship with Spirit

In my personal experience, having a connection to the numinous world of spirit is a salve to my heart and mind. The direction one takes to the Divine is a personal choice. You may find prayer or meditation is your path. For others it might be in church and for others shamanic journeying. Which ever route that you choose, open yourself to the limitlessness of All That is. Within the vastness of the All, we find context and are given meaning that can sustain us even in difficult times.

8. Follow a regular bedtime routine  

Often when we feel blue or depressed, our sleep becomes ragged. It is at these times more than ever that we need to keep a good bedtime routine. This means doing quiet reading, meditation, listening to soft music or even taking a warm bath for the last hour before you go to bed; going to bed at the same time every night and rising at the same hour each day to help regulate your inner clock; and staying away from stimulants such as caffeine, carbohydrates and alcohol as all of these contribute to poor sleep regulation. It is important to get exercise in the daytime which also supports your mood as well as good sleep (see # 5).  

9. Fake it 'til you make it!

Sounds weird, but this can actually help. Studies of athletes have shown that practicing a task mentally can actually train the brain to do it well.  I've found that the reverse is also true in that by engaging in pleasurable actions you can actually improve your mental state. If you find yourself thinking, "If I wasn't feeling so depressed I could (insert activity here)" then start doing the activity even though you don't yet "feel like it!" Often, the simple act of getting busy with something that you desire to do can transform your mood. I liken this approach to the practice of Laughter Yoga. (Here is a video of John Cleese visiting a Mumbai Laughter Yoga group!)  In a typical session of this unusual form of eastern exercise, the group practices "fake," exaggerated laughter. Invariably, after a period of this practice authentic laughter erupts spontaneously!

10. Get more support

Friends and family can be a help but also a hinderance when you are struggling with sad or depressed feelings. Oftentimes, entering into a brief course of psychotherapy or shamanic counseling can help you to understand the root of your feelings and how you can really feel better. Humans are social creatures and spending time in the company of trained, supportive people can make a huge difference in your overall well being!

For more information:

Evelyn Rysdyk Or Allie Knowlton
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