Geeky wellbeing favourites: February
The winter blues, how gratitude and other practices can help, plus yoga science stories from the past month.
The third Monday of January is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. Apart from being an excellent song, I’m not entirely convinced that Blue Monday is a real thing (why the third Monday of January and not the second or the first Monday of February, for instance?).
And yet, there is something about this time of the year that makes me (us?) feel a little bit meh, for lack of a better word. Not quite a feeling of depression, but maybe like a slowness, a tiredness, a greyness. I’ve spoken to a few people who have told me they feel this way too, always tired, lacking enthusiasm, energy and motivation.
Maybe it’s the post-holiday blues, like Blue Monday enthusiasts will have us believe. Maybe it’s winter, with its dark mornings and evenings, and those strong chilly winds that make it difficult to go outside. Maybe I just haven’t been practicing enough yoga! (And no, I haven’t.)
So for February, my goal is to practice more yoga (I’ve already attended three classes, so it’s looking promising for invigorating my self-practice too). To create a few more self-care rituals that help lift the mood and generally improve wellbeing – including keeping up with my new 2022 habit of writing a three-point gratitude list every night (plus, writing down my dreams, because it’s fascinating to try and remember them!).
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One of the most-read articles of 2021 was this New York Times one on languishing, which describes almost perfectly how this month has felt. Definitely check it out if you haven’t read it.
This one from The Conversation is also a really good read, and includes some actionable tips towards flourishing, for instance keeping a gratitude list. Ok yes, I’m a total convert of the gratitude list. Sometimes, the list is:
But it’s good to be grateful of the little things.
Watch or listen
Speaking of gratitude, have you ever wondered what happens to your brain when you actively practice it?
Here’s a fascinating talk by Christina Costa on the neuroscience of gratitude practices. It’s just 10 minutes long and may inspire you to start practicing gratitude to build resilience and improve wellbeing.
You can also listen to it here.
What screams self-care more than yoga nidra? Not much!
I really enjoyed this iRest practice by Richard Miller on Insight Timer. I know it’s probably controversial because of the sexual harassment stories about him, but there is still something very calming about this time of Yoga Nidra practice. So if you can put him as a person to one side, check it out and see what you think of iRest.
Yoga science highlights
Why do you practice? – What a surprise: men and women may have different reasons for practicing yoga, according to this study. Women practiced to improve their wellbeing, including physical and mental health (eg managing stress), whereas men saw yoga as a supplementary activity that offers benefits in other physical things they do (eg other sports) or to help recover from an injury. However, bear in mind that, although the study surveyed 546 participants, there were almost three times as many female participants.
Yoga for menopause – A systematic review and meta-analysis of menopause research has concluded that yoga has beneficial effects on the mental health of women going through the menopause. If this is a topic of interest, the whole article might be worth a look, as it reviews the evidence on a number of interventions, including exercise, massage and acupuncture.
Yoga for weight loss – A small study compared the effects of 12 weeks of 2x weekly Iyengar yoga classes vs cooking/nutrition classes on weight loss on 60 women who had completed a 3-month weight loss programme comprising diet and exercise.
Overall, there was no difference between the two groups after 6 months. However, when the researchers looked specifically at participants who had shown high levels of weight loss after the 3-month programme, they found that those who had practiced yoga had lost more weight after 6 months than those who attended cooking/nutrition lessons. It’s possible that something about participating in yoga classes helped to keep the women motivated and focused on their weight loss goals.
From the blog this month
Can I be into yoga without the supernatural crap? The yoga world is obsessed with the supernatural, beyond things that are part of its actual heritage. But how much does this contribute to the rejection of science and medicine?
Growing old well, with yoga – Ageing well is surely something that we are all after – mobile, as healthy as we can, with strong brains and great mental health. Maybe yoga can help.
You may have missed
A few yoga and mental health highlights to help with any feelings of languishing.
Yoga nidra makes me happy (or just less sad) – Plain language summary of a study on the effects of yoga nidra on mental health and wellbeing. As if there wasn’t enough reason to practice!
Yoga, self-compassion, and being a better friend to yourself – Because there’s nothing you (I) need less of while languishing than unhelpful, mean thoughts.
5 reasons why you should start a breathing practice today – I know, I know, I keep posting this one, but it somehow works with every newsletter theme. So breathe, dammit, breathe!