By Alyson Young Gregory
You’ve got a yoga strap at home and a juice bar on speed dial. Your family eats mostly whole foods, and your children are able to consistently identify odd-shaped organic fruits and vegetables at the local farmer’s market. Most days you sort of meditate—or at least take a couple of deep breaths if you’re short on time (which let’s face it, is almost every day). You know about probiotic gut health and excessive screen time, and sometimes even remember to toss a fish oil gummy to your kids before you all rush out the door. Of course you’d consider yourself a holistic person! You are at the helm of this wellness ship steering everyone toward lasting health and well-being.
Or are you?
At any given time, at least one person in the house is worn out, tired, rushed, anxious, has a headache or difficulty sleeping, and is complaining about something. But that’s life, right? Yes, and no.
True holistic health goes beyond the physical and psychological, taking into consideration all levels of a person and their environment. According to Ayurveda—India’s ancient healing system that’s often called “the science of life”— balance and wellness come from the art of daily living. Simple actions and daily routine coupled with living with awareness can help make lifestyle choices toward whole health. Ayurveda says everything external becomes internal. Let’s take a bird’s-eye view of the five senses for some whole family wellness guidelines.
What’s the noise pollution level at in your home? In this digital age we live in, the near constant drone of buzzing and incoming alerts from multiple appliances, computers, and wireless devices can feel like an assault. Have you ever considered your emotional response to all of this noise? It’s no wonder ‘misophonia,’ the hatred of sound, has emerged as a modern disorder.
Reduce the irritation and ambient noise in your home by simply switching your gear off when not in use (there are those times, right?), and play some relaxing ambient sounds your whole family can benefit from. Many holistic systems of medicine believe being in tune with nature helps to support our biological rhythms and reduce stress. Since winter affords us less of an opportunity to be in the great outdoors, this is the perfect time to turn up the noise of nature.
Experiment with country night crickets, ocean, thunderstorm, and rainforest sounds with family members around, and read the room. Sure your kids might make fun of you, but hey, they’ll be more relaxed when they do it! Finally, hang a wind chime on your porch and outside of your children’s bedroom window to promote sound healing and tranquil sleep. This is also believed to help dispel nightmares.
Color therapy is simple yet effective, and is the perfect tool to contrast the stark and sometimes depressing landscape of winter we are all stuck with here in New England. Orange and red are both warming colors, and can be easily worked into the home by updating your throw pillows and splurging on fresh flowers to bring cheer to every room. No need to wait until spring to visit the nursery—plant a windowsill herb garden with your kids. Keep it simple with basil, fennel, and mint you can use for hot tea later. Pick up some plants to wash the air inside your home and enjoy the calming effect of the color green, believed to soothe emotions and bring happiness.
You knew it was coming… aromatherapy! With diffusers and essential oils widely available on practically every store shelf, there’s no excuse not to recreate your favorite scents at home. As a holistic application, aromatherapy is believed to prevent and combat illness and enhance the body’s natural ability to maintain balance for health and spiritual wellbeing. From simply lighting a candle to preparing a custom oil blend, anyone can experiment with the effects of different aromas. And who doesn’t love a lavender pillow spray before bed? Kids’ bedtime routine getting stale? Have them spray their own rooms and pillows—they will feel special and sleepy.
• Calming: basil, geranium, clove
• Stress Relieving: sandalwood,
• Energizing: ginger, eucalyptus,
Dry skin anyone? Between cranking up the heat to stay warm, indoor lighting and low humidity, and sitting fireside, wintertime can feel like you’re frying up from the inside out. This is also the way to think about hydration—from the inside out. Daily warm oil self-massage before bathing called Abhyanga can be part of every person’s daily routine to nourish all the layers of tissue in the body and balance the nervous system. Sesame oil is considered to be the king of oils. For busier days, scalp and foot massage can have numerous benefits, and children love a mini-massage before bed to help them relax.
It may be tempting to hop on the latest superfood train or master cleanse trend this winter, especially if ‘binge-watched’ has become part of your vocabulary or you’re trying on bathing suits for an upcoming vacation, but resist the urge! Ayurveda’s system of health believes individuals should eat according to their unique bodily constitution, with an awareness of changing environmental conditions like season. How can one trend be right for every person all of the time? Does it make sense to drink cold, raw juice if you’re chilled? A bowl of warming soup would feel much better. Holistic health is all about developing awareness between mind, body, and spirit and responding in kind to maintain or restore good health.
Generally, denser and oilier foods can be enjoyed in the winter, as digestive fires are believed to be strong. Healthy fats and proteins, along with warming spices and grounding soups and stews will keep you warm and energized all winter long. Switch out your gut-freezing cold smoothie for a warm, spiced almond milk or homemade chai.