Bust Your Doldrums: The "Chi Three"


Do you get the winter blues? Maybe it’s the cold, or dark, or whatever you’re stressed or worried about. You get this feeling of depressive inertia, where your body starts to sort of melt into stagnancy, your energy dies, you feel unfocused and unmotivated, and your negative or spin-y thoughts start to get the best of you. Maybe you literally can’t get out of bed, or maybe you’re at your desk starting to sort of sink into an unproductive stupor. For me, my body has been stagnating and then my mind goes into spin-y worry.

I’m here to tell you (and myself!) — you gotta move the chi.

Chi (or qi), in ancient Chinese culture, is energy or life force. It literally translates as “breath.” I have been finding recently, when I get this lackluster inertia winter doldrum thing, that I need to move the body and focus on the breath. For me, it helps to notice the patterning — “I feel stuck and worried and depressed” (brain/emotions-wise), or “I feel like my body is achy and limp and non energetic.” Then I’ve decided on a simple triad of easy-peasy movement things to do. I’ve been calling them the “Chi Three.”

You can do the Chi Three anywhere, and it takes like 5-10 minutes. Do it when you’ve been sitting and working and start to feel like a blah lump. Do it in the morning if you can’t get moving. It helps move the energy through the body, and also has the side benefit of clearing the mind a bit.

Number 1: Yoga asanas or sun salutations. These are super-simple yoga exercises that put gentle focus on the body and breath, and offer an easy series of stretches.

Number 2: Silk reeling. Taught to me by a friend who practices tai chi, this is again about movement with breath and presence. I'm probably a total idiot at this to real tai chi practitioners, but I basically view it as gentle movement with aware attention and breath; something good must be happening.

Number 3: A set of pushups (or the strength exercise of your choice). I’m doing doorway ones right now to strengthen the muscles around my shoulder blades.

Bonus 4: Get outside. Not quite as 10 minute, dead-simple as the above, but I feel immeasurably better when I get outside and move. Get fresh air, look up, connect with nature… I find this to be so grounding for that doldrum feeling as well.

Build this into your day if your job has you mostly still. Or use it as an easy remedy when you’re feeling yucky. I definitely need an unavoidably easy routine to execute for those moments. And this can totally be tailored for preference. Make yours jumping jacks plus forward bends! Whatever gets your chi flowing. If nothing else, let this be a reminder to us all that we need movement breaks built into our days, dead of winter or not. 

Image: moontorrent.com