Turquoise Barn

An Eco-Conscious, Green-Certified Retreat, Event, & Education Center located in the Catskill Mountains on an Organic farm. Offering group workshops, retreats, outdoor event space....specializing in sustainable Botanical Cuisine, Nature Therapy, and more! An ideal venue for YOUR retreat, wedding, or friends/family gathering. For more information, please visit our website.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Art of Emerging from Darkness - Natural Therapies for Surviving Winter

OR......some ways I am learning to Lve Winter  in Upstate NY ......besides flying away to a warm, sunny, tropical paradise....

Depression, winter blues, feeling down, dark clouds, etc., etc......For many (including myself) this is winter or SAD - seasonal affective disorder.  For others (also including myself) it is a year round condition that may be magnified during the spring, fall, and especially winter.  

I've suffered from depression since I was a child.  Over the years, I've shared my story about my cancer diagnosis, however, it's taken me a while to acknowledge, admit, and now openly share my experience with depression. It's just not a topic that most people are comfortable talking about. 

Depression can be debilitating and extremely difficult to overcome.  However, it is possible, (without drugs) although I had years ago gone down that road.  What I'm sharing here are some simple & natural ways that have helped me to maintain and keep the looming clouds of darkness at bay.  What has worked for me is not just one "therapy" but a combination.; and of course I am only listing a select few. And...as with most solutions - this is not a one size fits all.  I encourage you to experiment, 

USE ALL OF YOUR SENSES ~ see what works best for you ~ mix it up.  Here goes......

For myself - First and foremost is DIET - avoiding processed foods - adding  GREEN - juices, smoothies, etc.  LIVING FRESH whole food - it is loaded with sunshine - wakes up your cells - get's your blood flowing. The more living food I eat the better I feel - without a doubt.   And if you are ready - periodic cleansing.  Oh...and spirulina & bee pollen - great energizers & immune boosters.  If you are having cravings for not so optimal foods - try adding healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, olives, or nuts - this helps me especially in the winter. 

DRINK-  stay hydrated - warm spring water infused with lemon essential oil or HOT TEA are top on my list.  I make a blend of nettles, oat straw, holy basil, pau d'arco, and whatever else I have on hand.  

SLEEP, sleep, sleep.....  (thank you Gerry)

HEAT is comforting......speaking of heat - HOT showers and baths! 

 Awake your senses ....
AROMATHERAPY.  Using *therapeutic grade oils such as peppermint or lemon can be extremely uplifting. Explore special blends known to help with depression - Valor is my favorite......our sense of smell can have a surprisingly great impact on the mind - chemicals and artificial scents send me over the top - however, natural scents of high quality herbs & oils can create feelings of comfort & bliss.  Therapeutic grade oils can be inhaled, massaged, or ingested. Use in the bath with epsom or sea salt, put in a diffuser, use with carrier oils as moisturizer or just inhale and enjoy intoxicating scents.

 LIGHT - I started using a light box every morning (thank you Billie)...of course fresh sunshine is the best but up here our chances are slim to none of a daily dose.  I also supplement with Vitamin D3.

Hang out with KIDS - they are full of fresh ideas, keep you young & laughing - just be sure to have time to yourself (ok...that's a whole other blog)

READ a BOOK (not on an electrical device) a REAL book - keep your mind stimulated - or relax and get lost in an amazing story - fact or fiction...Oh seed catalogs - they start arriving in December!

Movement & Sound - Rebounding - singing & dancing - does wonders for the mind (and helps you stay in shape as well)  I have been using a rebounder (mini-trampoline) for over 30 years - it is the BEST - sing - dance - JUMP - enjoy....get's the blood flowing and stimulates the lymphatic system.

I  also LOVE snowshoeing, hiking, walking. stretching (yoga), getting outside - breathing fresh air and observing our surroundings.  Which leads us to the one "Therapy" that I feel encompasses all the elements connecting our mind, body, & spirit toward any type of healing.......


 NATURE THERAPY  =  creating, writing, photographing, making, meditating, moving, touching, smelling, tasting, feeling, hearing.......connecting...

Seeing, hearing, listening and feeling all the beauty of winter ~ yes ~ it is cold but it really is beautiful.......

pictures don't really capture the true essence of the beauty in following deer tracks, 


spotting a dash of color amidst the brown & white landscape, 

waiting & watching for the oh so elusive sun to peak out from behind the clouds; 

the sound of stillness & movement in the wind and trees.......


The first steps out into the cold..... quiescence.....sadness  -  reminders of a great loss recently experienced.........the absence of light & life are overwhelming . . .

and illusory -  as I keep moving and begin really observing - looking, listening, smelling, feeling, touching - I see signs of life hope - the future - life - regeneration

A tiny caterpillar crawling towards a flower I placed into the frozen ground .......

a once flying insect struggling towards ~ beautiful seeds from the milkweed - now burrowed into the ground - perhaps the home of a tiny mouse or fairy ~


a "couple" of plants ~ leaning, supporting and loving (yes plants are living and do communicate!)



Birds singing and playing in the trees... 

Water dancing in the stream....

I listen to the wind ~ smell the grasses, feel the trees, see the birds and bugs, touch the snow, dirt, and plants   ~  taste the air ~


observe with all your senses - the art in nature

The spirit energy in everything ~ always ~ all around us ~ changing ~ growing ~ evolving ....... we are all connected to everything.

So get outside and go inside - connect - observe all the beauty nature has to offer - any way, any where, or any time of year......

m xoxo (yeah that too)

Well I hope you enjoyed a peak into some of my daily thoughts and activities.  As I mentioned above, this is only a partial list of "therapies".  I would also like to add that sometimes life can get in the way and we find ourselves caught up in situations beyond our control.  When this happens (and it does happen) I try and remember that it is all temporary, part of a cycle, it will pass...and just like the quiescence of winter, the life & light of spring will reemerge..... finding and utilizing the right tools can expedite the process.  I encourage you to research, experiment and explore , reach out, connect with other like minded individuals - it's not always easy but it is POSSIBLE.

For those interested, I offer workshops utilizing most of the therapies mentioned above.  Join me for a workshop or retreat - learn more about aromatherapy, plant based living & wild foods, herbs, elixirs & tonics, nature therapy, and our ability to heal naturallyOur next retreat is coming up May 15th-18th 2015 - please  visit my website or contact me for more details.

I would love to hear what works for YOU  - please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, ideas, experiences AND please share with anyone whom you think may benefit or need a bit of a reminder (I think we all do at some time) : )


  1. Thank you for telling your story—and sharing your techniques for good living—with such grace and generosity. I am going to bookmark this page and refer to it when I need a reminder. To this list, I would add reading great poetry (file under your excellent point about reading "real books"), getting ample sleep, and of course watching Miyazaki films as often as possible. :)

  2. You are welcome and thank you Gerry. SLEEP yes - I forgot that one - so crucial and who doesn't love Miyazaki! Here's to a warm, safe and HAPPY New Year. Cheers!

  3. Wonderful, Michelle. We all can benefit from this (your perspective) during out long winters. I concur with everything you have said--exercise, as you know, is my therapy. Setting new goals, trying new sports (snowboarding!), etc. I will share this!

  4. Thanks for reading Julie! Yes - exercise - I would LOVE to hire you as my personal trainer : )