This post is in collaboration with E.On.
I know it’s not on trend to say, but I really don’t love Autumn. Pumpkin Spice makes me gag, I hate that the nights are closing in and while I do enjoy both flannel and knitwear, I’d sacrifice my jumper collection for warmth and sunshine any day. It’s a time of year when I often end up feeling totally depleted and really lack motivation. However, I also live in London, have no plans to move in the immediate future and a massive to do list, so I need to suck it up and find ways to cope as the leaves fall around me.
A couple of weeks ago E.On invited me down to their Recharge Retreat on the Southbank to hangout with Jasmine Hemsley and get some ideas around how to recharge as the winter closes in. I always find Jasmine’s perspective interesting, and as we discussed the change in seasons she spoke about how we can respond to feeling drained in a way that is nurturing.
Much of Jasmine’s thinking focuses around Ayurveda, an ancient holistic system of wellbeing. It’s about harmony between the body, mind and spirit and tuning into the ebb and flow of our nature. While it might sound like another trend, it’s a science of life that’s more than 5,000 years old and was developed to help people thrive in an ever-changing environment, something that’s never been more relevant than it is today. A medical system in it’s own right, Ayurveda literally translates from Sanskrit at life (Ayur) knowledge (Veda). There’s a lot to Ayerveda, but at it’s core it’s an energetic system. We each have a Dosha (body type), and our Dosha has individual needs that need to be addressed through how we eat, move and live in our space. However, the really beautiful thing about Ayerveda is that we can incorporate it’s principles into our lives in little ways. No big lifestyle changes, just tweaks that will help you thrive, and one of the most practical ways to do this is with food.
Huddled in a makeshift kitchen on the Southbank, Jasmine told me how what, how and when we eat is at the heart of Ayurveda. We should be focused on nourishing and satisfying our bodies, something that’s a real departure from all the noise that surrounds us about low-calorie, low-fat diets and the tendency to grab-and-go. Food sustains us at the most basic level, but we need to understand how to let it benefit us so that it recharges our systems. We can’t just ingest mindlessly. In Ayerveda this comes down to healthy digestion, and Jasmine has a few simple tips we can all adopt easily to keep our digestive systems healthy and get the most out of what we eat this autumn.
1. Switch from cold or iced drinks to hot. In Ayurveda, digestion is understood as a fire – “Agni” – which we want to be working optimally when we introduce food to it. Cold foods and iced drinks (even room temperature as we move into winter) can dampen it. Opt for hot water or herbal tea to keep your digestive fire ablaze!
2. Prioritise well cooked foods, such as freshly cooked soups and stews, as these are more readily digestible. Avoid too much raw food (regarded in Ayurveda as cold, dry, light and rough) which can put a strain on your digestive fire, in turn leading to poor absorption of nutrients and imbalances in your body.
3. Savour your food. Eat mindfully without distractions and in a stress-free environment to nurture your digestion and connect with the food that ultimately becomes you. This can make a big difference to your overall sense of wellbeing and becomes a regular opportunity to create calm in a fast-paced world.
4. Use herbs and spices (aka nature’s medicine cabinet) in your everyday cooking, not only to create delicious flavours and keep seasonal foods interesting, but also to support our health by helping to maintain important functions in our immune, hormonal and digestive systems.
5. Have your main meal at lunchtime when your digestion is at its peak and go back to traditional suppers — light meals eaten earlier in the evening to make sure you are able to fully digest your food before bed for a better night's sleep.