Elevate Your Well-Being and Find Your Inner Light During the Dark Days of Winter
Published on Medium
Depending on where you live in the world, winters can be a physiological set-up for feeling sad or depressed as you don’t have enough exposure to sunlight. Sunlight is an essential nutrient. Like plants we humans thrive on light. Plants inhale sunlight and exhale CO2; they can’t thrive without light and neither can we. Exposure to sunlight increases the feel-good chemicals such as serotonin in your brain and body.
On top of winter’s lack of sunlight, we have artificial light everywhere. Work places are filled with florescent white light, and we light in our homes with LED bulbs and blue light such as personal screens and TVs.
Our bodies exposed to the wrong kind of light instead of the natural nourishing kind of sunlight. Being exposed to these artificial lights at the office and home on a high dosage can cause symptoms of SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real. Are you feeling SAD? It’s not in your head and the good news is you can do something about it!
SAD symptoms could include irritability, depression, sadness, fatigue, changes in libido, weight gain, carbohydrate cravings, and pre-menstrual mood-swings in women. The extra stressors on you could cause weak immunity that could lead to more colds during the winter.
How can you shift out of the winter blues and become happier this winter?
o Soak up the Sun! The best and cost-free way to increase endorphins is to just go outside and enjoy the power of the sun. Your body needs a minimum of about 60 minutes of sunlight per day. Don’t wear your sunglasses as your eyes will “eat” the sunlight (you won’t exhale CO2 like plants but you will radiate positive vibes). This exposure will give your body 48 hours of sun-nutrients before it depletes. Therefore, it would be hard to keep it up in weeks that the sun is not out every other day.
o Fuel up your body with Full-Spectrum Light. “Full-spectrum” means that the artificial light contains all the colors of natural light, including the blues, greens, and purples. Fortunately, full-spectrum light can help to alleviate symptoms of SAD. Full-spectrum light is the closest thing to real sunlight. Using a full-spectrum light for about six hours per day is equivalent to getting 30 minutes of sunlight. An easy way to add more full-spectrum light to your environment is by replacing your light bulbs with full spectrum light bulbs. You can buy full spectrum light bulbs at most major hardware stores. They used to be extremely hard to find, but are now widely available.
o Take daily multi-vitamin/essential minerals/Vitamin D. Supplementing with high quality combo of vitamins and minerals can contribute to your well-being and will support your brain to perform better. In addition, Vitamin-D helps with immune system regulation, aids in depression, and even certain cancers. Make sure Vitamin D is part of your vitamin/mineral combo.
o Feed your brain. Eat enough essential fatty acids. The brain contains more than 100 billion cells and omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks of these cells. These are found in cold water fish such as wild salmon and mackerel. Eat nuts (such as walnuts) and seeds (such as flax and chia). If you must, supplement with high quality of fish oil. Supplementation with fish oil is beneficial in the management of depression.
o Eliminate and avoid refine foods. If your best friends are processed carbohydrates and sugar it’s time to make new friends. Cut them out and replenish yourself with dense-nutrient foods. Cut out anything white! Eating processed carbohydrates will increase serotonin, which you’d think is great ‘pick me up’ booster for the short term. However, the drop afterwards would be a serious downer that will make you go into a carb/sugar craving cycle non-stop. These un-nourishing foods will create stress inside your body as it is not receiving enough nutrients to build up immunity. If you have sugar cravings you can make or find healthy dark chocolate snacks. Dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins and chemicals in the brain that create feelings of pleasure. Dark chocolate also contains serotonin, an antidepressant that can elevate mood. If you are sensitive to caffeine don’t eat chocolate after 2pm as it could disturb with your sleep cycle.
o Be conscious. Try Mindfulness. You can dive into breathing exercises or even try meditation. These practices are relaxing and gets your body into a parasympathetic body state (slow heart rate), which is the perfect stage for healing as it’s in a ‘rest-and-digest’ mode. In that state, our stress levels reduced and the stress hormones such as cortisol are lowered.
Sunlight is an essential nutrient. Like plants we humans thrive on light. Plants inhale sunlight and exhale CO2; they can’t thrive without light and neither can we.
o Engage in physical activity. Even short exercise. Only 30 minutes of aerobic activity 3 times a week can uplift your mood. If you have a medical condition you can just walk in the park outside in the sun or do restorative movements like Tai-Chi. It doesn’t have to be a full-on sweat session.
o Avoid negativity. Being around negative people can make you feel anxious, depressed, sad and discouraged. What can you do? Drop who you can; avoid who you can’t. It doesn’t have to be confrontational; usually people will get the idea eventually. Find uplifting people to hang out with, if you don’t know where to meet, join a community function or volunteer. Volunteering will make you feel valuable and will increase your sense of worth and by that increasing your happiness.
o Nourish your soul. Is there something you are secretly craving and not manifesting? Try to come up with a list of things you always wanted to do. Things that fully express who you are. Maybe it’s a hobby you want to make a profession? A class you wanted to take? A power spot you wanted to travel to? A cooking class so you could nourish your family? Think what your soul really needs in order to thrive. Not following your passion and your personal needs could leave you feeling agitated and frustrated with the world around you. That won’t do anyone good, right?
Try to tackle winter blues and SAD the natural way. These tips help with depression and moodiness but also increase your vitality and well-being. If nothing works for you after using all those suggestions, try to think if it has some deeper meaning in your life. Maybe you are not following your true inner-compass. Suppressing your true inner-light or soul-mission could make you feel depressed and discouraged without even knowing what is wrong.
Sometimes you need to get to a point of “darkness” in order to see your true light, and winters are the perfect time for self-reflection.
Help is on the way!
With that said, if symptoms are worsening and you’re feeling mentally unwell, please go and seek professional help. No one should suffer and help is always around the corner.
Do you experience SAD or “dark” winters? Do you have amazing additional tips to alleviate your mood? Please share.