By Danielle Winston | @danielle.t.winston
I confess, gaining an extra hour does not make me feel cheery. Come wintertime, when the clocks fall back, I cling to my favorite yellow cotton sundress like a life preserver, reluctant to swap it out for the poofy down parka hidden away in storage. Gray days produce more than just changes in the weather... they impact our emotional climate too. Beating the winter blues is a challenge. Often women suffer most. We're 4 times more susceptible to seasonal sensitivity than men. So what causes seasonal sadness? The specific reasons why are as murky as the January sky: it could be related to serotonin... research shows that people with seasonal blues may have difficulty regulating serotonin levels and overproduce melatonin. It's also possible that the way our eyes view light may be responsible; two studies sited by NPR discovered that when eyes take in light, it triggers a special brain circuit, not previously known, that connects to depression.
Since Mother Nature is at the root of seasonal blues, it makes sense to turn to nature for relief. Read on for holistic ways to soothe seasonal blues...
*Before using natural remedies, always check with your doctor to make sure they are safe for you.
The Vitamin D Connection
Colder days usually means less overall sunshine. So when it comes to beating the winter blues, it's a good idea to get your vitamin D levels tested. Integrative and Chinese Medicine Specialist, Tsao-Lin Moy, Founder of Integrative Healing Arts explains, “There is a direct link with depression and low vitamin D. During spring and summer people spend more time outside in sunlight, allowing for melatonin and Vitamin D production.” If you are vitamin D depleted, there are easy ways to increase your intake... Make a point of spending 15-30 minutes per day in sunshine, giving your body the chance to produce vitamin D. Be conscious to consume foods containing vitamin D, such as wild salmon and Portobello mushrooms. Also, consider taking a daily supplement; check with your doctor for proper dosage. Roughly 600 IUs for adults is average... so don't take large doses as too much D can be harmful.
Mindful Sleep Habits
Your body processes seasonal changes internally. Tsao-Lin says, “there is a metabolic slow down. The circadian (biological internal clock) may be affected and in turn brain chemistry.” To remedy the effects of nature’s cycles, Tsao-Lin advises, “going to bed before 11pm.” Additionally, wake up early to take advantage of natural morning light. How can sleep assist with beating the winter blues? Tsao-Lin explains, that in addition to gaining more light, “For people who have a tendency to get the blues, getting quality sleep will help with serotonin, growth hormone, and making vitamin D, which affects brain chemistry and depression.”
Balance your energy levels... Beating the winter blues involves awareness. So notice what your body is experiencing. Tsao-Lin explains, “When you feel down, your energy is also sluggish... like the 3pm energy crash where you grab a coffee to boost energy.” While Tsao-Lin has no overall objection to coffee, she cautions against overdoing caffeine, “too much can cause a cycle of tired and wired.” Be mindful of how your body feels at various times. Tsao-Lin says, “Hormones change with moon cycles.” So... instead of reaching for coffee as your go-to energy boost, vary your choices. Opt for, “Lemon, ginger, and peppermint teas. They help with energy while still being decaffeinated,” advises Tsao-Lin. Other herbal teas to keep in mind that help when beating the winter blues, are lemon balm tea, rose, or tulsi tea.
Unlike warmer seasons, when it's natural to stroll through the park, or take an inspiring run along the beach, come wintertime, you'll inevitably spend more time inside. Being in nature, enlivens the spirit... and your environment directly influences emotional wellbeing. So... try beating the winter blues by bringing nature into your space. Tsao-Lin says, “Plants and flowers are life and will help uplift your energy. This is an easy Feng Shui cure... adding life force shifts your environment.”
When you feel sluggish, self-care rituals like daily skincare, may get overlooked. And yet they mean so much… Moments when you're blue, something as simple as a mini gua sha facial massage can do wonders for the psyche, and give you a glowing complexion as a fringe benefit; prepare skin with our aromatic Rose Nourishing Serum, crafted from the vitamin rich plant based oils of pomegranate, carrot seed, and jojoba; especially dewy and healing, when chilly weather can deplete skin of vital moisture... and to further restore the spirit, precious rose absolute oil, is proven to be a natural antidepressant that promotes internal positive vibes.
Bring In the Light
Try a lightbox (aka light therapy), designed for seasonal sadness. According to Dr. Inna Lukyanovsky, Functional Medicine Practitioner, Doctor of Pharmacy and bestselling author of "Crohn's and Colitis Fix" and "Digestive Reset, “This type of light can cause a chemical change in the brain, improve your mood and elevate the blues.” Be very selective when choosing a light though, since they aren't FDA approved yet. Dr. Lukyanovsky recommends looking for, “none, or the minimum UV light, and 10,000 lux of light to be effective.” When and how should you illuminate? “Use within first hour of your day, for 20-30 min, 24 inches away from the face,” advises Dr. Lukyanovsky.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
While light therapy is one of the most popular choices for beating the winter blues, another promising option is a specific kind of psychotherapy that targets winter blues: a study led by a Vermont psychology professor, showed that in some cases cognitive (behavioral) therapy was even more effective than light for seasonal depression. How does it work? The study involved 177 subjects, over a six-week period. One group was treated with light therapy, and the other was given a SAD-tailored version of cognitive-behavioral therapy that instructed subjects to challenge negative thought patterns about the winter. Meanwhile, it simultaneously supported them with coping skills to resist behaviors associated with seasonal distress. The results? Two years later, 46% of the light-treated group experienced a recurrence of seasonal blues, in contrast with only 27% in the cognitive therapy group.
Spice Up Your Life
An interesting fact, many people don't know, according to Dr. Lukyanovsky, is that “improved circulation will improve mood just like exercise, during the colder months.” One way to get your blood moving is by consuming certain spices. Dr. Lukyanovsky says, “curcumin, curry and black pepper can cause the body to warm up...” So stock your kitchen liberally. And keep in mind other luscious spices that also help generate body heat, including: ginger, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, and clove.
Eat Sunny Foods
The body/mind connection ripples over to all areas of life: when your mood is low, your immunity weakens. So to stay healthy when beating the winter blues, limit energy-zapping sugary and processed foods. Instead, get your vitamins through antioxidant and nutrient-dense, fruits and vegetables. The more vividly colored, the better. Natalia Rose, Clinical and celebrity Nutritionist, believes that even when it's gloomy outside you can “Bring the outside in... by eating foods that store sunlight: namely dark leafy greens. Juice them too for a major extra infusion of edible sunlight!” In that same spirit, embrace healthy warming comfort foods, like savory bean soups, and steamed vegetables.
Channel Mental Energy
Your mind is a powerful mood-enhancing tool. Natalia Rose suggests you, “Imagine the sun and trick your mind into thinking it’s the sun’s rays. The body will register the feelings that thoughts of the sun evokes. In turn, it responds to the qualities of the sun.” A lovely way to visualize, and tap into your own healing power, is with a hot bath, and our deeply meditative detoxifying facial steam crafted from nature’s blue cornflower and yellow calendula.
While there are a rainbow of ways to try color therapy, Quality of Life Coach, Krista-Lynn Landolfi, recommends individually colored glasses to clients, and uses them herself to influence her own moods. How do they work? Krista says, “colors have different vibrations, each one impacting our energy, triggering different emotional responses.” When should you use the glasses? Krista-Lynn says, “I sometimes change colors a few times a day, depending on what my focus is. I especially love wearing them on cloudy days as it brightens up the sky.” So which color helps with beating the winter blues? Krista-Lynn says, “Yellow glasses improve your sense of self-worth, and decrease depression.” Aside from glasses, you can experiment with different ways of using color to enhance mood...Try wearing an uplifting shade of clothing, meditating on a certain hue. Alternatively, bring out your artistic side through painting, or coloring books.
The senses can offer comfort and uplift your spirit. Krista-Lynn says, “Citrus oils help improve your mood. Bergamot is always in my self-care toolbox, it helps lower cortisol levels and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.” The beauty of essential oils, according to Krista-Lynn, is that they work fast, “as soon as you smell one it goes straight to the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions, which is why our mood can shift and lift!” Other oils that are intrinsically calming include: Lavender, Neroli, Tusli, and Rose. Tryour Tulsi Rejuvenating oil which is made with Lavender, Tulsi and orange essential oil,. Apply after bathing... or in the evening before bed and allow its blissful aroma to soothe you to sleep.
*Keep in mind, all oils are not created equal so purchase from a reliable essential oil distributor/distiller that provides you with a GC/MS report for the oil, preferably organic. We love Aromatics.com. Side note: check Your Blood Levels. Discover what your body may be lacking with a blood test. Dr. Lukyanovsky says, “Certain deficiencies can contribute to seasonal blues. In addition to checking vitamin D, also check your thyroid hormone levels, to rule out imbalance, and also micronutrient deficiencies.”
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https://www.news-medical.net/?tag=/Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-(SAD) (various, including light therapy glasses)
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151105084516.htm (talk outshines light study)