Has Winter chilled your emotions?
We can probably all agree: winter is a pretty gloomy and forlorn season. Grey days, whiny winds, soggy shoes and countless hours without the sun can really turn a smile upside down. Feeling blue? You're not imagining it - there is science behind it!
Researchers believe that during the winter months your daily body rhythms are out of sync with the sun. Due to not enough sunlight, melatonin levels rise in the body and seratonin (the 'feel good' chemical in the brain) drops. The high melatonin levels and low seratonin levels result in excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of motivation and feelings of depression or anxiety.
This condition of seasonal mood disruption is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The Mood Disorders Society of Canada has found a decrease in sunlight exposure as the main culprit behind the disorder. A body has an internal clock that can be disrupted and cause disturbances in mood, body temperature and hormones. Symptoms of SAD include:
▪ low energy levels
▪ withdrawal from social activities
▪ appetite disturbance (with weight gain or weight-loss)
▪ sleep pattern changes
While some people experience symptoms that are so severe that they can hardly function, for others the symptoms may be mild to moderate, with some days being better than others. Research suggests that low-dose melatonin has been shown to be effective in improving mood because it helps to shift the body’s disrupted circadian rhythms. However, there are some concerns about taking melatonin. Although it is a 'natural' hormone, it is thought that regular supplementing with melatonin may reduce one's ability to produce melatonin naturally - which could lead to sleep disturbances over time. If you're not keen on melatonin medications, don't worry - there are also natural alternative steps that can be taken during the winter months to help bridge the gap as well as herbal remedies and tissue salts that can help until summer returns…without risking dependency or unwanted side effects.
10 TOP TIPS to beat winter blues:
1. Smile and dress to de-stress. San Francisco State University research suggests that smiling can lift your mood with research on women in particular showing that wearing clothes associated with happiness can lift mood considerably even when feeling blue.
2. Citrus cycle: A 2008 study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that sniffing lemon oil or orange scent lifted mood and reduced anxiety in female dental patients!
3. Anti-frown foods. What you eat can help to enhance the seratonin in your brain. Choose foods rich in B6 such as bananas, chicken, fish and spinach). Complex carbs like healthy whole grains are great at enhancing mood - wholewheat pasta, brown rice and potato - there's no coincidence they are called comfort foods!
4. Outside high. Even though it may be nippy out there, the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto has shown that a walk in the park helps lift mood and improves memory performance! New research even proposes that people concentrate better after spending time in nature, so grab that umbrella and get moving.
5. Beat SAD with SMS. A psychologist at the university of California has researched the ways that staying in touch with regular human contact (even through text messages) can keep melancholy at bay! So be sure to keep your social networking skills through the winter months!
6. Sleep your way to a smile. A study in Sleep Medicine Reviews showed that a good night's sleep is linked to improved mood. Not enough rest can easily make one feel grumpy, listless and down. Make healthy sleep routine part of your life!
7. Treat to beat the blues! Research has shown that chemicals in chocolate are chemically similar to a widely-used prescription mood-stabilizing drug. Most dieticians advise good quality dark bitter chocolate in modest amounts (one or two blocks per night).
8. Tune into a good mood. Scientist Daniel Levitin says music can calm us because it has strong ties with the brain's emotional centre. The part of the brain that regulates mood is responsive to music and melody - so add a calming CD to your winter routine!
9. The future's so bright… One naturopathic doctor recommends ditching your sunglasses! Those who wear shades all the time never see the sun. So sit outside without sunglasses for a few minutes every day. It’s surprising how quickly you feel better!
10. Speak up. Research has shown that sharing your troubles helps immensely. One SAD sufferer had this to say: "There were days when all i wanted to do was stay under the covers because I felt so sensitive. It started to interfere with the way I lived. I would cry over simple things…" If that sounds like you, we are here to help! See our remedies below or e-mail our FREE Ask Us line and we will answer you within one day or sooner! Remember there are natural solutions out there!
The Sunshine Herb! St John's Wort is also known as the 'Sunshine Herb' due to its bright yellow flowers - and research has also found that it can help to make your mood sunnier too! In contrast to prescription anti-depressants and anxiety medication, it is non-addictive and does not carry the same risks and side effects. There are also certain tissue salts that are very helpful in lifting mood and encouraging a more positive outlook - once again, without the unwanted side effects of the prescription drugs.
Follow our blues- busting tips and you will soon be singing 'Sunshine Reggae' and 'Here comes the Sun' as if spring were already here!