Although disheartening, I do not mean the Winter Blues due to the lack of snow here in Truckee this year!
Winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), affects more than 10 million people in North America and women make up 60-90% of those affected (PsychCentral). It is a form of depression that is specifically time based coinciding with the shorter days of winter, starting in fall and resolving in spring. While the exact cause remains unknown, factors that influence it are fluctuations in circadian rhythm, serotonin levels, and melatonin levels due to the decrease in daylight.
So what’s a person to do? It is worth trying to find a balance between embracing the dark by adjusting our mindset yet proactively doing what we can to facilitate our biochemistry to feel as good as we can during the shorter days.
Winter has a different vibe than summer as it’s a more restful and quiet time in the natural world. Things slow down energetically and turn inward so they can bloom in the spring. Most of nature works in a cyclical way like this. Even our bodies work in a cyclical way. Cortisol levels rise and fall as the day goes on, menstruation cycles with each lunar month, the thyroid cycles with the season, etc). The dark is a time of more inward focus and rest. If we can embrace this idea, and not fight it, perhaps we can be more in sync with it’s quieter rhythm. A few ways to embrace the dark include
- Light a candle first thing in the morning
- Cozy up by the fire with a book instead of turning on the TV
- Have a warm cup of Golden Milk (my favorite recipe below) or herbal tea
- Dust off your piano or guitar and play a song instead of rushing to the next activity
- Start or continue a daily meditation or breathing practice (calm or headspace app, gaiamtv.com)
- Honor the winter solstice and celebrate the dark and the return of light
- Cook a warm and oily gut and soul healing soup
Along with embracing the dark and cozying up to it there are things we can do to help with our body’s biochemistry to minimize the hormonal effects of shorter days and less light. Here in Truckee the sky is often sunny. Making an effort to get out in it in addition to feeding our body what nutrients it needs to thrive can help. Here are some ideas-
- Take a walk in the midday sunshine or move your desk so you are in a sunlit window
- Try light box therapy when you wake up for 20-30 minutes a day (10,000 lux of illumination while the smallest amount of UV emitted)
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep and try to go to bed at the same time every night
- Enjoy the healing benefits of adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens are herbs that help us manage stress and balance hormones
- Eat a whole foods diet focusing on colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds, healthy fats, high quality protein, fermented foods, and plenty of clean water
- Exercise. If you can do this outside in nature it is a double whammy as being in nature has many biochemical benefits on it its own
- Connect with friends or family over a nice warm bowl of soup
- Daily supplements that help most people function optimally are omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics, and vitamin D
Wishing you joy and coziness this winter season and of course please reach out for help if you need it
Golden Milk Golden milk has many wonderful ingredients but the star is turmeric. Tumeric contains curcumin which is the main healing chemical constituent. Curcumin is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, boosts immune function, and more. Enjoy!!
Recipe (by Sharkin) Ingredients
- Combine 1/2 cup water, turmeric, and pepper in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon water. Continue cooking until thickened into a paste, 7 to 9 minutes. Cool completely, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour into an airtight glass jar.
- Whisk 1 teaspoon turmeric paste, almond milk, coconut oil, ginger, and cinnamon together in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in honey.
- Strain milk mixture into 2 mugs. Drink. Enjoy!