Do you feel tired, sluggish, maybe even anxious or any level of depression during the winter months? You are not alone.
It is common for humans to have a mild shift and not feel as vibrant or energetic in the colder weather. For some, this might be a bigger shift leading to deeper depression, anxiety and poor health. Regardless of how severe your experience is, there are many practices you can use to have a healthy, joyful winter season.
Let’s start by looking at why we may not feel as well.
- Daylight Savings Time Interferes with Digestion and Quality Sleep
One of the biggest issues is the practice of daylight savings time; a practice that is one of my biggest pet peeves because it interferes with our circadian rhythm. If you ever have the chance to vote in your state to end the practice of daylight savings please do it!
Due to observing daylight savings time in the cooler months, the sunset happens around 4:30-5:30 PM, depending on the phase of winter we are in, and where you live. If we are always eating dinner by the concept of the 24 hour clock, many of us will eat dinner 2-3+ hours after the sun has gone down. This disrupts our sleep because the sun plays an important role in our digestion, when we are eating late (in terms of how long it has been dark) your body will not be able to digest properly which means we will have impaired sleep, and not absorb the nutrients we need for homeostasis or fighting disease.
- Lack of Nature and Sun Exposure
In addition to the sun’s role in digestion it also is the main source of vitamin D production. Since many of us do not go outside enough at any time of the year, and even less when it is chilly out, we are losing out on the important interaction with the sun which profoundly impacts the endocrine, nervous, immune and digestive systems.
Did you know that our cells, brain and digestive system keep time? More accurately they all have their own circadian rhythm. It is said that cell proliferation of humans, including the digestive system is not random or constant but cyclic.1 This means our various bodily systems require sunlight and rest at very specific times, and if we deny our body of these elements it will not function properly, or be able to fully heal.
Deficiency in vitamin D can interfere with bone mineralization, increase the risk of cancer, causes defects in newborns, impacts our immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems, thyroid, can make us more susceptible to autoimmune diseases and impacts our cognition. Signs of vitamin D deficiency include, low immunity, fatigue, bone and back pain, depression, bone loss, hair loss, impaired wound healing and more.
- Higher Melatonin Production
Due to the longer periods of darkness during the winter months our bodies produce higher amounts of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that helps regulate our circadian rhythm; if you are not familiar with the impact of fluoride on our pineal gland check out this blog. Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant and may help prevent and fight cancer.2
When functioning properly, our melatonin levels start to rise in the evening after the sun has set and stay elevated for a majority of the night while we are in the dark. This is one of the reasons why using screens at night interferes with our sleep cycles, the blue light causes our brains to think that it is day time and begins to produce the hormone cortisol to wake us up.
Higher melatonin production is not a problem, the issues arise when we do not let ourselves rest. Nature gives us all the cues we need to thrive; when the days are shorter and colder we are provided with an opportunity to rest and rebuild. Take it.
If you really want to honor your health, go to bed earlier this winter. Give yourself permission to rest. To learn more about how you can improve your sleep read this blog.
- You Are Not Eating Seasonal Foods
Even if we are eating healthy food year round, it may not be the right food to nourish our bodies. If you consume colder foods, juices, too much salad or raw veggies during the winter, you will probably not feel great; you may even feel terrible, even though you are eating foods considered to be healthy. Let’s revisit nature giving us the cues we need to thrive and think about seasonal foods; in the summer we have light, cooling foods like lettuce, cucumber, berries and watermelon, during the winter we have grains, sweet potatoes, squashes, nutmeg and cloves to keep us warm and nourished.
When consuming foods in the right season, not only are they the most nutrient dense but they also carry the right energetics of that time. For winter think beans, legumes, miso, grains, maple syrup, pumpkin pie, mochi, soup, and good quality oils.
For more information on how to find seasonal food in your region click here.
How to Feel Better This Winter
The answer is simple, we need to live more in tune with nature and properly nourish our bodies. Modern life does not always encourage living our healthiest lives; any action steps we can take to align our habits with what our circadian rhythm and bodies are craving will help you achieve vibrancy.
Try these simple tips to truly make your health a priority this winter:
- Eat before the sun goes down, then stop eating. If you are feeling famished eat fruit, it will digest quickly and be less likely to interrupt your sleep.
- Rest as much as your body is calling you to rest, and do not judge that bodily need. With higher melatonin levels you may require more sleep. Let it happen! You will be amazed and how this changes your energy, mood, and mental health.
- Eat nutrient dense foods like: Irish sea moss, and shilajit.
- Eat seasonal foods.
- Consider a Vitamin D Supplement.
- Protect your immunity, naturally. Due to all of the above mentioned factors our immunity can take a hit. Use functional foods and high quality supplements to give your body the support it needs.
- Practice good sleep habits.
Keep moving. We all know that movement is good for digestion, immunity, quality sleep, mental and emotional health. Lack of physical activity inhibits blood flow, which can lead to inflammation that causes depressive symptoms.
How do you keep yourself thriving during winter? Comment below.
The information in this blog is not meant to cure prevent or treat any diseases. Speak with your health care professional for any medical concerns.