Winter is here! Grey sky, cold temperatures, trees with no leaves, animals hibernating in the forest, AND for many of us…THE WINTER BLUES! Oh yeah, read on…you may be having symptoms without knowing it.
What exactly are the winter blues? They’re a milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a psychiatric disorder that makes you feel depressed, hopeless and have headaches during the winter months (and rarely during the summer months), and it’s believed to be the consequence of the small amount of daylight in wintertime.
Coming from the Caribbean, I miss the sunlight and I usually have a low patch in winter. So I have been doing a little research. I have found a lot of studies that point to a deficiency in the pineal gland as a possible cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Especially research conducted in 1989 by E. Leskowitz of the Department of Psychiatry at Boston’s VA Outpatient Clinic. He explains that the pineal gland is responsible for the body’s sleep/wake patterns; it is a photosensitive organ (via the eyes) and it produces melatonin during the sleeping phases during darkness, and decrease its production during the day. Even if they have not yet understood the relationship between the pineal gland and the shortened days of winter;
Just in case you don’t know where the pineal gland is in your body, here is a little graphic.
We do know that meditation relaxes the body and mind very effectively – it helps your glands to produce calming hormones. Meditation also increases activity in the parts of the brain associated with happiness, specifically the left prefrontal cortex, and reduces activity in the parts of the brain linked with stress.
Research shows as well that light therapy combined with meditation guarantees total success in balancing your mood in winter.
So what can I say? It’s clear.
If you are not yet meditating, I think this winter is the perfect time to start. Take the first step now.
Not only will you soften the effects of the winter blues but you will gain inner calm and focus.
If you are a beginner here is a video that will help you start the practice. Once you learn the basics you can do it in a chair, on the metro, sitting on the floor, it’s your choice. Just remember to straiten your back and open your shoulders. And of course, enjoy!
Other things you can do to nourish your moods in winter:
- Have a passion, a project, a job, an activity that makes you feel fulfilled whilst doing it. If necessary create a winter project that implies building something, creating something, writing, inventing, teaching, whatever makes you feel alive.
- Eat well. We have the tendency to want to eat carbs and sugars in winter… just make sure to add a lot of green veggies to your diet and all will be fine.
- Move. Studies say that half an hour of sport three times a week is a perfect amount to keep the winter blues under control.
- Sleep 7-8 hours, no more than that. If not you get into a hibernating mode that is hard to break. It sounds crazy but research show that when people dance in stead of over-sleeping, the effects on the mood are fantastic.
- Listen to upbeat music. Music has the power to change your mood in the blink of an eye. Studies show that upbeat music significantly improved participants’ moods in both the short and long term.
- Help others. This is also a very powerful mood booster. It can increase your feelings of satisfaction and give a sense of fulfilment.
- Go outside even if you don’t feel like it. Fresh air will guarantee quality oxygen intake and that’s great for your cells. You will feel invigorated. Make a list of new places you want to explore in your city and go for it.
- Take vitamin D. It helps replace the supply that our body produces naturally when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It boosts our immune system and strengthens our bones. (Consult with your doctor about the correct dose).
- Just a reminder – MEDITATE. For me, that’s the most simple, cheap and effective measure you can take.
As usual, take what serves you and practice. And feel free to share below in the comments any tricks you have which help you to overcome the winter blues. I would love to include them on my list.