Look on the Bright Side
How to find light in the season of darkness.
If you find you have less energy and have trouble motivating yourself to take care of your wellness at this time of year, you’re not alone. Especially for those of us in the northern hemisphere, months of long, dark days can take a toll on our moods, our appetites and our sleep.
That wonderful feeling of the sun on your skin is more than just a state of mind: it actually has positive physiological benefits. While we still have a few months of minimal sunshine ahead, we can make choices to increase our wellness, even while the sun isn’t shining.
Here’s a few ways to get into a sunshine state of mind:
Munch on mood-boosters
The dark days of winter can mean your body produces less serotonin, sometimes known as the ‘happy hormone’. Your brain relies on serotonin to balance your mood and your appetite, and doctors often prescribe antidepressants to boost natural serotonin levels. There are also ways to boost serotonin, just by eating foods rich in B vitamins, thiamine and folic acid. Whole grains, nuts and seeds rich in omega fatty acids, brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables, as well as leafy greens are all high in elements that help you access more serotonin.
Catch some infrared rays
It’s no accident that saunas are a common activity in northern climates: the heat and steam promote blood circulation and sweat, both of which boost endorphins in your body just like vigorous exercise. Try stepping into an infrared sauna, where the technology provides similar benefits to catching real sun rays, without any possibility of overexposure—you’ll feel as though you’ve spent a day basking in the summer sun.
Have a tropical staycation
While we wouldn’t turn down an actual trip to a sun-drenched location, we also love the idea of making it happen right in the comfort of our own home. Taking a lighthearted approach to the dark days of winter is an automatic mood-booster and adding in a few fun props can take the fun to the next level. Make it a party by turning up the heat, throwing on your swimsuit, and mixing together a piña colada, or two. Diffuse a summery essential oil blend like Liquid Sunshine, invite a few friends over and you’ll be living the beach life in no time - at least for the afternoon.
Reset your daily rhythm
When we are not living in alignment with the rhythms of nature, we can feel disoriented, sleepy and hungry at times we normally wouldn’t. Do your body and mind a favour by consciously spending the daylight hours awake. Set your alarm clock so that you wake up just before the sun rises, and go to bed in time to get a full night’s rest. If falling asleep or waking up are challenging at this time of year, reach for natural remedies before the coffee pot (we love the complete setup in the Night and Day Remedy Bar). When the sun does shine, make sure you are taking full advantage of it. Open the blinds, place your desk chair by the window, and take a walk outside at lunch or after work. Even small amounts of sunshine and fresh air can have a measurable effect on your mood.
Don’t make light of SAD
The negative effects of winter days can be more serious for some of us and may require more support than a mai tai or a beachy dance track can provide. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is sometimes called ‘winter depression’ since that’s when symptoms are more likely to appear. If you’re a woman living in a northern climate, you are more likely to experience SAD, especially between the months of December to February. When you feel like you have more than the temporary ‘winter blues’, reach out to your health care practitioner for help managing the season and your mood.
No matter what the season, we can all benefit from getting better rest, eating nutritional foods and making time to enjoy life. Here's to your wellness, in wintry and sunshiny times.