What’s the Deal with Winter Blues?
Portland, Oregon is a city that has many things going for it. Amazing community. A thriving farm to table food scene. Easy access to both the mountains and the ocean. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that I stumbled into living here.
But nothing’s perfect in paradise! True to its reputation, we get rain in Portland. Lots of it. I recently ran across a BC comic that hit the nail on the head.
In our ‘cloudy season’ which I’ll call out from, oh, September to May, we can have a sun break or two and other than that have rain for days on end. Moss and mold grow everywhere. I can go months without seeing my neighbors. We shuffle from car to house to car to store to house and back again.
The lack of sunshine and shorter days take a toll.
My patients in the dark of winter suffer more with depression, they are more tired, their PMS is worse. In addition, I see more issues with sleep, with weight gain, with stress. And as you know if you’ve been reading my emails or work, I hold that increased stress will make most of our health conditions worse, even those that don’t have a direct association.
And it’s not just the Pacific Northwest where we see the profound effect of shorter, darker days. When I practiced in the Northeast I saw it all the time, Even people who live in sunnier climates can feel the effects, Does this mean that the lion’s share of people have a diagnosis of SAD, or seasonal effective disorder? No, of course not. But there are things that all of us can do to feel better during this time of year.
Implement these simple things to lift your spirits and energy this season.
1. Be attentive to your circadian rhythm. Remember that our brains are set up to function before we had artificial light. Even more so before we had blue spectrum light via our computer screens and televisions. This is important because our normal circadian rhythms are altered by artificial light affecting everything from your sleep to your metabolism, energy, immune function, and mood. If you start to turn the lights down in your home early in the evening when it gets dark and you make sure to turn bright lights on first thing that will help your body stay in a good rhythm. In the winter it’s even more important to get yourself to bed at a decent hour so you line up your own rhythms with the natural cycle of light and dark.
2. Move it! Exercise is so important for keeping your mood and health in good order all the time but particularly in winter. We are so geared to want to curl up in the colder weather, and stay in bed just a teensy tiny bit longer that exercise is often one of the first things to go. Make a plan for how you’re going to get your body moving in the winter. If you usually get out for walks for your exercise and the weather keeps you indoors, have a plan B! I love my mini elliptical trainer for those days that I have trouble getting out.
3. Get outside. About 5 years ago I was working with a yoga teacher on a shoulder injury and the topic of my irritable mood came up (it’s amazing what comes up when you’re doing yoga!) She made me promise to “get my face in nature” every day, no matter what. She preferred a walk but even if not, to stand outside for 10 minutes, rain or shine. Our bodies are meant to be in the elements, even if it’s cold out.
Do you suffer at all in these shorter days? If so, I would love to know what you notice. Click here to fill out my contact form, I read every single one personally and will respond back to you with at least one suggestion that may help!
I look forward to hearing from you!
Yours in Health,