Does the wintertime make you feel SAD?
You’re not alone! Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - aka, the winter blues - is a real thing. Many Australians find that SAD makes them feel lethargic during the colder, darker months.
According to healthdirect.gov.au, symptoms include:
- Lack of energy
- Sleeping too much
- Finding it hard to wake up
- Overeating and craving carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Loss of interest in normal activities.
SAD is actually caused by the changes to our circadian rhythm, the body is producing less melatonin and serotonin which affect our sleep cycle and moods.
So if you recognise any of the above symptoms, or are just looking for some advice on how to take care of yourself during the winter, check out our favourite winter wellness tips.
What’s the number one thing we can do to stay happy during SAD months? Expose yourself to sunlight! Mark Levy, MD, chairman of the San Francisco Foundation for Psychoanalysis says that you just need 30 minutes in the sunlight to help keep the winter blues away.
Some people can benefit from lightboxes - or, devices that produce bright, artificial light - but nothing beats getting out into the sun. If you have a morning exercise routine, take the time to soak up the sunlight, letting your skin and eyes take it all in. That lightness will help you feel a whole lot better.
Cold therapy doesn’t shy away from the cold - it embraces it. This method, championed by Wim Hof, is linked to numerous health benefits. Exposure to the cold can help speed up the metabolism, reduce inflammation, swelling and sore muscles. Cold therapy can also improve sleep quality, enhance focus and improve immune response - all of which can help you keep your mojo during the winter months!
You may have heard of athletes and celebrities using cryotherapy - this is where you stand in a sealed container while extremely cold air is circulated around the body - but this can be expensive and isn’t widely available. Instead, you can practice cold therapy simply by taking a cold shower or an ice bath.
Colour Light Therapy
Colour light therapy, also known as phototherapy, helps give you exposure to the bright light that your body needs to feel balanced. In addition to relieving SAD effects, light therapy has been reported to reduce swelling, relieve pain and decrease inflammation.
Adding colour to your light therapy has the power to further influence your mood whether it be stimulating or soothing. Red, for example, helps to produce the sleep hormone melatonin and bring balance to the circadian rhythm, telling the body that it’s time to relax. We associate red light with sunsets, so it is a natural signal that it’s time to head to bed. Orange and yellow lights can help those suffering from inflammatory symptoms and help awaken the mind.
Just 30 minutes of exposure to coloured light a day is enough to help you feel normal during those darker months.
Infrared saunas are a great way to bring heat into your body when the sun isn’t shining. Infrared is actually a safe wavelength of light, but it feels like heat to us. Infrared saunas have heaps of health benefits as well. They have been proven to reduce inflammatory markers in the body, boost circulation and activate the parasympathetic nervous system to make the body feel calm and relaxed.
You can get double the benefits of a sauna with colour therapy. Infrared saunas, like those available at iHealth, include LED Colour Module so you can also light your sauna in the colour of your choice. At 45 - 55 degrees Celsius, a typical sauna session lasts 30 - 45 minutes - it’s the perfect way to start or end the day.
Healthy Eating Advice
Carb-heavy comfort foods are easy to turn to in the winter, but they can make you feel both physically and mentally lethargic. Instead, consider working the following beneficial foods and drinks into your winter diet:
Vitamins C, D and B-12
Getting a daily dose of vitamins is super important to keep the body balanced. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps strengthen your body’s defences, but it can’t be produced by the body. It can be found in oranges, kiwi fruit, kale and spinach. Vitamin D (aka, the sunshine vitamin) helps improve your mood and can be found in food sources such as milk, egg yolks, and mushrooms. It’s important to have B-12 in your blood to help fight depression. Eating lean beef, cottage cheese, yoghurt and eggs are a great way to work this vitamin into your diet.
We’re not talking about hallucinogenic mushrooms here, though the benefits this tea can offer your body really are magical. Mushrooms like Cordyceps and Chaga are adaptogens so they can help your body manage stress, improve cardiovascular health and give you an immunity boost among other benefits. Depending on how your body reacts, you can drink one to three cups a day.
CBD (cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants (THC is the compound that gets you high) which can help the body manage anxiety and sleep. There are a number of ways to work CBD into your diet - it’s extracted from marijuana plants as an oil or powder which can be mixed into creams, gels, capsules and sprays.
Changing when you eat as opposed to what you eat can also help you during the wintertime. Studies have found that intermittent fasting can improve cognition, mood, memory, sleep and digestion.
Do any of these winter wellness tips speak to you? Give one (or all) a try… you may just discover your ah-ha health moment!