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It’s officially #PSL season, which means it’s time to put on our cozy knits, binge watch Netflix, light a million candles, and excitedly cancel plans with friends. Even though we all look to fall and winter as a time to get hygge, the novelty of the season can wear off quickly as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, lowering our moods and affecting our health.
People often joke about “winter blues” and Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it’s actually a diagnosable type of depression that is prompted by cold weather and less sunlight (and affects 5% of Americans).
How does this happen? It’s not in your head.
The sun naturally releases a broad spectrum of light throughout the day to help signal our body’s many functions. In the morning and afternoons, we take in more blue light to release cortisol, so we have the energy to be more productive. In the evenings, we’re meant to start winding down with red light and infrared as a way to prompt our melatonin production to facilitate better sleep.
When the days are shorter and colder, we’re taking in less energy-giving light, nutrient-dense vitamin D (which is necessary for immune function), and fewer healing vibrations from nature’s fresh air, resulting in lower energy, chronic fatigue, increased hunger, and interrupted sleep. Plain and simple: Good, nourishing recovery is a lot harder to achieve.
Don’t let this info get you down. Here are some quick and easy ways to hack your mood as the seasons change.
Happiness comes from the feel-good chemicals in our brains:
Dopamine | A hormone and neurotransmitter that stimulates the nervous system functions like pleasure and attention.
Oxytocin | Aka the "love hormone" that decreases stress and anxiety levels.
Serotonin | A neurotransmitter that is often released by the sun and infrared light therapy. It’s essential for balancing mood, memory, sleep, and sexual desire
Endorphins | A group of hormones that reduce pain and increase pleasure and overall well being. They are often released during exercise, hence the term, “a runner’s high.”
Hot Tip: If you’re in NYC, zen out in one of our warm, soothing saunas for a serotonin-releasing moodlifter. At home instead? No problem! Cocooning yourself in our Infrared Sauna Blanket will release your endorphins without ever having to move a muscle. Burning ~600 calories during one single sweat session, your body will feel like it worked out while staying relaxed AND detoxified. Better circulation, mood, and glowing skin are a plus.
Light boxes, along with infrared therapy, are a popular treatment option for seasonal affective disorder.
There are a broad spectrum of light therapies:
Sunlamps | Improves Vitamin D absorption and increase overall energy levels
Red Light Therapy | Focuses more on deeply-penetrating muscles and tissues to calm the skin, manage hormone production, and boost the immune system
If you can’t spend 30 minutes or more in the sun per day and are faced with a dark sky when you wake up in the morning, consider a light therapy box first-thing when you wake up to help get your body on a normal schedule.
The Japanese practice something called shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest-bathing. “But how do I bathe in a forest?!” Don’t take it literally.
It’s just the act of being in nature and connecting to yourself through your senses. It helps to reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure to relax the body and focus the mind.
The reason being in nature is considered such a healing, mood-boosting activity is because plants release the chemical, phytoncide, which has antibacterial and antifungal qualities that can increase our white blood cells and help strengthen our immune response to foreign invaders.
Nature also gives off literal good vibrations. The Earth has a natural frequency of 7.8hz, which sends low-level frequency through our bodies to help recharge our cells and heal us from the inside out.
If you don’t live near nature, or it’s too cold to go outside, consider:
Like bears who eat more as they prepare to hibernate during the winter months, we, too, get excited to indulge as the weather gets colder.
BUT, managing seasonal depression and keeping your mood HIGH starts with eliminating sugar when you can.
Refined starches and carbs that lack fiber and are high-glycemic can directly impact your hormones, which directly affects your happy chemicals. Your gut manages the majority of the hormone production in your body and sends direct messages to your brain. When you consume sugar, you end up feeding bad bacteria in your gut that can throw the chemicals in your brain off-balance.
Sticking with whole foods that are nutrient-dense is ideal, but if you do decide you want to get into the goodies, try one of these detoxes to reset your system and get back on track.