I’m no stranger to the winter blues…
…otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.)
This temporary blah feeling that accompanies the winter months is thought to be triggered by shortened hours of daylight, which causes an imbalance in melatonin rhythms and decreased serotonin levels in the brain.
SAD is thought to have a genetic component as well, and sure enough, almost every woman I know in my family has a touch of the winter blues.
But there are 8 things you can do right now to help re-balance your mood naturally and feel better this winter than you ever have before. You might think it’s too deep into the winter to make a difference, but actually you’d be wrong! Typically you can start to notice an improvement after only 3 days of treating SAD. So it’s absolutely not too late to begin to address it mid-January, knowing you can start feeling better as early as the end of this very week!
It absolutely IS possible to enjoy winter and feel just as centered and joyful as you do during every other season.
If you typically feel more tired, crave carbohydrates, lose pleasure in the things that normally bring you joy or feel weepy or sad during only the winter months, you might be suffering needlessly with SAD too.
Read on to support your body holistically during this natural seasonal fluctuation and feel just as good this winter as you typically do in the warm springtime!
Are you drinking plenty of water each day?
More important than the food you eat today is your hydration status, especially amidst all the dry artificial heat. Even all natural heat sources like wood burning fires and gas heaters cause the air to become incredibly dry.
Focus on drinking plenty of water during the winter months.
It’s easy to remember to drink water in the summer when you are perspiring, hot, and sticky. It’s trickier to remember to drink plenty of water in the winter when you are dry and cold and flaky. Drink it anyway.
Bonus points if your water is filtered and pure — removing toxic fluoride, chlorine and other stressful chemicals from your water supply. Find my favorite water filtration system here.
Are you allowing yourself the time to sleep more than you usually do in the spring, summer and fall?
Allow yourself to re-connect to the natural rhythm of the earth. That means more sleep during the darker winter months.
Bright artificial lights and TV channels blasting shows 24 hours a day can keep us feeling like there isn’t much difference between the middle of the night and the middle of the day. But there is. To your body, to your pineal gland, your hormones, your muscles, your brain… the difference between night and day is iron clad.
You are meant to sleep at night, and you are meant to sleep longer in the winter months. Allow your body to get an extra hour of sleep each night during the winter and watch your mood, energy level, eating habits, activity level and joy all get a boost!
If you need help in getting more restorative sleep, hop over to my blog post here for ideas.
You knew I had to include this one! If you only do one thing on this list to feel immediately better today, I would go outside and touch the earth.
There is a beautiful relationship that our brain has with the energy of mother earth. This helps support everything our brain helps us to do — from enhancing our mood to deepening our restorative sleep — both things that are crucial to support in the winter time more than any other time.
Most people believe that our circadian (day/night) rhythm is dependent on sunlight to set that pattern for us, and that is true in part, as I will mention below.
But scientists have actually known since 1970 that the earth’s energy field has as much, if not more, to do with our sleep/wake pattern than even the sun.
Researchers built two underground isolation chambers that completely cut occupants off from any evaluation of time passing. The two chambers were light proof, sound proof, temperature controlled bunkers, with one difference between the two rooms. While one was allowed to be connected to the electromagnetic field of the earth, one was completely shielded so that all connection was severed between the earth’s energy and the occupants of the bunker.
Looking at several hundred test subjects for up to a two month period of time, researchers looked at sleep wake cycles and found that participants who were in the bunker that still allowed the earth’s field to reach them kept patterns that were close to a 24 hour rhythm, while those in the bunker that was completely shielded from the earth’s energies became completely desynchronized and experienced significantly longer, more irregular rhythms.
Researchers then experimented with introducing different electrical and magnetic fields into the shielded bunker, and only one restored normal sleep/wake patterns… you guessed it, the one that is our Mother Earth’s natural energy, the Schumann frequency. From this the researchers postulated that it is actually the frequency of the earth that regulates our natural biorhythms.
Based off of this understanding, it’s easy to understand how directly connecting to the earth, grounding our body with our planet, can help enhance restorative sleep at night and boost daytime wakefulness… especially during winter when you can feel cut off from enjoying time outside in nature.
To combat this, I highly recommend we all sleep grounded in the winter.
My favorite way is picture above — the world’s only grounding hot water bottle that will keep you toasty warm in bed all winter long, and is hand-made right here in the USA using organic, eco-friendly materials. Grab your organic hot water bottle, organic grounding fitted sheets, or other grounding sleep systems right here.
It’s normal for everything to slow down in the winter, but if your bowels are feeling full of rich and hearty winter meals and you are feeling dense or bloated on the inside, getting things moving again can help you feel more balanced.
Up your water intake as recommended above, take tons of healthy fish or flax seed oil, go on a walk every day to stimulate bowel peristalsis, and ground each day to boost vagal tone, which improves digestion naturally.
In addition, one of my favorite remedies is juicing a whole bunch of apples, or eating a prune a day during the winter. In addition, if you need a supplement to help things move along in the winter months, a cup of nighttime tea with senna in it or a magnesium supplement is a great choice. We all need more magnesium than we get through diet alone, and taking magnesium at night will help your muscles relax and help you sleep better, so this advice is win-win!
I’ll have a few more supplement recommendations for you below, but meanwhile you can find my favorite magnesium supplements in my online dispensary here.
Stave off the sadness that can become overwhelming in the winter by increasing your exposure to light. As I blog about here, light therapy has been actually shown to naturally treat depression better than a prescription anti-depressant! And yes, you can do both at the same time (take an anti-depressant and use light therapy together) for additional benefit.
So try your best to go outside and get as much natural light as possible between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m each morning. If you can, bundle up and get outside for a morning walk, or at least sit by a window. Open the curtains or blinds and spend time in the sunniest room in your home or office each and every morning.
Even if it’s cloudy, the natural light will do you good.
If getting some natural light exposure each day in the winter is not enough to lift your mood naturally, one of the most effective interventions for SAD is using a light box daily. The light from these devices are 10 times the intensity of regular household lighting.
I use a light box every morning year round… morning light has been proven to help everything from treat depression (as mentioned above) to successfully treating fibromyalgia to boosting libido! And hey I’m all for that… a healthy sex drive is the spice of life!
5-HTP: One of the causes of SAD is thought to be decreased serotonin levels in the brain in winter. You can naturally raise serotonin levels by supplementing with the pre-cursor to serotonin, which is 5-HTP. Basically 5-HTP is a nutritional supplement that provides more building blocks for your body to naturally make it’s own serotonin. Using 5-HTP in the winter months works really well for many of my patients with SAD (and heck, for myself too!)
MELATONIN: Another natural supplement that helps combat SAD is restoring nighttime melatonin levels to ensure deep sleep. If you have low serotonin, you likely have low melatonin, since serotonin is a precursor to making melatonin in the body. Taking melatonin 1 hour before bedtime can get you that extra winter sleep that your body naturally craves which paradoxically can help you feel more energetic, happy and centered during the daytime hours.
L-GLUTAMINE: You can use the supplement L-glutamine to help curb your carbohydrate cravings in winter. This amino acid supplement can help take the intensity out of sugar cravings and help you avoid the carb overload that so many of us turn to in the middle of winter for comfort.
VITAMIN D: Most of us are Vitamin D deficient and could benefit from Vitamin D supplementation, especially in the winter months. Vitamin D is important and impacts everything from cancer risk to stroke to mood. Supplementing with Vitamin D is more crucial during the winter months than at any other time of the year, as we are exposed to less sunlight and are likely experiencing a natural dip in our Vit D levels.
OMEGA 3s: Start an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement such as fish oil or flax seed oil. Omega 3s are crucial for mood support and supplementing with fish oil, flax oil, cod oil, krill oil, coconut oil or flax seed oil will help lift the winter fog in our brains and help protect our body from the brittleness that winter brings.
PROBIOTICS: Along with the gut/brain connection we talked about earlier, another supplement to consider upping in the winter months is probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to make a significant impact on mood, alleviating anxiety and depression.
Find all of these supplements plus all of my very favorite, tried and true, most trusted pharmacy grade supplements, all at a special discount for my readers, waiting for you right here:
Engage in regular aerobic exercise, especially if you can exercise outdoors in the early morning hours. Simply walking for 10 minutes each day can make a HUGE difference in your mood all winter long.
Other options include biking, swimming, yoga. If you must exercise indoors, try exercising in the morning near a sunny window.
If you can’t walk or get any other form of exercise? Sauna is your answer. Medical studies show that sauna is just as good as exercise in boosting longevity. I blog about that for you right here.
Sauna in the wintertime? Hells yes.
Most people can’t just get up and relocate to a sunny place, even though the research has shown that ultimately, living in a sunnier climate closer to the equator is a potent cure for SAD. SAD rarely affects people living within about 30 degrees of the equator.
But realistically most of us can’t re-locate. Instead, if at all possible, plan ahead to take a trip during the winter months to a warm and sunny climate… it only takes about three days of bright sunshine to reverse symptoms of SAD.
So if you know your mood tends to take a dip in the winter, be sure to go ahead and use up your vacation time to take a much needed break in a sunny location and soak in the relief that the sunshine brings.
You can definitely justify a winter trip as a medical necessity if it gets you through the darkest part of winter in a healthier mindframe!
If your depression does not respond to these natural remedies or if you feel overwhelmed and struggling from the winter blues, be sure to seek guidance from a healthcare professional.
Otherwise, enjoy incorporating these 8 tips into your wintertime routine and feel better this winter than you ever have before.
With a little extra attention on hydrating, bowel movements, sleeping, exercise or sauna, seeking early morning light, grounding and adding on a few holistic supplements, you can work in concert with the seasons and feel your best year round… winter included!