Do you have the Winter Blues?
As the nights get longer, the weather gets colder and the sky seems to be either gray or black, our moods seem to look the same. We feel down, unhappy, exhausted … blue.
Lots of people seem to be affected by the changes in temperature and weather. As the seasons change, so do we. Do you feel active, hyper and full of life and energy during summer? Does your mood bloom up during springtime? Do you cozy up, lay back and feel a bit moody during autumn – and feel a bit “out of your game” during winter?
Then you might just have caught the blues.
Where does this feeling come from?
Even though millions of us say we’re affected by the cold and sad weather or suffering a winter-related low mood and overall “down” attitude, the Winter Blues sound a lot like a myth. But there’s plenty of scientific research and evidence to support the idea that the changing of the seasons can affect our moods.
What they all have in common: The belief that its origin comes from the body’s response to (the lack of) daylight. Decreased exposure to daylight disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm – which results in impacting the amount of body regulating hormones, or the important neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin, which is part of the research on light exposure. It is assumed that serotonin plays a crucial role when it comes to the Winter Blues, since the neurotransmitter is in charge of regulating our mood. Which would explain the changes in appetite, such as craving foods rich in carbs or sugar, that are known to spike the mood-enhancing chemicals in our brains. These however are still assumptions. The research on “the Winter Blues” is ongoing and more complex than it may seem at first sight.
How do we stop ourselves from feeling blue?
If it’s the lack of daylight that enhances the Winter Blues, then it seems like a no-brainer to fight it off with – you’ve guessed it – light! Including some time outside during the day has many health benefits as is. Moving your body releases our “happy-hormone” dopamine, the cold and fresh air cleans out our nostrils and gets the blood flowing and time in nature can help us think and clear our minds. On office days where it’s rather difficult to get time outside, try sitting by a window.
Some people also enjoy following the sun during the holidays. But while it works for some of us, many people who are rather sensitive and more affected by weather tend to increase their symptoms when they return from the warm and into the icy cold and gray hometowns.
Feeling the Winter Blues? Try using Red Light!.
Another very effective way of getting more light into your life is through Red Light therapy. It’s commonly used to reduce the symptoms of the seasonal lows. This involves standing, sitting or lying down in front of or beneath a light box, which mimics natural outdoor light for however long you need – we recommend an average of 15-20 minutes per day. The research on light therapy and on how light exposure affected circadian rhythms was pioneered by physician Norman Rosenthal in the 1980’s.
While most of us rely on the alarm clocks on our phones, the best, most effective and most reliable way of waking up in the morning is with the morning sun.
“Our retinas have special cells called retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that detect sunlight and send a signal along nerves to a part of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the timekeeper of our circadian rhythms. The early dawn light sets off a chain of events that tell our internal body clock to send signals to the pineal gland, which inhibits the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that prepares your body to sleep.” 1
As the temperatures get lower and light becomes weaker, our body’s inner clock becomes misaligned. Since however the melatonin secretion continues because of that, our body gets tricked into thinking it’s still nighttime.
“… one theory is that light entering the eye causes changes in hormone levels in the body. In our bodies, light functions to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making us wake up.” – Says Alison Kerry, from the mental health charity MIND.2
If you’re struggling with the seasonal blues, it may comfort you when we say: You’re not alone. With the continuous research on light and all its benefits piling up we’re convinced to say that that Red Light Therapy will add value to your life!
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