Every year about this time I start to feel the funk—the winter funk.
I feel like I morph into an older version of myself: a dinner that goes past 7 p.m. begins to feel like an after party and the snooze button on my alarm clock suddenly begins tempting me. I’ve wondered why I’m so profoundly affected by the winter months.
For years, I’d force myself to keep up with what I perceived as my healthy and vibrant lifestyle, feeling off and as if I must be doing something wrong, whenever this internal shift played out. But over the years, I’ve come to accept the energy of this shift and recognize it for the natural part of the biological cycle that it is. And now, instead of dreading this time of the year, I embrace it.
I consciously appreciate the darker months as a time to rest, recuperate and replenish from the frenetic pace of summer. Culturally, there was a time when we were more in tune with the rhythm of the seasons. We’d sleep in the dark and wake in the light. We were in tune to the natural wisdom of this rhythm.
We’ve done the same thing to our schedules as we’ve done to our food; in our desire to evolve, to control our environments, we’ve processed much of nature’s internal wisdom out of our lives. Doesn’t it make sense that our internal clocks should be affected by a shift in the seasons?
So now, rather than fighting it, I use this period as a time of reflection, to go inward and take stock of my life. I give myself permission these days to follow the rhythm of the seasons and it’s had a huge positive impact on me.
I invite you to try it with me as the winter continues to bear down: give yourself permission to listen to what your body is telling you. Hunker down by the fire, make some soup, climb into bed at 9 p.m. if you feel like it. Kind of sounds great, doesn’t it?
Remember, as the light changes, we need to take care of ourselves differently. Light is a nutrient. It makes us feel vibrant and full of life. On a biological level, when light decreases it can have a true chemical impact on us. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real thing, it’s not necessarily all in your head. As always, it’s important to pay attention to your body’s signals. Be honest with yourself and ask, “What do I need to feel like my best self?”
Below are 10 things I’ve found to help successfully combat the seasonal blues.
- Give yourself a break for feeling a little funky during the winter. It’s not just in your head! Despite what my tough midwestern upbringing would have me think.
- Get your vitamin D. What you get from the sun naturally during the summer months will decrease so consider supplementing. The optimal vitamin D levels are 32ng/ml to 75ng/ml. Our favorite liquid vitamin D is “Liquid Sunshine.”
- Get outside in the middle of the day! The mid-day rays are most effective in transforming the body’s cholesterol into vitamin D. Take your sunglasses off and expose as much skin as you can bear. Fifteen to 20 minutes will do the trick.
- Avoid sugary foods. We preach this year round, but it’s even more important during the winter months. Heightened blood sugar and insulin levels will make you even more lethargic. It will also be 100 times harder to get out of bed in the morning when you indulge in sugary treats at night!
- Replace your standard bulbs for full spectrum lights. My husband just did this in my office and I love it! Full spectrum lights, as the name implies, contain all the colors—blues, greens and violets that are missing in fluorescent and incandescent blubs.
- Eat your greens. Green veggies, fruits and some nuts help increase your serotonin levels. Another reason to get in on the green smoothie train.
- Exercise. Even when you don’t feel like it, get your sweat on. When is the last time you said, “I wish I hadn’t worked out today?” By moving your body you’ll release the feel-good endorphins.
- Don’t skip meals. If you’re trying to stave off the extra pounds that come with the holidays, not only will this slow your body’s metabolism, it will actually result in a drop of serotonin levels. Eat when you’re hungry!
- Avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine. Even though the alcohol might help you relax at night and the caffeine wakes you up in the morning, it becomes a nasty cycle of dependency. These 2 crutches, no matter how healthy your relationship with them, can really slow you down during the winter. Replace your ritual of a drink at night with a glass of sparkling water and drink a nice big cup of green tea in the morning to put a little pep in your step.
- Get your omega-3 fatty acids. Foods like flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines or halibut will boost your serotonin levels.
Jo was a state champion gymnast, a nationally ranked diver and a diving coach, preparing to enter medical school when her life took a dramatic and unexpected turn. The physical, emotionally grueling recovery process ultimately led her to the wondrous healing benefits of clean eating that are at the foundation of the Conscious Cleanse. Through yoga and nutrition coaching, Jo helps others reach the optimal health she is so thankful for. She lives in Boulder, CO where she teaches yoga while running The Conscious Cleanse. A daughter, sister, and loving partner of Mr. Teacher, Jo is sure to drink a green smoothie every morning.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Assistant Ed: Karla Rodas