It’s January, the New Year is here and a time that is characterised in the northern hemisphere by coldness, barrenness and New Year resolutions!
As a summer baby and a sun lover I personally find January and February the hardest months of the whole year (except when I lived down under!).
I am such a positive thinking person and for years it stumped me that this happened to me. I didn’t know why my body felt so tired and my motivation hit rock bottom.
I described this phase at this time of year as feeling like I was living in the twilight zone, never bright enough to absorb the light and gain the energy from it or dark enough to say it was night. It was like living under a blanket of darkness which was permanently over my eyes, which miraculously lifts once spring had arrived!
During the ‘twilight’ I am noticeably more tired and drained, am increasingly apathetic and have an urge to eat sugary and high carbohydrate foods (other people show other signs).
Many will say it’s the classic after Christmas crash because the majority of people are broke and tired following the fun filled festivities we engaged in and the weather is pretty pants.
Some might say this is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and others like me would resist a diagnosis and just call it mild winter blues.
A few years ago I wanted to know what causes these lows in mood and these prolonged non-motivational period of time. I needed to know how I could make myself get over this winter gloom and feel uplifted and energised.
So I did a bit of research and found the answers I needed to help me feel on top form. I also concluded that unless I move to the southern hemisphere again (which is sadly highly unlikely!!) I would have to live through many winters in darkness and I was dam sure I was not putting up with that as I have far too much to do!
So here are my survival tips to re gaining/maintaining your sparkle after Christmas!
My pearls of wisdom that have time and time again proven to be successful in keeping myself well.
I just keep doing what works and my tools evolve as I keep learning.
Please keep in mind I am not asking you to ignore any advice from doctors, however recognising some natural ways to lift your mood is important as firstly its entirely free and secondly it plays a massive role in learning self-management, putting in place long term solutions to improve your wellbeing and happiness to promote a positive life style.
Maintaining your sparkle during the Winter months - The Barefoot guide
Get out daily, increase your natural sunlight exposure.
Increased light = Increased mood!!!
Early morning sunlight is more intense and can actually boost your body’s production of melatonin in the evenings which in turn will help you sleep better at night.
Fact: Sunlight is between 50,000 and 100,000 lux (measurement unit of light) compared to a normal light bulb (250 to 500 lux) or even a light box which reaches 10,000 lux. Even on a cloudy day being outdoors is beneficial to you.
2. Positive Vibes T
Try to avoid being alone for long periods or with draining friends as this will enhance you apathy and increase your reluctance to socialise. However seeking out and finding positive friendships will enhance your wellbeing and motivation and these social rewards stimulate the excitement of dopamine (a happy chemical released in your brain).
Remember the fun sparks fly and the sparkle comes back once you get chatting with the right people. How many of us have left a friend after a few hours buzzing!! It’s such a good feeling isn't it.
There are two sorts that work for me:
Firstly music that is accidentally forced on you, not always songs you would have necessarily liked or chosen; for example like when your big brother would play a certain track repetitively before going out of an evening or the song your dad requested on the hospital radio dedicated to you!Firstly
Father Abraham’s, ‘The Smurf Song’ I recall was not actually that well known to me on the day it was played however is one I recall ever since as when the radio played I recall the smile on my dad’s face and him tapping his feet eagerly in rhythm with his hands playing the imaginary drums.
So when I hear these songs now I instantly have a big cheesy grin on my face and feel instantly uplifted. I would never play these songs usually in a million years however they do strangely uplift you as the brain is very clever like that. They are unfamiliar songs yet your brain has logged then as a happy connection (triggering dopamine one of the happy hormones).
If you decided to play them all the time however the effect would be minimised with no or little fix of dopamine.
Make a play list of these songs and only ever play them when you really feel you need to.
Secondly, music in general can play a significant part in lifting your mood too. Playing uplifting energetic music that enhances your mood is so good for you as it gets you moving and singing which also releases happy hormones.
4. Feel good food
Avoid sugar and flour! These both play havoc with your glucose levels and give you highs and lows, which are not what you want when you’re feeling pretty rubbish anyway.
Super foods are meant to be the key to helping you feel and look better. These include blueberries, carrots, greens, beetroot, ginger, Brazil nuts, garlic to name but a few. Have a look online as there are many great websites that can support you in this area.
5. Massage and touch
An evidence based study conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine shows that massage increases serotonin by 28% and decreases cortisol (stress hormone) by 31%.
Oxytocin is also released which is the bonding and anti- anxiety hormone.
Yes we all know that exercise enhances your serotonin and endorphin levels which are happy chemicals. So it makes sense to drag yourself out even when you don’t want to as it is key to helping you feel better about yourself and lift your mood. It also relieve stress and anxiety too.
I currently can’t do excessive exercise however just being outside, walking the dogs or doing Thai Chi or Yoga really gets me feeling energised and free.
You can do this with no or little money. Have a lovely relaxing bubbly bath with a candle or use a special product that uplifts you.
I adore a little treat every now and then and one of my favourite products is Arbonne’s Awaken Sea Salt Scrub.
I feel completely invigorated after using this. This luxurious mix of lemon and coriander essential oils are put together to encourage vitality and scrubs away the dead skin cells. If you wish to buy this product or other vegan products please go to my site http://cindywhite2.arbonne.com
8. Make your environment brighter
Sit closer to the windows at work and home, open blinds and curtains. If you can cut trees and bushes back do it! This way you have the maximum amount of sun light exposure possible in your home. Some people have gone as far as having skylights put in to make their homes brighter and sunnier.
The less light produce’s higher melatonin levels which causes lethargy and symptoms of depression which also play a role in sleep patterns and mood.
9. Being aware that stress can affect our serotonin levels
So maybe learn some tools to lower your stress levels such as:-
Yoga and deep relaxation exercises, being creative and maybe practice meditation – Get a guided meditation app on your phone and try it.
It only has to be 5 minutes a day. This method is proven to be highly effective in supporting the reduction of anxiety, stress and depression, boosting your immune system and supports positive relationships.
Setting realistic goals that are important to you will motivate you.
If like me you suffer with apathy this is a perfect solution. Goals keep you focussed and on track. You will feel you have accomplished something and this will help motivate you. My tip is start with something tiny each day and then build it up.
I am sure that there are many other things you can add to this list yourself however I wanted to just share with you my personal top tips.
Seasonal Affected Disorder Information:
So what is SAD?
Many people are diagnosed with a form of depression called Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) which is when you are affected by shorter daylight hours.
The NHS estimate that 1 in 15 of us have SAD. It appears between September and April in the Northern Hemisphere and life can be pretty pants for this group of people during this period and appears to be heightened more between December and February.
SAD can be quite debilitating for many people and there is a spectrum of severity. There is a milder end called ‘Sub-syndromal SAD’ or ‘Winter Blues’.
The more severe end of SAD you will be advised to have continual treatment and support.
If SAD rings bells with you it is advised to seek medical support and advice from you GP initially. The experts don’t really know what causes SAD however many believe there are several causes.
Some factors that come into play are:
Melatonin Levels - lack of light exposure due to the change in season can disrupt the balance of melatonin. Less light produce’s higher melatonin levels which causes lethargy and symptoms of depression which also play a role in sleep patterns and mood.
Serotonin Levels – Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in this brain chemical that affects mood and might play a role in SAD.
Your Biological Clock (circadian rhythm) – Your body clock may be disturbed by the decrease in sunlight caused by the season, in turn this can leave you feeling depressed and low.
I hope this has been useful and has helped the many people (often who suffer in silence) who also feel like me this time of year.
Remember it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s just life. We are all made differently and react differently to things. Some of us just need more light than others!!
Rather than hide it, let people know how you feel this time of year so they can support you. You will also surprisingly uncover many other people feeling exactly the same and feel relieved to chat to someone who gets it.
Just remember, look after yourself, it’s not selfish, it’s a necessity for your life!
Cindy the Barefoot Coach x