When the nights draw in it can affect our mood, our immunity our sleep and our motivation,  here are ways to beat those winter blues with SLEEP, MOTIVATION, HORMONES, COLOUR, NATURE, VITAMINS.. 

SLEEP

Circadian Rhythm

You probably know by now that your body needs darkness at night to induce sleepy downtime. Allowing bright screen time late into the evening affects your sleep. But did you also know that getting enough daylight in the day is also equally as important to help you sleep at night? 

This is because your body runs on its own body clock, its circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is vital to allow the cells and hormones that work in the day to work on their duties. The ones that work at night whilst you are asleep to work on theirs. The circadian rhythm is influenced by light, darkness and when we eat. Your hormone melatonin regulates the cycle of awake and sleep. 

As light and darkness are so integral to how we fall asleep, and how deep our sleep is. It’s worth paying attention to. Get outside in the day- especially in the winter! Allow day light to hit your eyes, take off your glasses and allow the sun to penetrate your skin and face (do not stare into the sun). At night quit the screen time! Incidentally, as we get older, our eyes become weaker so we need more daylight and more darkness at night to instruct the release of melatonin. 

Screens such as televisions, mobile phones, computers, or Ipads emit a blue light. Research shows us that this is particularly detrimental to our sleep. 

winter blues
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
The Solution

You can get glasses that block blue light which can improve melatonin levels, but then if you are stimulating yourself with screen time there are also other issues that will affect your sleep. Keep your phone out of the bedroom and have a downtime routine before bed that does not involve screens. It is not difficult, it’s just a new habit to create. There is nothing productive about getting something done before bed if it affects your sleep as the next day you will have less productiveness. 

Cytokines which fight infection are released in N3 part of sleep, but a good night’s sleep will also improve the action of the immune T cells as well. In order for T cells to work efficiently, they need a sticky substance called integrin. They literally stick to viruses and then destroy them. Sleep is important for this process because the hormones adrenalin and noradrenalin block the stickiness of integrins and these hormones lull in your sleep. Sleep = sticky T cell power. 

So if you are not sleeping well, your T cells lose their ability to stick. You are then unable to fight disease as efficiently. Thus, the worse you sleep, the quicker you will get sick and the harder it will be to fight off illness. 

MOTIVATION

We can lose motivation for our own health in the winter so consciously working with these motivational skills can help!

There are two types of motivation for healing. 

• Intrinsic 

• Extrinsic 

Intrinsic motivation is when you do something that is healing for your mind and body because you find it rewarding. You are doing this particular activity because you find it stimulating and helpful within its own sake rather than wanting to do it for an external reward. So intrinsic motivation is self-rewarding. 

winter blues
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
What Is Extrinsic Motivation? 

Extrinsic motivation is when you do something that is healing for your mind and body because you want to earn a reward or avoid a punish- ment. Therefore you are not necessarily enjoying this task or finding it satisfying, you are just to doing it for an external end result. 

Which is better? 

You might presume that intrinsic motivation is better than extrinsic, but actually both play a good part in our ability to motivate ourselves when we have to make choices for our health. For instance, movement over lethargy, or healthy foods over junk ones. 

We can put off healing our bodies because we have got so used to our particular routine, so some- times we need some extrinsic motivation to say we have to do this now! 

WORK WITH YOUR HORMONES

The three main feel good hormones you want to work on are: 

Oxytocin
Endorphins 

Serotonin

Serotonin and oxytocin are also released when we are in a supportive group, or supporting others. Isolation and solitude can exasperate the lack of those feel good hormones, but even if you are in an online group your feel good hormones will still get released. 

Serotonin is also created in the gut, and the better our digestion and eating habits, the better the release of this hormone, which means we get less depressed. 

We release endorphins when exercising. No matter how low you feel, even just a walk will pick up your mood, and when your mood is picked up you are less likely to arouse cortisol. 

winter blues
Photo by That’s Her Business on Unsplash
Foods that bring on the production of melatonin and serotonin are: 

• Bananas 

• Almonds 

• Kiwi
• Rice 

• Milk
• Cottage Cheese • Fatty fish
• Tart Cherry Juice • Porridge
• Vitamin D
• Omega-3 

WORK WITH COLOUR

Colour can help lift our mood and in the winter months everything can feel more grey. It can also affect how we express emotion and behave. Colour can awaken us, stimulate us, agitate us and help us rest. It can even help us heal. 

Within ancient cultures such as Egyptian, Greek, Chinese and Indian; colour temples were used for healing. In the ancient Greek city of Heliopolis – City of the Sun- red or blue cloth was hung over the windows in the temple, with the sunlight shining through the cloth to treat human ailments. 

The practice of chromotherapy (healing with colour) was used and is even still practiced today. In fact, Pythagoras applied colour light therapeutically in 500 BC. 

We know that certain colours can brighten up our day and also have the capability to dampen our spirits. Picture walking through a gloomily lit street where the buildings are dark, and there are grey clouds over- head. We feel heavy. When walking through a street with blue skies, and bright sunshine lighting up the buildings, we feel lighter, brighter, even euphoric in comparison. 

Wear brighter colours, and allow yourself to feel colour in winter. 

BEING IN NATURE 

We are less likely to spend more time in nature when the nights get darker, so we have to make a conscious effort to get outside every day or even have a forest bathe! 

The term ‘Forest Bathing’ originated from Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku “forest bathing” or  “taking in the forest atmosphere.” 

The idea was to allow people to reconnect to the countryside and help the never ending screen time we all endure have an antidote. 

winter blues
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
The Experts

Researcher and forest bathing expert, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, of Chiba University in Japan concluded that people who walked 40 minutes a day in cedar forests had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol can exasperate many diseases in our body, so reducing it has the potential to help heal your body. 

Professor, Dr Qing Li, a researcher at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, discovered that trees and plants release phytoncides, which are aromatic compounds we naturally inhale. 

This has a similar effect to aromatherapy and is extremely therapeutic for our bodies. So much so that Li’s research showed whether you walk in the day or stay in forests overnight, the changes in your blood showed great improvements for healing. 

These improvements showed better immunity and a lowering of blood pressure. This is because phytoncides increase NK cells, which support the immune system. NK cells can also help infections, autoimmune dis- eases, diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory issues. If you walk daily, you can increase your NK cells by 50% and this can sustain at this level for a month, even if you just walk in nature for two consecutive days. 

Another study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspective in 2016, showed that women who lived in greener areas had a 12% lower risk of death from all causes, compared to those living around less vegetation. 

Helping with Depression, Anxiety and Attention Disorders

Being in fresh clean air is also a big factor for restoring health away from pollution. Other studies show being in nature also helps depression, anxiety and attention disorders. Walking by moving water can also help alleviate depression and anxiety due to the negative ions released in the air. 

There have been many studies that reach the conclusion that being in nature is profoundly healing for our mind, body and soul – of course we already knew this. 

It’s not just being outside either. Having a little nature indoors too – indoor plants, using aromatherapy oils, crystals, using plants as medicine – all help us to connect with nature. In a study by Li, he concluded that indoor plants release phytoncides too. 

Studies have also shown that even views of nature are also deeply healing for the mind and body. A room with a view can improve attention and reduce stress. One study showed that patients who saw tree lined views whilst recovering in hospital from abdominal surgery, were re- leased faster than those who did not have the same view, despite having had the same surgery. 

VITAMINS

Vitamin D 

Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium. You can find vitamin D in fatty fish like salmon, eggs and also via exposure to the sun. 

Salmon is rich in both Vitamin D and Omega-3 fats, which are essential for menopausal women. 

Vitamin D ialso helps reduce depression, moodiness, and sleep problems. 

It can also help with mental fog. Get in the sunlight! 

Omega-3 

Fats that contain Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important  for balancing moods.

Studies have also shown healthy fats play a role in balancing mood disorders. 

You can find these healthy fats in olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, nuts, and 

seeds – particularly flaxseeds. Flaxseeds contain Omega-3, fibre, B vitamins and phytoestrogens. 

Fats – helps you absorb Vitamin A, D and E.

Go for nuts and seeds as your main source of fats. Walnuts and almonds are the highest in nutrients. Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic and linoleic acids which are a natural anti-inflammatory for the body. Chia seeds are fantastic for your digestion and energy. Flaxseeds are high in Omega-3. 

Christianne Wolff
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