Winter Time Is Sun Time
Winter is a season dreaded by many. From the snow to the freezing cold to the ongoing sicknesses, winter brings numerous things to dislike. For many, it is a period of depressed mood and activity level brought on by the reduced amount of sunlight.
The effects of winter have become so pronounced over the past decade that psychotherapists have created a new disorder: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Whether somebody qualifies for that diagnosis or not, it is common to be sadder and less energized in the winter. When humans were hunter-gathers, this was a good evolutionary adaptation as it conserved energy. Nowadays, we want to be happy and active all year round. Pay attention to getting a case of the “winter blues.” If you notice that you are less active, less happy, sleep more, eat more and miss those summer days, stop what you are doing and go outside.
No really, going outside into the bracing chill can actually help reduce those feelings. The ever-present sun bathes this world in its rays and controls the seasons. At the same time, it is one of the healthiest remedies available. Best of all? It’s free and easy to use. While standing in the sun’s rays, try to expose as much skin as possible. There is no need to go out in a bathing suit (unless it gets really warm), but consider taking off the winter hat, gloves and coat. Let the warmth touch your skin. Breathe in and out and enjoy the feeling. Even if it is only for a few minutes, the time is well spent.
Besides enjoying the feeling of natural sunlight, the sun a number of processes that help reduce Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), regulate sleeping and eating patterns, and decrease depression. How does plain old sunlight do these things? By increasing the production of a number of naturally occurring processes in your body. The first of these, is the production of vitamin D.
Vitamin D has two primary functions: the first is to strengthen our structural system (bones), the second is to boost immune functioning. Working alongside calcium, vitamin D increases bone density over the long term. Being outside can increase the density of your bones, leading to stronger joints and fewer breaks. As for the immune system, vitamin D energizes the white blood cells to be more active. These generals of the immune system become more active in fighting bacteria and viruses when given a dose of vitamin D. Them being active means you get sick less often.
How much a person sleeps is affected by any number of things: school, work, family, food, caffeine, etc. Going outside during the day helps set a consistent sleep-wake cycle for your body. Sunlight triggers our natural tendency to be awake during the day and sleep at night. It also encourages an increase in the production of melatonin which helps set that biological clock. More sunlight will help you be awake and active during the day, and sleep better at night.
Spending more time in the sun this winter season can only lead to good things. Give it a try and get outside. Whether it is before work, lunch time, or when you get home enjoy that sunshine. What the heck, go outside all of those times and stretch your legs. Make a commitment to do so every day. Note how you feel at the beginning of a week. Reassess how your mind and body are doing at the end and compare. Without a doubt, getting more sunshine in your diet will help you feel better.
Bryan Aldeghi, CLSC, is a College Transition Coach with the Integrated Pathways Center for Personal Growth. The transition from high school into college and from college into the working world is a challenging time for students, parents and families. By working with the dynamic Integrated Pathways team, Bryan helps clients ease the journey, through enhanced communication, goal completion, and increased self-awareness. Other team members focus on managing stress through Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Massage, and Bodywork. A local beekeeper, Bryan is a graduate of Vassar College and is currently working on his Masters of Mental Health Counseling at Walden University. To learn more, contact Bryan directly at BAldeghi@IntegratedPathways.net or visit www.IntegratedPathways.net.