How the Weather Affects Your Body
The weather is changing up here in the Pacific Northwest, and with weather changes come changes in our mood and our bodies. You’ve likely heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, but what you may not know is that the weather and changes in season has an affect on all of us. Below I’ll list 5 ways your body is affected by the season changes so that you can stay informed and practice self-care!
You may feel tired. Overcast days, later sunrise times, and earlier sunset times all affect the circadian rhythms in our bodies. Since we are programmed to become tired when the sun goes down, days that are overcast can cause us to feel a bit less energy and a bit more like sleeping in. We produce more hormones to make us tired and less “happy” hormones that keep us awake.
What can I do? There are a lot of things that you can do to wake yourself up. One really great way is using a Happy Light. Studies show that getting some vitamin D can raise your energy levels, so time in front of this Vitamin D producing lamp can be a great help. Start your day with this as you sit and check emails and drink your morning coffee. It’s a great way to start the day! Other things you can do during the day include: taking a walk, drinking cold water, eating a snack, having a conversation. The options are endless. Just doing something to get your blood moving can really make a difference.
You may feel sad. The decline in sun exposure during the colder months can contribute to sadness and depression. Our bodies produce melatonin when we aren’t exposed to sunlight, which can contribute to feelings of sleepiness and in turn affects our serotonin levels, causing more depressive feelings. We can also isolate a bit more due to being inside or home more often, which can exacerbate these feelings.
What can I do? Again, not to make the Happy Light the winter savior, but the Happy Light can really raise those serotonin levels by reducing the melatonin we produce. You can also practice turning all the lights on when you wake in the morning, buying a wake up clock, and trying to simulate a “sunrise” to your brain even when the sun hasn’t come up quite yet
You might experience pain. Cold temperatures can cause us to feel more stiff and “crackly” due to the fact that we stiffen up to warm ourselves up. Often when we sleep, we cuddle up under covers and don’t move, causing stiffness. Also, the rise in humidity during rain or snow can contribute to stiff or swollen joints, headache, and other body pains.
What can I do? Giving yourself a little extra time to wake and do some stretches can do wonders. Also a warm shower in the morning can not only wake you up but it can provide some relief to your aching limbs. It may seem counterintuitive, but moving is the anecdote to seasonal aches and stiffness, so going for a brisk walk, doing some light yoga, or simply a few jumping jacks in the morning can do a lot to combat pain.
You might be more hungry. I don’t know about you, but when I am hibernating, I feel a bit more snacky. This is just social conditioning that says we have to snack when hanging out, but during those colder months, it can also be our bodies craving more food to produce more energy (because of the dip in serotonin, see above!).
What can I do? Eating seasonal foods like root vegetables and slow cooked meats while getting good sources of fat can combat those mid-winter cravings. Instead of grabbing a cup of coffee or peppermint cocoa, try a hot cup of bone broth with butter, garlic, and seasonings. You’ll get protein, a good source of fat, and something warm to cozy you up for those Hallmark Movie Channel binges.
You might feel a bit anxious. Being in close quarters for an extended period of time can cause you to feel a bit anxious. Its normal to feel stir-crazy because of being cooped up inside for long, especially if you have a family or roommates, this time inside can feel like a lot of stimulation!
What can I do? Make sure to get some time to yourself during these colder months. Taking baths, a walk, or reading for a little while alone can be good ways to reset your social stimulation meter during times where you’re around a lot of people all the time.
Above all, it's important to remember to take some extra self-care during the season changes. Holidays can bring its own host of emotions, so making sure to get the rest, vitamin D, nourishing meals, and time to recharge is important while we are going through the holiday months as well as the transition to cold.
Autumn brings with it the concept of shedding the old, drawing in, and preparing for the spring to come. A lot of internal processing can happen during these months, as we are generally bent towards the idea of hibernating. This can be a really great time to take an internal scan of how you’re doing and find out what you need. Here at Novo Life Counseling, we have excellent therapists who would love to help you walk through this season of introspection to prepare you for your spring. Contact us today for a free consultation and to get scheduled.