In addition to being the uniquely stressful holiday season, the next few weeks mark the darkest, most Yin time of year. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is known to be closely associated with reduced exposure to daylight, so as we near winter solstice on Dec 21, it's really time to keep an eye on how you're feeling. Here are a few of our favorite tips to elevate your mood and fend off the SAD--while also keeping your sanity during the holidays!
1. Get outside, daily
No indoor light can come close to the intensity of lumens you are exposed to when outdoors, even on an overcast day. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day of outside time during the daylight hours. It's fine to break this up in to a few short walks, doing exercise or chores outside. If 30 minutes feels too hard to fit in your day, start with a few minutes, and see if you can increase from there. Any light exposure you can get will help fend off the SAD. Cold out? Just pile on those mittens and earmuffs, and embrace the season!
2. Shed the shades
Unless in a situation where sunglasses are needed for safety (skiing, driving, etc) or a medical condition, this is the time of year to peel off those shades and let more light get absorbed through your eyes, where it directly helps to regulate yourpineal gland, melatonin and serotonin levels.
3. Be savvy with sugarWe know that many of our friends, family and co-workers will be decking the halls with baked goods, pies and sweets. Try to moderate your "dosage" of these foods, and also choose whole and healthy foods to keep it balanced. Avoiding an excess of sugar and processed food will lower inflammation levels throughout the body, including in the brain, where inflammation can strongly impact your mood for the worse.
4. Consume "holiday cheer" wisely
Alcohol also drives brain inflammation and deregulates melatonin and serotonin levels. Disrupted, poor-quality sleep, in turn, results in major mood destabilization. Save your drinking for social time with others (avoiding mid-week drinks), limit the quantity of alcohol consumed, and try to start and end your drinking earlier in the evening, as (contrary to popular belief) drinks close to bedtime will have the worst affect your sleep quality.
5. Keep a regular sleep schedule
Many of us get some extra days off during the holidays, but try to avoid deregulating your sleep schedule with too much caroling and popcorn stringing (or binging TV shows late into the night). Keeping consistent bedtimes and wake times dramatically improves the quality of sleep, as well as your mood!
6. Don't drop the exercise
Normal routines often get shaken up during the holidays, but don't abandon the essentials of self-care when you need them the most. Exercise is one of the most reliable, scientifically validated ways to elevate your mood. If you don't have time to make it to the gym or a class, you can always walk outside-- a perfect solution since it helps you get that necessary light exposure!
7. Get a breath of fresh air
This time of year the air in our homes and offices stays sealed up, causing an accumulation of volatile toxins. It's all the more reason to get some regular time outside. Also, when milder days come up, help your air exchange by throwing open a window for a few minutes and putting on the kitchen or bathroom vent to pull in some fresh air. Avoid bringing toxins into the home by using all-natural, low-VOC products, and pick up some of the top houseplants for cleaning indoor air.
8. Power up with acupuncture
Acupuncture naturally releases various endorphins, promoting a relaxed, elevated mood, while also reducing pain levels, lowering inflammation and promoting high quality sleep. If you know you're prone to SAD, this is a great time of year to come in preventatively and get an all-natural mood lift.
We look forward to supporting you this winter. Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season!
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