It's time to change our clocks back on Saturday night! This time change always feels like a bit of a bummer. To me, it signifies the beginning of winter and the season of darkness.
Luckily, "falling back" doesn't affect us as much as "springing forward" does (we'll talk more about that in March) but it can have an effect on our mood. You might remember the travel website commercial in which a woman notices that the time is 430PM only to start crying when she looks out the window and sees darkness. In this case, art imitates life.
There are a few ways that early sunset can affect us:
- The darkness makes us feel colder and consequently, less interested in going outside. Instead, we stay inside, decreasing our social interactions and our activity levels while increasing our ingestion of comfort food. This makes us feel lonely, isolated and too big for our pants.
- Our melatonin levels increase in the winter. Melatonin is a chemical in our body that makes us feel sleepy. Sunlight helps to reduce the amount of melatonin that's secreted by our body (which is one reason we have more energy in the summer). Because of this, we tend to feel more tired and less motivated in the winter.
- Lack of light decreases the amount of vitamin D we make. Vitamin D is a nutrient that we need but that isn't created naturally in our body. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to depression, increased sickness, aches and pains, and fatigue.
Add the three of these together and you feel sluggish, overweight, depressed and mentally exhausted!
There are a few things you can do to offset all this but you might have to push yourselves out of your comfort zone. Literally.
1) Make regular standing dates with different friends. Research shows that our health is directly linked to our social life (the real kind, not the online kind.) If you meet with three different friends once a month, you'll have a few social outings to look forward to and you'll have better friendships!
2) Sometimes friends are busy or aren't able to meet. In that case, get some new friends! Just kidding, but taking a class, or getting involved with a club you're interested in will help you get out regularly.
3) Get some exercise. It doesn't have to be strenuous but it should be consistent. You can go to the gym or there are a lot of personal trainers and yoga instructors who offer free instructional YouTube videos so that you can work out at home.
4) If you find you overeat (or drink too much), start doing something that requires your hands. Knitting, doing a puzzle, or working on a model will keep your hands busy and you won't want to get them dirty by snacking.
5) Lastly, and I think most importantly, take Vitamin D. How much you take depends on certain factors. If you're dark-skinned, obese, elderly or always use sunscreen when you go out, you will need about 3000 to 4000 iu (micrograms). Otherwise, 1000 - 2000 iu will be enough for you. Special light therapy lamps are a great purchase if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and can help you naturally create Vitamin D.
Winter can be a rough time but by keeping these 5 things top of mind will help you get through it and even thrive.