Wintertime and the living is . . . not so easy. As the days shorten and get colder and grayer, many of us find our energy levels and moods plummeting.
There's a good reason for this depressing phenomenon. Psychiatrist Henry Emmons explains:
“Slowing down in winter is woven into our genes. Biologically, the issue is the length of the days, rather than the temperature or quality of the weather. When the days shorten, the brain produces more melatonin, making us feel more tired. Because the release of this sleep hormone is tied to the sunset, when the sun sets earlier, our body wants to go to bed earlier. You may notice that you feel very sleepy in the early evening.”
Since we often don’t go to bed at the time our body is telling us, we may get a second wind and stay up later than usual, making us tired wrecks in the morning. With the shorter days we tend to get out of sync with our natural circadian rhythms, with a significant number of people developing symptoms of depression and anxiety as a result, or fall into what is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
While the wintertime blues may be natural, there are also natural ways to cure them, by boosting our energy levels and state of mind. These include:
1. Taking a Cold Shower
You don’t just take cold showers to calm down inconvenient sexual impulses, the chilly water can provide other health benefits. Healthline points out that so-called “water therapy” has been used for centuries “to take advantage of our body’s tendency to adapt to harsher conditions. As a result, our bodies become more resistant to stress.”
The cold shower you take after a hot one may serve to create a cold shock that increases the production of endorphins, shooting electric impulses to the brain that boost alertness, clarity, and energy levels, and help with depression. The cold shower may also serve to enhance our metabolisms, promote weight loss (often necessary after the excesses of the holidays) and improve circulation.
If you are having trouble sleeping, then a hot shower at night would be a better bet for making yourself dozy.
2. Getting an Energy Boost with Cannabis
While some might associate cannabis use with being mellow and laid back, the right strains can do the opposite: crank up our energy and mood levels. Generally speaking, sativa and sativa-predominant hybrids are known for their energizing effects, helping to stave off fatigue.
Smoking and vaping are the best ways to experience the pick-me-up benefits of cannabis, while edibles and capsules may provide longer-lasting effects.
Some of the strains recommended for their energy boosts include:
● Jack Herer (up to 23% THC) ● Juicy Fruit (up to 20% THC) ● Durban Poison (up to 24% THC) ● Harlequin (5:2 CBD to THC ratio) ● Green Crack (up to 24% THC)
3. Drinking More Water
While we need to remain properly hydrated year round, we may especially need reminders to drink six to eight glasses of water a day in winter, when it’s cold and we may feel disinclined to drink lots. Becoming dehydrated can leave you eeling drained and tired. It can also lower your mood, affect brain function and make it difficult to concentrate. So drink more water to achieve the opposite.
You should drink water (or other healthy fluids such as homemade smoothies, juices and milk) throughout the day, and especially before and after periods of intense activity, such as going to the gym or schussing down ski slopes.
4. Laughing & Lots
We’ve long known that laughter can lift our spirits and improve our mood. As Carolyn Bingingham observes: “A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around.”
The Mayo Clinic also agrees that laughter can have serious benefits as far as stress relief. Not only can it lift your mood it might actually affect your physical body, by:
● Stimulating your organs, including increasing the flow of endorphins in the brain ● Increasing blood circulation and helping with muscle relaxation ● Firing up and then cooling down your stress response system, leaving you with a relaxed glow.
Laughter can also serve to boost your immune system, relieve pain and increase personal satisfaction. Although what makes us laugh is an individual thing, you are bound to find something funny in the many podcasts devoted to comedy and humor.
5. Meditating for Improved Brain Function
Some people might assume that meditation is all about achieving a mellow state, which is not necessarily associated with an energy boost. But this ancient practice, with many modern adherents, is more about achieving a focus on the here and now, and an acceptance of how we are, and how things are, at any given moment. Meditation helps to achieve a clarity and peace of mind that can uplift us and enable us to enjoy the fruits of mindfulness.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo found that “practicing just 25 minutes of Hatha yoga or mindfulness meditation per day can boost the brain's executive functions, cognitive abilities linked to goal-directed behavior and the ability to control knee-jerk emotional responses, habitual thinking patterns and actions.” Both yoga and mindfulness meditation improved energy levels in the study.
If you don’t happen to have a qualified dhamma teacher to help you learn meditation, there are a number of apps out there to guide you. For example, Headspace is an iOS and Android app that offers hundreds of guided meditations to help with everything from relieving stress and anxiety to improving focus.
6. Taking Vitamin Supplements
Having the right diet; getting lots of exercise, regular sleep patterns; lowered stress levels — all these things can help achieve strong energy levels. Vitamins and supplements can also play a role here.
A lack of vitamin D, for example, is associated with muscle fatigue and depression. And it's particularly hard to get enough vitamin D in winter, when sunshine, one of its major sources of the vitamin, is in short supply. So taking a vitamin D supplement can help to address this imbalance. Or the ashwagandha plant-based supplement has been shown to ease feelings of stress and anxiety, thereby increasing energy levels.
Supplements can also be combined with complementary cannabis strains to enhance their beneficial effects.
7. Promoting Health and Wellbeing with Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses essential oils extracted from plants to promote health and wellness. With the all-natural ingredients absorbed through the skin or inhaled — through sprizers, inhalers, body lotions, bathing salts and other means — the ancient practice is getting modern respect. It is being used to help boost immune systems, relieve stress and anxiety, improve sleep and do much more.
Some of the significant components of these essential oils are terpenes, which give a variety of foods and plants their flavors and aromas, including cannabis. Various marijuana terpenes are associated with specific health benefits. For example, linalool and beta-caryophyllene may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and increase energy levels.
While winter in many parts of Canada can be long and cold, it doesn’t need to sap our energy and play havoc with our mood. The right natural remedies paired with a positive outlook — knowing that winter cold is followed by the warm embrace of spring and summer — can go a long way in giving us the boost we need.