5 Strategies for Season Changes

Among the dozens of things that I love about New Hampshire is the fact that we experience all four seasons. There’s just something about the turning of leaves in fall, the first sticking snow in winter, the bright green new growth in spring, and the beating sun of summer that mark the passing of time in a way that makes sense to me – not to mention it’s just beautiful. Our changing seasons is one of the many reasons I moved home to New Hampshire after completing school in Pennsylvania. 

Despite my love of all things fall (give me all the apples and decorative gourds!), the shortening daylight of October and November can have negative effects on our physical and mental health. I studied mental health in college and grad school, which is when I started to see how much the sun matters to my health. Sunlight is not just great for a tan but is essential to our body functioning properly. One component is Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin. Research from Tufts University reveals that a large percentage of who were students studied in New England don’t have enough Vitamin D, which we primarily absorb from the sun through our skin (https://now.tufts.edu/articles/vitamin-d-gap). Vitamin D is essential for bone development. It also impacts mood and behavior. 

When the sun is out fewer hours in the day, we get less of the nutrients that we need. Without getting into the science, although I encourage you to research on your own if it interests you, I have a few tips that can help you and/or your child combat what many call “The Winter Blues.”

  1. Be Outside.  Get out as much as you can during daylight hours. If you can’t be outside, sit near a window. Take brief walks outside throughout the day. Find a winter activity that you enjoy that gets you outdoors.
  2. Be Active.  Exercise releases endorphins in our brain that make us feel good. Simply walking increases your heart rate. This helps with blood flow and can reduce inflammation.
  3. Be Social.  We are made to live in community. We are strengthened and encouraged by friends and family. Make plans and keep them. It is easy to isolate in winter when it’s cold, dark, and the weather is unpredictable. Go anyway (as long as the roads are safe, of course).
  4. Be Consistent.  Maintain your daily and weekly routine. Don’t skip your book club, Bible Study, or church on Sunday. Give your body a predictable schedule to limit effects of changing daylight. Set a time to get up each morning and go to bed each night.
  5. Be Nutritious.  Eating well can boost our mood and keep us from getting sluggish during the winter. Limit sugar intake. Eat fruits and vegetables. Apples are in season now and citrus is in season during the winter months. Hydrate well. Water, like sunlight, is essential to the human body. Being well-hydrated helps with digestion, circulation, moisturizing skin, and all other functions in our body.

Give a few of these, or all of them, a try and see how your winter experience changes.

These suggestions are loosely based on concepts from the following articles: http://bit.ly/9waystocope and http://bit.ly/SADwinterblues

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