Well with the forecast in mind, snow, wind, and all the things associated with it, I have to ask: Are you ready for winter?
The ten foot snow banks, the blizzards, the -38 C wind chills, the bad roads and everything else that I’d rather not even think about right now?
Hold on a second.
You might have assumed I was talking about the physical requirements to get through yet another Winnipeg winter, but I wasn’t. We all go through it every year right? Winter clothes are in good shape? Check. The furnace is in good working order? Check. Got the winter tires on? Check.
Sure all those things are necessary to get by in the six month Manitoba deep freeze, but what about mental preparation?
I never used to think about that very much because you just dealt with it, you handled it. You knew what to expect and you managed it accordingly.
However I’ve had a pretty serious bout with mental health fairly recently so I’ve developed a different perspective from the psychological side of things.
Winter can be a daunting foe and if you’re not prepared to get through it mentally, it could lead to some fairly serious issues like depression. I mean really, how uplifting is it to hear the high today is -33 C with the wind chill right?
When you hear the word depression you might think, “well, toughen up buttercup,” but sometimes it’s just not that easy and it could go much deeper than you or anyone else thinks.
Aside from the obvious drawbacks of the long winter season there could be other factors in play for the person (perhaps you or a person close to you) affected, whatever they happen to be.
Job loss, ongoing anxiety issues, relationship break up, death in the family, financial issues etc. they can all enter into it and with one more factor like winter coming into the mix, things could go from bad to worse pretty quickly.
So how can a person mentally prepare for a season?
Well here’s a guy. Richard Wurtman, M.D., is the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Professor of Neuroscience in MIT’s Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and of Neuropharmacology in the Harvard – MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology. (Enough for you?)
Here’s what he says about your winter mood:
“The long hours of darkness and short hours of light affect serotonin, the brain chemical that keeps us in a good mood and turns off our appetite. Serotonin is the body’s natural mood booster, and levels plunge (along with mood) as it gets dark.”
Ok, so what do we do about it?
Well, a Canadian research group headed by Dr. Robert Levitan senior scientist at the Campbell Family mental health research institute in Toronto have discovered that 30 minutes of light therapy daily during the winter months worked just as well as Prozak to ease depression and the symptoms associated with it. Not only that, they found the light therapy started to work faster than the drug regimen, one week vs two to four weeks.
I have a friend who uses one of those “sun lamps” every day in the winter. It just sits on her desk, she turns it on for however long and she claims her mood (along with her office) is much brighter than it’s been in recent years. She swears by it. I was of course skeptical so I started looking into it and yep, she was right.
After all, who am I to dispute the claims of doctors and researchers who’ve worked for years to finally be able to publish results like this?
Experts also suggest, and I know this going to sound cliché, to eat well, exercise, get the proper amount of sleep, do things that make you happy and develop an outlet, whatever it happens to be. Playing a musical instrument, writing in a journal, learning a new language, whatever you can put energy into and get positive results out of.
I will also always say, especially considering recent events in my life, you should always consult with a medical professional if you’re experiencing dark moods and strange changes in behavior. Just getting the reassurance you need about whatever it may be will most likely start to make you feel better.
PS: those sun therapy lamps I was talking about? You can pretty much get them anywhere. Wal-mart, Costco, Bed Bath and Beyond etc or just order one online. They range in price from about $50 to $300 CAD.
By: Elise Moreau June 4, 2016 Follow Elise at @elisem0reau
Most people are aware of the importance of vitamin D for good health and that it comes from the sun in its natural form. And many know that the light from our electronic devices can mess with their ability to sleep at night. But did you know that your exposure to bright light — perhaps natural or artificial — may even be powerful enough to alter your metabolism?
In a recent study conducted by Northwestern University, 19 adults were exposed to bright, blue-enriched light for three hours each in the morning and in the evening over a four-day period. Hunger, metabolic function and physiological arousal were tracked and the results were compared against the results for exposure to dim light.
All participants were exposed to dim light in their waking hours over the first two days. On the third day, half of the participants were exposed to bright light in the morning while the other half were exposed to bright light in the evening.
What the researchers found was that bright light in both the morning and evening hours increased insulin resistance — the body’s inability to move glucose out of the bloodstream to use for energy. Insulin resistance can cause weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes.
The researchers also found that when the participants were exposed to bright light in the evening, higher peak glucose (blood sugar) levels were detected. And in a related study conducted previously by Northwestern researchers, they had found that people who were exposed to the majority of their light before midday weighed less than people who were exposed to the majority of their light after midday.
This is the first time these results have been seen in humans, although researchers at this point can’t say why light exposure has the impact it does on our bodies. Previous studies conducted on mice that were exposed to light over a consistent period of time showed higher glucose levels and weight gain compared to mice in a control group.
These findings suggest that the amount of light, and what time of day we’re exposed to it, has a direct impact on our health. This would certainly include all the light we surround ourselves with these days that come from our electronic devices — from smartphones and tablets to television monitors and laptops. If you spend all evening around glowing screens, which we already know is bad for your body’s internal sleep clock, it could very well be partially to blame for why you may be having trouble shedding those few extra pounds.
The good news about this and future related research is that we may be able to find out more about how we might be able to use light to manipulate metabolic function. But for now, it’s probably safe to say that altering your morning and evening routines so that exposing yourself to light earlier in the day will be far better for your overall health than exposing yourself to much of it later on in the day.
Findings like these serve as just another good and healthy excuse to ditch the devices in the evening hours and do something a little more productive, enjoyable or just plain relaxing. Your mind and body deserve it.