Is the winter weather wearing you down? Do you wish you could just crawl back under the covers and not have to face another day of cold weather and new year paperwork? We may have crossed off the winter solstice date from our calendars - December 21st marks the beginning of longer days - but January can still feel dark and dreary which can lead to winter blues. Darker mornings and longer evenings mean that we see less daylight during the day which can have a significant detrimental effect on our mental health.
Numerous studies strongly support the positive role that sunlight plays in our mental health. But what if you’re busy with work? How do you hack the sunlight when you have to leave the house so early that it’s still dark and you don’t arrive home until way after sunset?
According to Dr. Kelli Ritter, a stress and anxiety expert and host of The Nourished Soul podcast, even if the weather is bad and you don’t have tons of time in your day to soak up the rays, you can still reap the benefits of sunlight in winter.
“It’s no secret that exposure to daylight can bring many mood-boosting benefits and that enough exposure will boost serotonin levels - the brain chemical that’s directly linked to mood,” Dr. Ritter explains. “Higher levels of serotonin equal a happier mood, less anxiety and a general sense of satisfaction and calmness. Think of daylight like nature’s natural antidepressant.”
The trick during winter, according to Dr. Ritter, is to tweak certain rituals in your day so that you maximise the time that allows the natural light in. “Yes, it's hard to live in harmony with our natural environment in the winter because we live busy lives and we're actually not designed to be super busy during this season,” she explains. “But the light frequencies are still there whatever the weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s not sunny, or the weather is grey, rainy or even snowy, you just need to get daylight into your eyes.”
Here are 3 hacks Dr. Ritter swears by:
When you wake up, get natural light before screen light
“The blue light that you get from artificial light and technology devices causes an inflammatory response in your body which depletes our dopamine levels. So before you go flipping on all the lights in the house and turning on the TV and the computer and your phone, get some natural light first. Even if that just means cracking up your bathroom window to let the light in. All you need is a few minutes of exposure to daylight each morning to instantly boost your mood and set your body clock running in the right direction.”
Expose naked eyes to the skies
“It’s so important to get the sunlight into your eyes to trigger the release of dopamine. So make sure you don’t wear contacts, glasses or sunglasses when you go outside as they will just block the frequencies that your eyes need to absorb in order to produce the happy hormones. This way, you’ll get a bigger dopamine boost! And it’s especially important to do this in the morning because it sets your circadian rhythm right for the day.”
Block blue light after sunset
“After you finish work, when it's dark, try wearing blue blocking glasses to block out the blue light frequencies from all of your devices and artificial lights. The sharp blue light frequencies are just going to tell your brain that it’s the middle of the day which messes up your dopamine levels and Circadian rhythm. Within a week you will start to notice a difference in your energy, particularly in your waking up."