As we emerge from what feels like a winter hibernation and the days begin to expand, I find myself feeling tired and lacking in energy (possibly the body adapting to an imbalance in melatonin and serotonin levels). Then, as we pass the Spring Equinox, I feel a sudden surge of energy, as though someone has pulled down the electricity booster lever! As a result, my creative juices flow with renewed vigor.
Our circadian rhythm is strongly influenced by natural light. As light diminishes in the Winter, our bodies produce more melatonin, the sleep hormone, synchronizing our sleep-wake cycle with night and day. A reduction in serotonin can bring on seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, resulting in lowered mood or even full blown depression. Our bodies feel the need for extra energy to keep us warm. We can also crave comfort food to boost our mood and our serotonin levels (90% of serotonin is produced in the gut). In the winter, I crave warming soups and nourishing stews as opposed to salads, to stay warm, full of energy and comforted. Interestingly, Traditional Chinese medicine and also Ayurvedic medicine believe that eating raw foods in the winter can sap us of our energy.
As daylight increases, so too does our production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. The production of vitamin D3 is more prolific, which helps our energy levels (although for sunlight to produce vitamin D3 in our body, it needs to be in direct contact with our skin).
We are inextricably connected to nature and the flow of the seasons. Our bodies follow the same rhythm, just as sap rises and seeps through the veins of new growth, causing new shoots to emerge. As winter draws in again, our bodies naturally feel the need to slow down and preserve energy.
We can support these natural rhythms by being connected to our outdoor environment; walking in all seasons and noticing the changes outdoors. Feeling the sunlight on our skin in the summertime. Embracing increased waking hours in the Summer and more sleep in the Winter.
However the change in seasons effects you; especially this year we have everything to look forward to: more time spent outdoors, enjoying gardening, wondering at the beauty of nature, looking forward to the lazy buzz of bumblebees and the return of butterflies. Alfresco breakfasts and dinners, sitting outside late into the evening.
I think this year, much more than any other has made us appreciate what comes for free and the simple, small pleasures.