We received a message from a listener enquiring about hibernation. They noted how in the winter months they become less social and more irritable and asked is hibernation normal? Well, the answer is yes, but not sleeping like a bear. More like slowing down and losing some energy that we would normally get from the sun light.
So, winter is on its way once again. It seems to have been a long time coming this year as the warm weather has stretched out until we hit the current storms, but maybe September and October will be warm and bright until the clocks go back.
The effect of the lack of light is the inevitable drop in our level of Vitamin D, and a drop in our level of serotonin that. This normally, leads to feelings of down-ness often described as SAD syndrome. Sometimes I wonder why we bothered to move away from the equator where the levels of vitamin D are naturally high and SAD syndrome has never been heard of.
When, up here in the higher latitudes it gets cold, damp and dark we seek comfort that through evolution has been given to us through eating carbohydrates. The best form of carbs is in cake, bread, pastas, puddings, biscuits, and so on. Carbs kick your brain into producing endorphins that make you feel good which is why they are called comfort food.
Carbs = comfort
Take a holiday
We could go away to the sun and get our endorphin hit that way. Why do we take our main holiday in the summer? Would it not make more sense to enjoy the British summer, even if it is a bit wet it still has long days of light. Then, when it is dark and cold we could jump onto a plane and go somewhere hot and sunny. If we did that we would boost our Vitamin D, increase our serotonin production and keep our mood raised.
Another way to counteract the effect of the darkness is to move more. When it is cold the temptation is to huddle around a coal fire and stay in. Yet, if we make the effort to move our body we raise our mood. Twenty minutes of a raised heartbeat will make your brain secrete happy hormones and endorphins that will make you feel happier. The drive from the health authorities is to get everyone walking for at least half an hour a day. If we all did this we reduce our levels of illness, improve our mental health, loose some weight and get happier. Of course it goes without saying that it would also save the health authorities money.
Time to get social
Don’t be a hermit get out and meet people or invite people in. Socialise, have parties, cook meals and enjoy the company of others. Being with others, sharing the feeling of belonging and sharing fun and laughter all increase our levels of happiness. They call it Hygge in Sweden.
Christmas and Stuffmas
Winter means Christmas and for most of us this means money and spending. Creating debts and financial stress is a serious contributor to seasonal depression. The second part of Christmas can be that there is so much to organise and that can be stressful, if we do not share the load and the responsibility. Maybe, if everyone who comes to Christmas dinner each cooked a course the pressures would be less all round.
Did you know that when we have a particularly dark and cold winter that birth rates can rise by up to 18%. We do know that good positive love making does raise the endorphins and increases happiness. It also helps us to keep warm on a cold night.
Slow down and enjoy
Most of nature takes a break in the winter. The birds fly south, all of the plants go to sleep and many animals go into hibernation. The one species that does not slow down that carries on in a mad dash is us human beings. We may not be able to hibernate but we can slow down.
For us winter could be our chance to rest and relax. A time to gather around log fires and get Hygge. A time to enjoy the joy of story telling, socialisation, and developing family relationships and friendships. A time to mend nets, repair the tools, learn to sew and knit and chat about life and sharing experiences and teach and learn. A time to enjoy winter foods, puddings, custard and cake.
The more I think about it the more I see why the Nordic countries developed their various versions of Hygge to live enjoy and survive their winters.
Be happy and do what you need to ensure you enjoy your winter and make it a winter wonderland.