Well, it is cold. Winter is upon us once again. With Covid it seems to have been a long time coming. Last year the warm weather stretched out into November that got us all talking about global warming. Then, suddenly with ferocity the weather has changed and we are in the grip of floods, tsunamis and even winter forrest fires. With global warming we were promised warm dry summers and cool wet winters and that is exactly that is what we have.
Many of the people I talk with are feeling a flat fatigue. This is true of those who have had and who have not had Covid. It is as though our battery is flat and needs charging. Our energy always changes between the seasons just feel that this year covid has made it so much bigger. There is a stark contrast between the world in the warmth of the summer and that in the cold of the winter. One of the main things that we don’t realise is the effect that we feel from the ionisation of the air around us. Each atom has an electrical charge on it. When the charge is negative then we feel bright and light and energised. When the charge is positive we feel flat, oppressed and out of steam. In the winter the air is often filled with positive irons that can make us feel negative. It is those days that are grey and over cast with the damp chill that reaches into you bones the air is filled with positive ions. When you are on a side of a mountain with clear blue sky’s watching the sun glint on the snow the air is filled with negative ions. It seems back to front but…
Positive ions make you feel bad
Negative ions make you feel good
As water meet the air ions are released. In an energetic splashing there are streams of negative ions given off. These make us feel brighter and awake. The effect happens by rivers, the sea, fountains and most commonly the shower that wakes us up in the morning. A bath, on the other hand, where the water is hot and still there are lots of positive ions given off that may make us feel relaxed but also can make us sleepy.
The other winter effect is the lack of sun light. This leads to the inevitable drop in our level of Vitamin D. This leads to a change in our brain chemistry. A drop in our level of vitamin D leads to a drop in the level or serotonin, the happy hormone. This normally, leads to feelings of down-ness and flatness often described as SAD syndrome. Sometimes I wonder why, in evolution, we bothered to move away from the equator where levels of vitamin D are high and SAD syndrome never heard of.
When it gets cold, damp and dark we seek the comfort that through evolution has been supplied by carbohydrates. Carbs make the brain secrete serotonin. In the winter we self medicate with carbs and tend to put weight on. 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
I know we have all the restrictions of covid but 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, and then, when it is dark and cold, jump on a plane and go somewhere hot and sunny. If we did that we would boost our Vitamin D and keep our mood raised up.
Another way to counteract the effect of the darkness is to move more. When it is cold the idea of huddling around a coal/log fire and staying in becomes very attractive and comforting. Yet this can increase our intake of comfort food and maybe the odd drink. We can become lazy. However, if we make the effort to move our body we can raise our mood and feel better. Twenty minutes of raised heart rate 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 or the classic 10,000 step. If we all did this we would reduce our levels of illness, improve our mental health, loose some weight and get happier. Of course it goes without needing to say it that it would also save the health authorities a lot of money. Maybe with covid it would also lessen the demand on NHS services.
Time to get social
Don’t be a hermit, Covid permitting, get out and meet people or invite people into your home. 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 happy hormones. We are naturally hunter gatherers who live and interact in social groups. They do not live alone in small family units in little boxes they are a natural social community.
Get social and get some exercise
As Ed would tell us we all need to get out more walking and cycling. Apart from any direct physical health benefits this might bring it also helps us recreate our communities as we can directly interact with our neighbours and community members. This is something that is impossible when we are stuck in the car.
Did you know that when we have a particularly dark and cold winter the birth rates can rise by up to 18%. The joke always was that a couple go to bed early to save candles and money and end up having more children. However, we do know that good positive love making does increase our endorphins and increases our happiness. It also helps us to keep warm on a cold night and save on the heating.
Slow down and enjoy
It is natural to slow down and sleep more in the winter. 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 have stopped living in the natural rhythm of nature and life. As hunter gatherers we would have gone to sleep when it got dark and woken up when it got light. We now go to work in the dark come home in the dark, work crazy shifts for excessive hours and for many day never see the sun and then we wonder why our vitamin D level is low. This maybe a good time to get a vitamin test from your GP and perhaps take a supplement if you need it.
If we were living in the natural rhythms of nature winter would be our chance to rest and relax and restore ourselves for the hard work in the spring ahead. A time to gather around log fires and get Hyyge. 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, learn our own history and teach and learn new skills. 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 Hyyge to live enjoy and survive their short winter days.
Be happy and do what you need to ensure you enjoy your winter and make it a winter wonderland for you and those around you.