Affects of Winter Solstice
Winter is here. December 21st marks the winter solstice and is the official start of winter. Up until now, the nights have been getting longer and the days shorter. These days it’s dark by 5:30pm. Luckily December 21st is the shortest day of the year so the days will gradually start to get longer until six months from now, we celebrate the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. Up until this week, we’ve been lucky with milder weather. As winter starts and Christmas right around the corner, it seems appropriate for the weather in the Northeast to drop to freezing temperatures. Changes in weather can have an impact on our health, both physically and mentally. Since the winter days are shorter and usually bitter cold, we spend less time outside. That means less exposure to natural sunlight which means less Vitamin D, Testosterone and Serotonin affecting one’s mood, sex drive, and sleep cycles.
One of the most common health affects that we see when it comes to winter is mood changes. In our, “Is it Blue Monday or the Winter Blues making you SAD?” blog, we discussed a disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. SAD is defined as a type of depression that is related to the change of seasons, most commonly in the winter months. Serotonin and Vitamin D levels drop with less exposure to sunlight. Symptoms of SAD include: low energy, feeling down or agitated, less social, difficulty concentrating and more. These symptoms usually occur the same time every year. Incorporate some self-care techniques like deep breathing, yoga and walking to help boost your mood.
Another health affect that occurs with the winter solstice is a change in sex drive. Most individuals experience a lower sex drive in the winter due to the fact that testosterone levels naturally decline during the colder months. During the summer months, testosterone levels increase and lead to higher sex drives in individuals. This is why we often see most conceptions happening in the summer. During the winter, be sure to talk with your partner about how you’re feeling and new ways to keep things exciting in your sex life.
The winter solstice signifies a time for people to rest; however people’s sleep patterns can be affected from less exposure to sunlight and Vitamin D. The body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates our sleep cycles, is affected by the change in season. Melatonin production is also affected. A simple solution—supplement with Vitamin D and enjoy the rest that only winter can bring.
The winter solstice also signifies a time for people to reflect. It’s no coincidence that it happens to be at the end of the year. Use this time as a chance to review your year and reflect on your wins and losses. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished and learn from your mistakes. Set goals for the year ahead.
Despite all the things that mark the winter solstice, the most important one to note is that we will find ourselves spending less time outdoors. During this time of year, we begin to truly enter the cold weather. Due to this, we spend most of our time indoors at home, at work, or at school. Rarely do we find anyone at the beach, boardwalk, or park; however, despite the cold weather, it is important to give your body what it needs— sunlight and vitamin D. You can supplement with Vitamin D but try to get outside everyday for natural sunlight.
Getting even just a little bit of sunlight each and everyday will begin to manifest positive effects almost instantly. Go for a 20 minute walk every morning. I know it’s cold out—but bundle up and put on your walking shoes or boots. (If you have a heart condition or asthma check with your doctor first as colder weather increases your risk for heart and lung complications.) By incorporating this simple habit of daily exercise and sun exposure, you can expect to have a better overall mood, better energy, and better sleep. You can also expect to experience lower blood sugar levels, decrease your risk for developing chronic disease, and even help to promote better mental health. That being said, take on the winter solstice by incorporating this simple habit of getting outside in the fresh air and sun for at least 20 minutes each morning. You will be shocked at how fast you notice a difference!