The cool grey winter skies make the Lab glow more than usual and we instinctively want to comfort and nourish our bodies
Winter can be the most transformative time of the year. Spring is the season that gets credit for change but, it’s actually in the work and habits we cultivate through the winter that will really set us up for powerful personal transformation. It’s no secret that our body and mind function differently in the cooler months. The lack of sunlight and warmth have a tangible effect on our energy levels, sleep patterns, mood and cravings. Despite our modern, urban lifestyle, we are still tuned in to the natural rhythms and seasons of the Earth- which is why winter has such a profound effect on our physical and emotional state. At the Lab we understand the importance for nourishing self-care and supporting your body through the winter chill.
There are many things about winter that influence our mood and energy levels. Reduced sunlight can affect the body’s circadian rhythms (internal body clock) and may amplify feelings of sadness or depression for some people. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and plays a big role in our sense of wellbeing. The reduced exposure to sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin levels, which is why we can sometimes feel slightly down in winter, especially if we’re putting in long work hours inside.
Doing inversions at the Lab helps to naturally restore the hormone levels that become depleted in winter. Zero compression inversions stimulate greater cerebellum function, increasing the release of neurotransmitters from the brain and stimulating the release of “happy hormones” – serotonin, dopamine, enkephalins and endocannabinoids.
Even more reasons to go upside down!
Lack of sun also affects our melatonin levels. When the days are shorter and darker, our bodies produce more melatonin, which is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. This is what causes the sense of lethargy that makes us want to stay in bed or relax in savasana longer. Getting enough sleep and honouring our natural internal system is important to help maintain our energy levels, especially in the winter.
If afternoon naps aren’t your thing then meditation is great to unwind and it’s also proven to increase alertness and focus. Just a few moments each day can rest your body and renew your mind. You can do it at home or anywhere it’s nice and warm.
This combination of decreased serotonin and melatonin can also make us crave different foods. Our body is looking for a quick burst of happiness or energy, so it sends signals telling us to reach for foods high in carbohydrates or fats to spark a serotonin increase. Instead of reaching for unhealthy treats, you can try a short meditation or a warm drink to give you a winter boost and stay healthy.
Drinking cacao tea is a Lab favourite way to warm up, satisfy cravings and boost our immunity. Our immune system’s response is slower in cold weather, which is why it’s important to make sure we are taking care of ourselves by nourishing our bodies.
The Labs loved cacao blends from the Husk Mill are the perfect combination of decadence. The tea is made from cacao husk, giving it a delicious, chocolatey flavour plus all the calming and detoxing benefits of tea. The added power of cacao that makes it taste extra delicious also means it is high in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins as well as magnesium, potassium and fibre. Because winter also wreaks havoc on sleep patterns because of the increased melatonin, it’s important to reduce stimulants. Cacao husk tea also contains theobromine, which differs from its relative caffeine. Theobromine has a slow release effect, and helps release our body's endorphin's to give us a pick-me-up, without affecting much needed rest. thehuskmill.com
Another way to warm up and add extra immune boosting benefits to your tea or cooking is a few drops of oregano or clove essential oil. Sarah Halloran, founder of Natural Virtue recommends just one drop of oregano oil into your cooking for cleansing and purifying benefits and when a cold is coming on she tells us to rub a drop into the soles of our feet at night.
The list of winter woes continues, with our skin becoming dehydrated due to the lower humidity levels outside. Because the water in our skin evaporates more quickly when the air outside is cold and dry, our skin can lose up to 25% of its ability to hold water in winter. Essential oils are a great natural way to rehydrate our skin. Halloran suggests lavender and geranium oils in winter. “Geranium has natural hydrating properties to keep your skin glowing and lavender is known for its calming benefits and ability to help heal imperfections on the skin. Both these oils also help to calm the nervous system and reduce stress – the perfect winter combination for our skin.” She recommends using the oils topically on our skin (added to a carrier oil if you have sensitive skin) or adding 4-5 drops into a diffuser for a calming aromatic effect to create an atmosphere of cosy winter zen.
Cold temperatures can reduce sensory feedback, dexterity, muscle strength, blood flow, and balance – which is why our balance can feel off or we don’t feel as strong sometimes and can’t quite work out why. This is for a number of reasons, and movement is the perfect tool for helping improve the winter wobbles.
Interestingly, the aches in pains and body stiffness we notice in winter is actually because of the clouds. When there are more clouds and rain in winter, it means that atmospheric pressure is decreased and our bodily fluids move from blood vessels to tissues, causing pressure on our nerves and joints that leads to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility in some people.
When our body gets cold our blood vessels start to constrict, which is why our hands and feet get cold first and what it makes it harder to grip the silks when our hands feel cold! The added warmth and movement of Yoga and especially inversions will stimulate our blood flow and create heat, to make us feel more aligned and ease the effects of the cold weather.
So as we move about our days, pushing through the added challenge of wind and rain, remember that winter has a much greater influence on us than just an inconvenience in our routine and reason to rug up with those extra layers. Give a thought to the changes that our bodies are going through, the natural adaptation process that is occurring. It’s so important to tune in to that and make extra time for restoring activities and sensory experiences to nurture and support your body during the change of season as our environment changes, so too, must we.