Transition into fall and shorter days (meaning less natural light) can be a tough transition for lots of people, including me. I am a spring/summer girl and feel very charged and happy by longer days and sunshine. I am affected by natural light or the lack of it, as are lots of people around the country, especially women. Lack of light may upset your sleep-wake cycle and other circadian rhythms. And it may cause problems with a brain chemical called serotonin that affects mood. Serotonin is your brain chemical that makes you feel happy, positive, confident, flexible, and easy going. Lack of sunlight leads to decreased serotonin levels in some people, which can result in anxiety, nervousness, irritability, PMS, cravings for sweet and starchy snacks, and insomnia.
So what do I do during this transition into winter to keep my serotonin levels up and stay happy?
I exercise several times during the week (even if just for 20 to 30 minutes) to keep my serotonin levels elevated. Exercise has been shown to increase serotonin. And if you can exercise outside during the daylight hours, even better! Like a quick walk at lunch time.
I am also very careful with sugar and excess carbohydrate intake, as these foods will raise my serotonin levels temporarily, but end up crashing them an hour or two later. Instead, I eat more protein to ensure that I am getting the specific amino acid to make serotonin, which is tryptophan! I make sure to get a little protein with each meal. Tryptophan is found in foods like turkey, beef, chicken, and eggs. Tryptophan is found in smaller amounts in nutritional yeast, milk products, nuts, seeds, banana, and pumpkin.
During the shortest days of winter, I also take specific nutritional supplements to help me make more serotonin. Targeted nutrition is an incredible effective way to support your unique chemistry and brain balance!
Light therapy or bright light treatment is also highly recommended. I have not tried this yet personally, but am looking into investigating it this month! I will let you know how it goes!
If you are affected by the change of season and feel blue in the fall and winter months, please check out my targeted nutrition program page. I would love to work in partnership with you to put together a specific diet and nutrient plan to elevate your mood all winter long!