06.05.2016 Yoga

Changing Seasons, Changing Moods

Be mindful of how the colder weather affects your mood and stay light and bright, says Yoga teacher Jen Kaz

Autumn brings many changes. There’s the crispness in the air, evenings are chillier, the river and ocean look like a millpond and foliage is starting to turn. As days are growing shorter your brain and body react.

Our sleep patterns change. We’re inclined to sleep more. Have you heard of hypersomnia? It’s the technical term for sleeping too much (the opposite of insomnia) and tends to be more prevalent during autumn.

Coolness brings a change in diet. As much as I love salads during the summer months our health benefits enormously from eating what Mother Nature produces during the cooler months. Foods to enjoy are the root vegetables cooked in stews and casseroles or baked.

Interestingly, we’re best not to be eating watermelon in the middle of winter - it’s one of our necessities in the summer months to assist with hydration. We can become confused shopping for vegetables and fruits in the supermarket chains where food often crosses the season barrier. Stick to your local Farmer’s Market where seasonal foods will be available to purchase. You’ll not only be getting fresh, you’ll also be purchasing produce grown within a 100km radius which is deemed more suitable to your body.

Sunlight has been found to have a positive impact on memory, while, on the other hand, cold weather can impair memory function

During a change in seasons studies have shown our emotions and moods may alter. Sunlight has been found to have a positive impact on memory, while, on the other hand, cold weather can impair memory function to a certain extent and even lead to depression.

In climates experiencing continual cold, ultra violet lights are available to help prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a general term to describe the depression-like symptoms that crop up during the sunless months. Ultra violet lights help alleviate symptoms caused due to lack of sunlight and therefore vitamin D.

Surprisingly, Australia has the highest rate of vitamin D deficiency across the world!

Make sure you’re not a statistic and get in the sun when you can throughout these cooler months.

SAD is a specific form of depression and is often associated with excessive eating or sleeping, resulting in weight gain. Women are two to three times more likely to suffer from the ‘winter blues’ than men.

Note: As there is some concern with ultra violet lights and their side effects, consult an eye doctor before starting light therapy if this is something you’d like to do.In our beautiful sunny climate you should be able to get enough exposure from being in nature. Fortunately, our autumn and winter months provide lots of sunshine.

When ultra violet light reaches your retinas, a chemical reaction takes place and connects with your circadian sleep rhythms.

The sun doesn’t just set your sleep clock it also fortifies your vitamin D levels (incidentally this is why people should not wear sunglasses!).

People can be affected by the weather differently. A person’s unique beliefs about life interact with the weather and this determines the final mood experienced.

Autumn brings a change in clothing, out with the jumpers and boots!

I was surprised how the change in seasons affected me. I lived in the North West for four years with the thermostat shooting 40 plus for nine months of the year and the day temperature only dropping to a cool 27 for about three months. Returning to Perth, I realised how necessary it is for my body to experience the distinct changes in weather.

If you work indoors make it a point to get several minutes in the sun. Eating your lunch in the outdoors each day is a great way to get out of the office, get fresh air and help boost your vitamin D levels. Where you live within Australia, your age and skin type will depend upon how much vitamin D you need. Check with your doctor!

If you are one of the many Aussies with low vitamin D levels, research suggests that supplementing with vitamin D alone is ineffective and you should use a supplement that also contains vitamin K to enable the vitamin D to be absorbed.

To help with the onset of the cooler weather and to keep our mood bright some of these ideas may help:

  • Keep your home light and bright. Open the curtains and blinds during the day.
  • Try to spend at least 30 minutes outside daily.
  • Exercise regularly – take that 30 minute brisk walk.
  • Take a mid-winter vacation and head north, if circumstances allow.
  • Make contact with neighbours and organise a mid morning catch up.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, etc. to overcome lethargy and sluggishness.
  • Avoid sleeping excessively which could actually increase depression. Force yourself out of bed.
  • Stay away from people who are ‘cold hearted’ and enjoy the company of ‘warm hearted’ people.

So no, don’t think you’re crazy when you feel a change in mood when the weather changes! Just be aware and mindful to be proactive to keep away the winter blues! This is of course where exercise and yoga benefit.

Jen Kaz

Jen Kaz trained and taught yoga in London in 2008. In early 2010 she returned to Perth and began teaching QiYoga. www.qiyoga.org