Autumn: A Time to GatherSeptember 28, 2022
In GratitudeOctober 12, 2022
As the days get shorter and colder the chipmunks are digging their burrows deeper into the ground. Each chipmunk has its own burrow. Once it gets too cold and dark, they sleep for days at a time, waking periodically to eat and restore their body temp. Some days that that sounds tempting, however it is not a good model for humans to follow. We need to prepare for the colder/darker days differently, as our brains and bodies need light to function and we are a social species.
How do you get your daily dose of light? Where does the sun come into your space during the day? Take advice from a cat and sit in the puddles of light as they come in the window. Your eyes have receptor cells that send light signals to various parts of your brain impacting mood, sleep cycles, and ability to function well. Your skin uses sunlight to synthesize Vitamin D, impacting your health.* You need exposure to light to be at your best, even when it is cold and cloudy out.
If you are prone to the winter blues you may want to research using a light box. As with anything there is some potential for negative side effects, so please don’t buy a box and sit in front of it for hours. One resource with concise information is here. There are many resources for purchasing one online. I cannot make recommendations, please do your own research.
CAUTION: Light therapy includes the potential for negative side effects. If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder or are seeing a therapist or doctor for mental health concerns, please discuss the use of a light box with them before ordering one.
How will you stay warm as the weather turns colder? Make a homemade soup, break out the sweaters, take a brisk walk to see the leaves turn, or snuggle with your pets/favorite people. But warmth is more than physical. It is also about feeling good during colder days. The warmth of community and connections is important to your well-being. Humans are a social species whose brains thrive best in positive community.
During colder weather you may snuggle in with your electronic device. Because community matters so much, we pay close attention to threats to our social belonging. This is a key feature in marketing, social media, and news. “Buy this to be one of the cool kids!” “Look what you are missing out on.” “Beware of these people, they are going to do bad things.” Randomly tuning into electronics decreases mood, increases a sense of threat, and actually disconnects you from others. Notice how you feel after watching a lot of media.
How can you create connections that warm you up? Actively use technology: have a video chat with a friend, learn to watercolor from YouTube breaking out those old paints to give it a try, listen to a talk and summarize the points made in a few sentences. Consider the people in your life who have been a support: write them a letter, give them a call, or invite them for a walk. You don’t need any other reason than “I have been thinking about you.”
As the days get colder, and the light is less, take time to locate your own sources of light and warmth. Find ways to experience more light. Seek warmth for your body and spirit. Make connections with people who lift you up and help you enjoy life. As the cold and dark of winter comes, choose to create a positive cycle to help sustain you.
We will meet on 10/6 at noon EST for a Resilience Check In to share your thoughts on the Autumn Series blogs. The zoom link will be sent to our email list. If you are not already receiving these blogs in your email you can sign up here.
Laura A. Gaines
*Anna Wirz-Justice, Debra J. Skene, Mirjam Münch, The relevance of daylight for humans, Biochemical Pharmacology,Volume 191,2021,114304,ISSN 0006-2952, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bcp.2020.114304.(Science DIrect)