Snowflakes, Missy Elliot’s new single and the sunshine aren’t the only things to drop this winter season. A weakening in productivity, mood and socialization also happens during the onset of these frigid months.
Logan Square resident Katarina Grabowski says that along with the physical cold comes a chilling of the spirit: “I get more sad, more tired, less motivated to go out and socialize.”
Why is it that along with a decline in warm weather there’s a decline in motivation? Chronobiology — the study of examining cyclical behavior in organisms and their adjustments — suggests that mammals’ “internal clock” or circadian rhythm correlates with rhythms of the sun and moon.
One of the vital functions that the circadian rhythm serves is to promote natural molecular interactions such as melatonin secretion. Understanding the mechanisms behind our bodies’ response to the seasons can help to counteract negative occurrences.
The Retina, The Pineal Gland And The Snooze Button
The body interprets the amount of light in a day through the eye, particularly the retina. The duration of sunlight and darkness are recorded and interpreted in the retina which then sends the recordings to the pineal gland. The pineal gland sits in the middle of the brain, and melatonin production relies heavily on the proper functioning of the pineal gland.
In response to the information gathered from the retina, the pineal gland secretes melatonin, the sleep hormone. The body does not have melatonin in the system during the hours of light, but its presence depends on earlier interpretations registered during hours of light.
For example, during the summer months, say that melatonin secretion starts at 9 pm. During the winter months, the circadian rhythm becomes compromised and melatonin secretion abnormal if there are no intentional adjustments made to accommodate for the lack of light. As a result, the body could produce excess amounts of melatonin into the earlier hours of morning, causing an increase in drowsiness and snooze button frequency, according to a peer-reviewed study.
A disturbance in the circadian rhythm can alter the bodies’ natural mechanisms and the consequences are increased sleepiness, lack of motivation and vitamin depletion. There are plenty of methods to implement into your own lifestyle to improve the negative symptoms from the change of seasons.
Advice From Around The Neighborhood
Celeste Levitz-Jones, a resident and acupuncturist at Five Point Holistic in Logan Square, says that it’s very important to make plans to socialize. Because of the cold weather, we tend to stay inside more and that can have a recognizable impact on our sociality. We especially need to be around friends and family during a time where our systems are becoming biologically depressed. Levitz-Jones strongly encourages “not to think of ourselves as separate from nature” when trying to better understand your own circadian rhythm. Levitz-Jones also suggests limiting “screen time” during the evening hours in an effort to avoid light exposure.
Rebecca Slusher, a licensed counselor in Logan Square at Balanced Life Counseling on Milwaukee Avenue, says that her patients “need their meds altered during these months” in order to compensate for the chemical changes occurring in the body come winter. Slusher stresses the importance of taking the time to identify your own rhythm so that other areas of your life will strengthen too. Dedicating time to work on your relationships is crucial because people tend to want to stay inside when cold out. A decrease is socialization can have unnoticeable effects on our mood and general health.
So, how does one start to find their circadian rhythm? You must observe your routine with the understanding that each choice you make could affect how you feel later that day, just as each note is carefully selected when composing the melody of a song. Be mindful of when, what and how you are eating. Go outside for a brisk walk with a friend for 30 minutes twice a week. Even in the cold you can still bundle up and get sufficient exercise and socialization in the comfort of your own neighborhood. Be sure to stay in tune with yourself, thus in harmony with Mother Nature.