Winter Have You Feeling Down?
Are you feeling the winter blues? A sedentary life is unnatural to humans and impacts how we feel pain and pleasure.
Shorter days, cold winds and slippery surfaces. Many people stay indoors eating comfort food mixed with too much junk food, watching the 24-hour news circus on cable tv, sittings at a computer, checking a smartphone, and watching movies. Are you feeling the winter blues? A sedentary life is unnatural to humans and impacts how we feel pain and pleasure. The balance of chemicals produced by our bodies, including endorphins, is affected by this sedentary lifestyle.
Endorphins are produced by the body to respond to things like stress, fear, or discomfort. They interact with the parts of your brain responsible for emotional responses and sensitivity to pain. Endorphins affect our feelings of pleasure and are involved in our built-in reward system linked to eating, drinking, sexual activity, and maternal behaviour. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help boost the level of endorphins in your body. One of those things is exercise.
Exercise encourages the body to produce more endorphins. For example, sometimes runners experience a runner’s high level of vitality after a workout. The same experience can be had for anyone after an extended period of physical exercise. There are other benefits to working your body physically: exercise can give you more energy throughout the day, allowing you to sleep better at night and feel more relaxed. Exercise also helps the brain repair and recover, reduces inflammation in the body, and helps you feel calm and have an overall sense of well-being.
Activities that help your body boost endorphins such as exercise, regular meditation, yoga, and tai-chi help to decrease stress hormones and increase endorphins. Not only that, simple pleasures such as love, laughter, sunshine, and chocolate also increase endorphins.
The good news is that you can replicate these positive sensations by taking steps to add a bit more exercise to your day during the winter months. Go outside for a walk or hike. Dress in layers to stay warm; a good hat and gloves and proper footwear. Explore the natural world whenever possible during the long winter months. You’ll be amazed at the beauty of nature during this time of year.
Our ancestors would have been active during the winter months just to stay warm and feed themselves. They spent time chopping wood, tending their fire, hauling and pumping water, and preparing food. They certainly didn’t watch reality TV—they lived it. Humans evolved to be physically active and move in multiple ways in the natural environment. Explore the great outdoors and reconnect yourself to the beauty of nature.
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- Helpguide.org. The mental health benefits of exercise: the exercise prescription for depression, anxiety, stress, and more. 2016.
- Boecker H, Sprenger T, Spilker ME, et al. The runner’s high: opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain. Cerebral Cortex. 2008; 18(11): 2523-31. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn013.
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- Alban D. How to increase endorphins naturally (exercise optional). Be Brain Fit. http://bebrainfit.com/increase-endorphins/.
- CCA staff team. Tips for fighting the winter blues. Dec. 28th, 2016.
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