Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Seeking Out The Winter Sun

By Judson Chaney, N.D., L.Ac.
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

My last post was on creating healing rhythms in the New Year. Living in the Northeast, one rhythm I have become more and more aware of is the seasonal change of falling into winter. The days grow shorter, and darker, and the weather can turn from sunny to overcast. Even on clear days, the intensity of the sunlight we experience is diminished in comparison to summer. Many of us can feel the effects of this change in various ways that range from changes in mood, lowering of energy levels, and changes in sleeping and eating patterns.

Our bodies have an important biological rhythm known as the “circadian rhythm,” also known as our “biological clock.” The circadian rhythm keeps our body’s metabolism and sleep wake cycle tuned and connected with our location on the earth. Our circadian rhythm is largely set by the influence of sunlight through our eyes on our brain. Each day when we wake up and go about our day, the sunlight we experience triggers a cascade of hormones that helps to regulate and assist our daily biological functions. Anyone who has experienced jet-lag knows the acute effects of a disruption in the biological clock. We feel lagged, grumpy, sluggish, fatigued, etc. We tend to crave sugary fatty foods…Sound familiar? This effect is similar to what happens gradually to many of us during the seasonal shift in winter. In some ways, we are experiencing a form of “seasonal jet lag.”

So what can we do to help with this change (other than move to Hawaii)? I suggest that you set your intent on a simple daily exercise: each morning seek out as much direct sunshine as you can find. A southern window or exposure is a nice place to start. After you find a comfortable, sunny spot, simply close your eyes and face towards the sun for a minute or two. Allow the sunlight to warm the skin of your face and eyelids, and notice the sunlight as it filters through your eyelids into your field of vision. Take this moment to allow yourself a few deep breaths to focus on the present moment, and when you are ready, let your eyes open and begin your day with your new solar charged perspective.

I hope you find this simple, daily exercise to be helpful as you experience winter this year, and I wish you many sunny winter days to enjoy until spring.

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