If you’re like me, you enjoy the transition from the warmer months to the cooler months. The changing colors of leaves, cuddling up to a warm fire, and of course, moving into holiday time. While I enjoy all these experiences summer never offers, I also find myself getting tired sooner and more often. Some of it is attributed to earlier sunsets giving me darkness by dinnertime making 6 p.m. feel like 10 p.m. Who wouldn’t feel tired in more hours of darkness?
The other reason is lack of sunshine. Sunshine exposure plays a huge role in energy levels. While I enjoy my fall and winter activities, it’s hard not to suffer from the lack of energy from the limited sunshine.
Luckily, there is a solution to the winter blues – vitamin D.
Living in Ohio, we don’t get as much sunshine as in other locations. That lack of sunshine directly affects our moods and energy levels. Who knew? That even a brief, moment of sunshine actually helps increase a brain chemical called serotonin, which has an entire list of jobs, one being mood control. Without enough serotonin in your body, you feel more tired, less happy, and can even suffer from depression.
When you get sun exposure, your skin is exposed to sunlight. Your skin absorbs the sun’s radiation and makes vitamin D. That vitamin D encourages serotonin production and the release of it in the body. So more sunshine = more vitamin D = more serotonin = a more energetic and happy you! Lack of sunshine, which we experience in the fall and winter months in Ohio, has the opposite effects, but here are ways to beat those winter blues!
Get out in the sun, even for 10-15 minutes a day, exposing as much skin as the weather will permit.
Lighter-skinned individuals will be able to reap sunshine rewards quicker than darker-skinned individuals. Just make sure you don’t get sunburnt! Your skin will be paler in cooler months so despite the temperature not being as high, you may need to use a little sunscreen.
Get more vitamin D in your body through foods.
Like eggs, salmon, tuna, and fortified foods where vitamin D is added in (milk, yogurt, orange juice, breakfast cereals). Unfortunately, few foods naturally contain vitamin D.
Get more vitamin D with a nutritional supplement.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how much vitamin D to take since some medications can deplete your body of vitamin D requiring you to supplement with even more. I personally take 5,000 IU daily based on my body weight.
Determine if you have issues that decrease your vitamin D levels.
If you do, speak to your doctor about ways to combat this. Certain medications, like those for seizures, blood pressure, and cancer as well as antibiotics and steroids decrease vitamin D levels. Digestive problems, like celiac disease and gastric bypass surgery, decrease the absorption of vitamin D. Liver and kidney problems decrease the body’s ability to process vitamin D.
By simply addressing your vitamin D levels, you can keep that high energy and the positive mindset the warmer months provide you and beat those winter blues.