Originally featured in Green Entrepreneur.
By Ken Lawson, FOCL Founder & CEO
Winter gloom is a perennial phenomenon, thanks to shorter and darker, freezing-cold days, long nights, and an overall feeling of less energy. According to researchers, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) impacts 14 percent of Americans. For many of us, this is more of a reality than we care to admit. When dreariness engulfs every part of our life, we feel the effects and toss our wellness out of the window by doing what feels good in the moment versus what’s good for us in the long term.
The truth is that the winter months can be extremely stressful. In addition to the physical environment where sunshine is a rarity, we’re coming into the Q1 work onslaught—new product launches, colleagues, work travel, boardrooms, bosses, and deadlines. According to John Hopkins Medicine, the depression associated with SAD is somehow triggered by the brain's response to decreased daylight exposure which may affect the brain's production of certain key hormones that help regulate sleep-wake cycles, energy, and mood. More darkness triggers an increase in the sleep hormone melatonin, which is linked to depression. This change also throws off the body’s serotonin production, which is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, hunger, and sleep.
While the winter blues are not your fault, you do have the power to change your feelings and outlook. How? Making health a priority this winter. This begins by being intentional with what you put in your body—from eating healthy food to cleansing mental practices. In addition, augmenting the right wellness practices with CBD may increase your ability to maintain positivity, say some researchers. Here is a roadmap to find the light during the dark winter days.
1. Get some rest
It’s believed that the increased winter darkness throws off our body’s ability to understand when to sleep. According to the University of California San Francisco, “light affects your internal body clock, which helps you regulate when to sleep and when to be awake.” This kickstarts melatonin production into overdrive, which makes you tired. Grogginess has a negative snowball effect and keeps us from doing what we know is best: going to the gym, eating well, and being social. As our serotonin levels fall, SAD thoughts begin to occupy your mind.
CBD can help individuals achieve better sleep by potentially helping to regulate sleeping rhythms. A 2017 National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, study showed that the "sleep-wake cycle is under the influence of endocannabinoids.” Externally, part of sound sleeping is reducing SAD-induced anxious feelings that creep in just before hitting the pillow. An additional 2019 report published in the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health found that, “Cannabidiol may hold benefits for anxiety-related disorders” which can disturb sleep.
CBD may assist in keeping normal sleep rhythms even during the most trying times of the year. Being well-rested creates a virtuous-circle that positively improves every other part of your day.
2. Get some exercise
Dark mornings make it overly easy to stay in bed versus achieve that early AM workout. This is especially true with SAD symptoms throwing off sleep cycles and creating overall lethargy.
While working out increases the production of mood-elevating endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, a 2019 study in the Journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise by the American College of Sports Medicine, found a boost in endocannabinoids and an improved mood correlation after individuals completed moderate workouts. The endocannabinoid system, which regulates a range of body functions, is also thought to be given a boost by CBD.
“Given the broad, moderate–strength relationships between improvements in mood states and eCB [endocannabinoid] increases,” said Jacob D Meyer, assistant professor at the Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University. “It is plausible that the eCB system system contributes to the mood-enhancing effects of prescribed acute exercise in MDD [Major depressive disorder].” The right balance of exercise and CBD supplements may work in harmony to keep your eCB system strong and your mood elevated.
3. Eat well
Feeling sluggish falsely permits us to reach for sugar-laden foods which gives those much needed quick energy bursts. However, this fuel is not optimal or sustainable, and is also exacerbated by SAD. The Mayo Clinic writes that winter-onset SAD causes "appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates.” However, a balanced nutritious diet sprinkled with CBD may help fend off SAD symptoms.
Research published in 2016 by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, suggests that the endocannabinoid system in the gut has indirect actions with the vagus nerve, participating in the control of food intake and energy balance. Its research evidence suggests, “...that dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system might play a role in intestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, as well as obesity.” Essentially CBD, and its positive interaction with that system, can potentially aid these functionalities.
Being truly healthy this winter means being able to perform at your best. It takes a combination of quality ingredients and good practices acting in harmony to combat SAD. Making wellness a priority will keep you strong during gloomy days and give you the capacity to emerge from hibernation healthy for the spring.