The outside environment can influence your hormones, which are essentially chemical messengers transported through the bloodstream to all parts of the body. At the end of each year when the mercury in the thermometer begins to drop hormonal changes occur. These changes can impact your mood and overall well-being.
How light affects your mood
Winter months bring about shorter spans of daylight. Less sunlight during the day can bring out swift mood changes. Scientists even have a name for the mood changes that come from shortened daylight hours.
Some people can feel a dip in their energy levels and overall mood when there is less light during winter. For some people, these changes can be extreme. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs when these mood changes develop into clinical depression.
How sex hormones are affected by season
As strange as it sounds, seasonal changes can affect reproductive hormone levels. For women, shorter periods of sunlight can affect their menstrual cycles.
Sunlight has been proven to increase the hormone that causes egg development. Ovulation occurs more frequently in the spring, summer, and fall. During the winter, a woman’s menstrual cycle may lengthen.
Longer menstrual cycles may increase symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Ovulating less often causes decreases in the release of progesterone. The insufficient release of progesterone causes an increase in estrogen later in the cycle.
For men, testosterone production fluctuates in the wintertime. Testosterone is the male hormone responsible for regulating sex drive and mood swings. Too much testosterone can make you angry and affect your overall behavior.
What hormones are affected by sunshine?
Time spent in the sunshine results in the production of vitamin D in the body. A lack of vitamin D can cause an overall imbalance in the body’s other hormones.
Less exposure to sunlight can decrease levels of dopamine, too. Dopamine is known as the “feel-good hormone.” Lower dopamine levels mean reduced feelings of pleasure. Decreases in dopamine often mean less energy and ambition during the winter months.
How your thyroid and pituitary glands are affected by weather?
Your pituitary gland is a tiny organ located near the base of the brain. This small gland regulates the production of many other hormones, making it a sort of command central for the body’s hormones.
When the temperature drops the pituitary gland increases the production of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The purpose of this increase in TSH is to up the production of another hormone that raises body temperature.
For some people, the increase in TSH can be mistaken for hypothyroidism, a condition that is treated by prescription medication.
What lifestyle changes will help with seasonal hormone fluctuations?
Seasonal hormonal changes do not have to ruin the winter season, however. Several strategies can help counter the effects of hormonal changes. The following lifestyle changes can lead to a better mood and outlook in the winter.
Get outside in whatever sunlight you can! Not only will 20 to 30 minutes outside boost your vitamin D levels, but it can increase your serotonin levels, too. Time in the sun will help you sleep, too, by increasing melatonin levels.
Maintain your regular bedtime routine. Aim for a normal amount of sleep. It can be difficult to maintain nighttime rituals when the sun sets early in the evening. The impact of arising and retiring at the same time can keep your circadian rhythms level.
Daily exercise is important in all seasons. In the winter, it can be difficult to maintain the habit, especially if your normal workout regime takes place outside. Regular exercise boosts the production of hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and testosterone.
Along with seasonal hormonal changes, the winter months mean added stress from the holidays, kids home on winter break, and winter weather. Lowering stress levels is important during this time. If you are struggling to keep your stress at bay, consider adding new methods to calm down anxiety levels. Consider taking up meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises to reduce stress.
Eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. Maintaining your health is important year-round, but in the winter aim to include a variety of foods for optimal wellness. Chinese Traditional Medicine advises the addition of warming foods to help balance hormones within the body. These warming foods can include soups and stews made from root vegetables.
If you are unable to get out into the sunlight, speak with your healthcare provider about the addition of supplements. The addition of vitamin D, for example, may help maintain hormone balance throughout the colder months.