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If You're Feeling the Winter Blahs, THIS is for You

How are you feeling? No, how are you REALLY feeling? Not your usual bright-eyed and bushy-tailed self? It’s ok to not feel ok. You’re not alone. 

It’s February, my friends. The month that consistently ranks dead last in self reported mood and life satisfaction. But don’t despair. Because, science. There are logical explanations for why we tend to feel out of sorts at this time of year, and there’s a LOT we can do about it, once we understand why.

Some of the reasons February won’t win any popularity contests are psychological. There’s the financial stress of the credit card statements for our holiday spending spree trickling in. The initial sugar rush of ringing in a shiny new year has worn off; and, according to a new study, the vast majority of us have broken our New Year’s resolutions by now, leaving us feeling dejected for letting ourselves down. The heart-shaped spectre of Valentine’s Day is looming large on the horizon, which can be painful for those of us who are single and would rather not be, or are in an unhappy relationship. And let’s not forget: winter. Even those of us who in October felt giddy at the prospect of curling up with a hot cocoa by a roaring fire on a snowy night are over it by now. 

It turns out that it’s the physiological stressors associated with this time of year, though, that are the bigger culprit. There are a lot of biological reasons that our mood tends to bottom out around now. Vitamin D, which is associated with positive outlook, is synthesized by our bodies in the presence of sunlight. It gets stockpiled in our fat cells during the long, sunny days of summer, and those reserves are running on fumes by now. 

Short daylight hours and cold temperatures mean that we tend to spend more time indoors in artificially lit settings, which inhibits our melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle, so we are less likely to get the deep, restorative sleep we need to feel truly rested. On top of that, melatonin is a precursor to our “happiness hormone”, serotonin, so as melatonin production decreases, our serotonin levels drop as well. 

Low serotonin levels are, in turn, associated with cravings for the unhealthy foods we turn to when we “eat our feelings” (those high in sugar, fat and salt), which crowd out the nutritional building blocks we need to feel our best, physically and emotionally. Add to all of this the fact that we are less likely to spend time in nature, be active, or socialize - three of the most powerful mood boosters in our self-care arsenal - and, well, it all adds up to the perfect (winter) storm. 

Fortunately, science not only explains why we may be feeling down at this time of year, it also offers us powerful strategies for turning that frown upside down. Have you ever experienced a relatively minor irritation on a day when you’re feeling depleted, and you have a meltdown? While on another day, everything that could possibly go wrong does, but you feel strong and centered and able to roll with it? The difference between these two examples has nothing to do with what’s happening out there in the world - it has everything to do with how we interpret it. The superpower that determines our ability to cope with whatever life throws at us is called resilience .

There is a biological system that’s responsible for determining how much resilience we have - how capable we are of maintaining balance in the face of physiological and psychological challenges - and it’s called the endocannabinoid system . When our endocannabinoid reserves are full, though the external realities of our life may be out of our control, we have the inner resources to stay in our happy place. 

There are a few ways to keep our endocannabinoid bank account flush. One is to provide our body with plenty of the building blocks it needs to produce its own endocannabinoids (namely, omega3 -fatty acids, found in flax seeds, walnuts, fatty fish and certain types of algae). And, in times when our endocannabinoid reserves are red-lining due to a combination of poor dietary choices and prolonged physical and/or psychological stress (I’m looking at you, February), we can supplement with plant compounds called phytocannabinoids that mimic the activity of endocannabinoids in the body. 

The most hyped source of phytocannabinoids on the market is CBD, but there are actually other plants that are even more effective (and sidestep a lot of the problematic issues associated with cannabis extracts), including spices you might have in your kitchen cupboard right now, like ginger, clove and szechuan pepper. The Endo line of nutritional supplements from Emerald Health Bioceuticals contains a synergistic blend of phytocannabinoids in just the right potencies, dosages and ratios for optimal endocannabinoid system support, plus complementary botanicals that support a range of common health concerns. The ones most of us are likely to be reaching for at this time of year are Endo Calm (if you’re more prone to anxiety) and Endo Bliss (if your particular brand of cabin fever tends more towards the blues). Endo Bliss recently won the Taste for Life Essentials Supplement Award for 2019! 

I can’t promise they’ll completely banish the February blahs as well as, say, a tropical vacation, but they may just be the next best thing .

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