In 1784, Benjamin Franklin proposed the concept of daylight savings time to economize the use of candles by rising earlier to make use of the morning sunlight. Cher's chorus "If I could turn back time; If I could find a way," however, was not adopted until World War I when it was necessary to save fuel for the war ef-fort. After the war ended, the practice discontinued until World War II where it again was instituted to save vital energy resources. It has since withstood the test of time despite throwing off our circadian clocks.
With it beginning to get dark at 4:30 pm and the accompanying drop in temperatures, many of us will soon start singing the winter blues. Doctors love having fancy names, and in this case, we refer to it as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). But did you know SAD affects 25 million Americans every year? The good news is the "seasonal funk" does not necessarily have to be suffered through if you deal with it head on. Here are some helpful tips:
Exercise: Being active seems to be a solution to many problems including obesity, heart disease and dementia. But did you know increasing your heart rate and breaking out a sweat also increases your endorphins? Endorphins are our body's "feel good" chemical released when we eat foods we like, see someone we love or have sex. In addition to keeping us healthy, exercise also can improve our mood and fend off those pesky winter blues.
Bask in the sun: The Jersey shore is nationally renowned for its sunny beaches and the beautiful tans it produces. Although you cannot expect to get that perfect bronze skin tone during the winter months, the sun can still release chemicals in your body that improve your mood. Don't let the cold weather scare you away from spending time outdoors when possible. At the very least, sit near the window to catch the sun's rays during lunch breaks or when at home.
Socialize: We have all been there. It is cold outdoors and the thought of showering and washing your hair to go out in the cold and meet up with family or friends is quite a difficult speed bump to get over. Don't avoid socializing (or showering). Maintaining social bonds is a great way to cheer you up. Remind yourself that once you do it, you will be happy you did. If you are not up to going out to a restaurant, consider having a dinner party at home. And when it comes to the daunting feat of holiday shopping, don't go at it alone. Consider making it a group effort and inviting family or friends.
Eat healthy: Unhealthy foods not only last a moment on your lips but an eternity on your hips they also cause you to feel depressed, unable to concentrate and worsen mood swings. Eat foods that can boost your body's "feel good" chemicals and do not cause blood sugar spikes and drops. Nuts, eggs and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids along with colorful vegetables can help do the trick.
Deep breathing: Not only is it cheap, easy and fast, it is effective when it comes to fighting depression. Filling your lungs with air can stimulate the vagus nerve which in turn can combat stress. The vagus nerve is responsible for lowering your heart rate. Although ancient yogis did not understand the science behind it, it has been incorporated into yoga and meditation practices for centuries. So why not try it while driving, during breaks or during stressful situations throughout the day.
Although it is easy to hibernate, motivate yourself to exercise, socialize and eat healthy. Do not let the time change and cold weather chase away your holiday cheer. Before you know it, it will be time to change the clock again.
Dr Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions on general medical topics to her at firstname.lastname@example.org