Good news! We made it through the shortest day of the year, yesterday, December 21st. This day marks the midpoint of the year, which occurred at 5:47 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (12:47 Eastern Standard Time). The Winter Solstice has the least amount of sunlight and the longest night during the year. In all actuality, the sun’s rise will continue to occur later through the month of January, while sunsets will occur later in the evening. This all seems to balance out as the amount of day light each day begins to lengthen.
This demarcation of the middle of winter was very important for our ancestors who had to meter out their food to survive the long winters. Feasts and celebrations were held during this time as a way of marking the event. Religious holidays occur at this time of year. This time of year is also symbolic as the start of a new year and the hopes for good things to come.
Midwinter also affects us individually. The shorter days mean that our bodies produce more melatonin, which offsets our circadian rhythms. We want to sleep longer during these winter months. Exposure to sunlight is one of the best and most effective ways to help balance our circadian rhythms. Taking a walk during the day may be one of the best way to help balance our bodies natural cycles. So, make a resolution to walk more. Find a friend
to walk with. The companionship and socialization will help spur you on. Walking is the easiest and least costly form of exercise that we can do, at any age. Dr. Weil has information on what to consider when setting out for a walk. Visit the “Ask Dr. Weil” Tip of the Day at the website:
CONNECTION TO NATURE
The weather certainly has a way of reminding us how we are hard wired to nature. Stopping at a food store on Friday to pick up loaf of French bread for dinner, I thought I had run into an unannounced special sale. There were literally no parking spaces. I had to wind my way to the outer reaches of this typically unused section of the parking lot to find the last parking space. Once inside the store, it finally dawned on me. There was a forecast of snow the next day and everyone was in the store to buy milk, eggs and bread! It was as if people were afraid that they may not have enough food to last 48 hours.
This has to be another lesson from the work of Edward O. Wilson, who wrote about our connection with nature. The fear of being in our homes with nothing to eat scares people into running to the stores. The result is that we all seem to survive. We may even have to get creative and dig into the back of the pantry shelves for that mystery ingredient that we only seem to use in times of climatic despair. This reinforces the belief that we are affected by nature and that we react in ways that are similar to our ancestors, storing up for winter hibernation.
And, on a related side note, be sure to check in on neighbors who may be in need of some T.L.C. Maybe they could use their walk shoveled or someone to visit when they cannot get outside. Maybe you can bring them some of the bread or eggs you purchased at the store. A home baked cake or cookies would gos long way, too! This is especially important for older adults. As the winter months tends to keep us indoors more and not out working in our garden, we lose contact with people. The snow should be a reminder to check on those neighbors who are in need. So, if you are out buying things before the next storm, remember to pick up a little extra for those who may be house bound.
Time to make snow angels!Read more
Taking a walk in nature can help improve a persons short term memory. We know that nature can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Well, being exposed to natural settings can help to ‘restore’ our ability to concentrate and reflect. A recent research study, “The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature” by Berman, Jonides & Kaplan (Association for Psychological Science, Vol. 19 – No. 12,
2008), indicates that natural areas are restorative.
When we are emersed in a natural area, such as a park, the woods, on the beach or similiar places, we can get lost in our surroundings. We do not have to look both ways before crossing the street or if a car is coming in our direction. Our senses focus on the sound of the babbling brook or the birds singing in the trees. The feeling of a cool breeze on our face or the warmth of the sunlight on our back can help us to forget about lifes demands.
Spending time in a natural environment will positively affect our memory and attention. The concept of ‘attention restoration theory’ offers the idea that natural settings can help us to be able to relax. When our stress levels are reduced, we can concentrate better and our memory improves. This is especially important if we removed from contact with nature. Taking advantage of a neighborhood park or other natural settings is good for our health and well being.Read more