Listen, this sunshine topic is great, I love sunbathing… But what about the cloudy, rainy season in autumn and winter, when the days are shorter and cold? I would go sunbathing, but where is the sun? What can I do?
At latitudes like central and north of Europe the bright hours in a day are longer and dark nights are shorter in summer naturally, so it is relatively easy to get some sun this period. In winter, it’s the other way round, and let’s face it, it’s not so pleasant to just lie out in the sun in the cooler months.
The good news is that, in principle, all parts of the world get equal amounts of sunlight each year, but there are big seasonal differences. In geographical areas like Hungary, it is a good thing that there is a large window of sunlight in summer. The price for this is that there is a much smaller window of opportunity in winter. Furthermore, modern lifestyles and the abundance of artificial lights are not optimal from a photobiological point of view in any season, especially in winter. Understanding this phenomenon and using the science of quantum biology, however, opens up some biohacking opportunities!
1. There is sun there even in winter!
The statement “there is no sun in winter” is absurd and exaggerated… What makes it bright in winter? So, there is sun, but the spectrum of sunlight reaching the earth’s surface in winter is different then in the summer when the sun is strong. We can easily perceive the difference consciously on our skin. One of the most important differences is the lack of UV-B in winter, which is important for vitamin D production. So it’s worth filling up the batteries on it in the warmer months. In winter, you might want to get some UV-B lamp exposure, vitamin D supplementation, eating more vitamin D-rich foods.
The UV-A, visible light and infrared content of winter sunlight is also important for hormone and neurotransmitters and circadian rhythms. So it is important to get some morning sunlight and to go outdoors during the day when and how you can. This could be just a simple walk in a coat (the key is to make sure our eyes can detect natural light), for more advanced people underdressed exercising outside, taking a cold water bath. A few minutes is better than nothing, but it would be even better to spend at least 1-2 hours outside.
Sauna, red light therapy
Another difference in the winter-summer-sunshine context is the intensity of infrared light, which is also perceived as heat. In winter, of course, some thick clothing is useful by default (except for those who practice cold adaptation). For extra infrared intake, sauna, infrared sauna, red light therapy devices, solarium (+UV light too), fireplace stove fire, candle-red bulb evening lighting can be good options.
I mentioned earlier the importance of foods rich in vitamin D, especially during this period (e.g. liver and other offal, meat, animal fats, eggs, seafood, mushrooms).
A ketogenic, carnivore-like diet dominated by lower carbohydrate, higher fat, mostly animal-based ingredients could naturally be more pronounced at this time.
An interesting correlation is that Eskimos, for example, consume large amounts of seafood rich in DHA omega-3 fatty acids. And this DHA molecule helps us to use the light, which means that we can use more efficiently the little light we have.
Longer and shorter fasting techniques became popular in the last years as healthy lifestyle habits. Winter is the best time for this! It’s also worth timing dinner as early as possible or even skipping it.
Embrace the cold
Sunbathing in summer, cooling in winter. Both have a number of positive physiological effects, just through different metabolic pathways. Sun exposure probably doesn’t need much detail: out in the sun whenever you can and as much as your current sunlight tolerance will accept (it can also be improved considerably).
There are levels of the chilling exercises, all of which can be useful if done sensibly. For beginners, cold showers, cold-warm alternating showers, ice-water face baths. For the more advanced, spending time outside with little clothing or bathing in outside waters.
In nature, in the animal kingdom, winter is also about regeneration (some species hibernate), less food and starvation. Fortunately, in the modern world, most of us don’t have to fear food shortages (rather food overconsuming…), nor do we hibernate. However, modern schedules are not very conducive to a natural winter rhythm.
It’s no coincidence that people are less active in winter and prefer to sleep more. So it’s also worth trying to increase the amount of sleep seasonally. More sleep in winter (go to bed earlier!), less in summer. In addition to the morning sunshine stimulus, the following topic can help!
Blue light protection
When the days are shorter and the period between sunset and sunrise is made “visible” by artificial lights, blue light protection (more biology-friendly light sources, blue light filtering softwares, glasses) is particularly important to keep our biomolecules, regeneration and immune system in optimal balance.
In summary, I believe that the above tips will not only help you get through the winter, but will also help you maintain high energy levels, mental and physical health. You just should practice them every day, how and as much as fits into your lifestyle…