It is obvious to anyone living in the northern parts of the world that we are slowly but surely moving into the darker months of the year. The sun is rising a little bit later in the morning; the wind has more of a bite to it; the leaves are changing and falling from the trees. All of these are nature's way of signalling to us that winter is coming and we better be ready.
To our ancient brains and instincts this is a time when we want to stock up on hearty foods like stews and soups, to conserve energy because fresh food is more scarce this time of year, and do so by sleeping in a little more.
Unfortunately we no longer live in a time when we can just sleep, wake, and eat in a way that coincides with the seasons. Many of us have jobs that require us to be up before the sun rises and working until all hours of the evening well after the sun has gone down. We have a plethora of food available to us at our finger tips with apps like Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes.
This time of year actually ends up being a very stressful time of year for people because we are doing exactly what our body does not want us to do. This out-of-sync way of life has given us S.A.D. - or Seasonal Affective Disorder. We become a depressed society simply because we have built societal norms that do no work well with our biological needs this time of year.
Fortunately, we have science! The kind of science that has not only realized why this seasonal depression happens, but how we can trick the brain and set ourselves up to avoid some of the seasonal blues.
How to Trick Your Brain to Beat the Blues
Before I go any further I want to make it perfectly clear that I was sent a Happy Light from Verilux and have been asked to make a post about the product in return for the free light. I am not getting any monetary compensation for this gift, nor will I provide a false review.
The Happy Light Lucent LED Model VT22 is advertised as the "newest and smallest LED light therapy lamp that delivers a powerful 10,000 lux for increased energy, mood, focus and sleep."
My mom has one of the older, larger models and I have actually used it in the past to help me wake up at 4am and be ready to train clients at 6am. This model is definitely smaller and less bulky than that one.
It feels almost like an iPad or a kobo reader. Really soft, really light, and a clean design. The packaging is also really nice because before you even get to the actual light, they include this reminder from Albus Dumbledore:
I have been using this since I received it (Friday afternoon) and it is amazing how it actually works. I am always a bit skeptical of these kinds of products and alternative therapies. Each morning before I turned it on I felt a bit groggy, not really wanting to get up and out of bed yet.
Moments before turning on the light, even though I know it has worked in the past, I doubt whether it will actually change anything at all. But then the light goes on and something amazing happens. I feel ... better.
It is somewhat difficult to describe how I feel better. I am not ready to jump up and down and sing a happy song. It is more so that I feel like the sleepy vail is lifted. It is like the jet engines of my brain start to get warmed up and I can feel my whole body shifting out of sleep mode.
With 10,000 lux LED power this light is bright! I thought it might bother me that the light was so bright, but instead of feeling anger or frustration, I just feel good.
Of course, I am more interested in the why's here on my blog, so I'll give you all some background as to why these Happy Lights work.
This image here shows something called the circadian rhythm. This cycling of hormones in the body is what controls our sleeping, eating, and energy throughout the day. Our eyes process the light coming in from the sun. This is full spectrum light that our million year old brain reads as the time when we need to be alert and hunting and foraging for food.
The changes in light throughout the day causes us to secrete different hormones. Melatonin is a hormone that is responsible for preparing the body to sleep. This secretion begins a few hours after the sun has gone down, and we have had our last meal (final ghrelin then leptin secretions)
Then, when the sun comes up, melatonin is no longer secreted, making room for serotonin to be released. Serotonin is a hormone that is involved in the regulation of mood and energy. This is triggered by that full spectrum, morning sunshine. This is why people are happier in the summer. We get more hours of sunshine than darkness, therefore more hours of serotonin coursing through our veins keeping us feeling cheery.
In the winter, we go from 5:30am sunrises to 8:00am daylight, which then only lasts until about 4:30pm. With so few hours of sunlight, it is no surprise that people feel a little less cheery in the winter months. Tack on the fact that we are actually disrupting our circadian rhythms and waking up before the sun comes up and we have ... well... seasonal depression running rampant in our societies.
This is where the light therapy, or phototherapy, comes in. By exposing ourselves to that full spectrum light early when we wake up, we actually hack into the circadian rhythm and get an extra boost of serotonin, which sets us up for a much happier day!
This is why the Verilux products are so great! They have given us northerners a way to access the full spectrum light from the summer in the winter months. Experiencing SAD can lead to other health issues related to stress and anxiety like disordered eating, isolating ourselves, and sedentary behaviour, so having this simple therapy will help you in so many more ways than just making morning's easier.
Should you wish to get yourself one of these lights, simply follow this link and use code RIRISDISCOVERIES to get 15% off of your happy light. As I said, I do not get any monetary kickback from you using this code. I just get the satisfaction of knowing that all of you will have a much happier fall and winter!
Do something good for your body today and get yourself a happy light :)
As some of you may know, I write the blog articles for the gym that I work at, Free Form Fitness. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to write an additional blog to my usual article on the surprising power of pumpkin. All of the research I did inspired me to try a few pumpkin recipes for myself.
I posted on my instagram this picture:
These are pumpkin cheesecake fat bombs and OH MY GOODNESS, are they ever delicious. The smell of the pumpkin spices are enough to bring back every Thanksgiving memory. The creamy-ness of the cream cheese ties the flavour of the pumpkin into this velvety, delicious, healthy, snack that I really can't get enough of.
The best part is that it was incredibly easy to make. I found this recipe on Pinterest:
I believe it made close to 24 fat bombs, but that was because I put the mixture into mii-muffin tins and froze them that way. I also did not use nearly as much sweetener as they called for. 4-6tbsp of liquid stevia would be super overpowering, so I only used about 1 tsp of sweetener instead. After about 40 minutes in the freezer this were ready to go. I really was not ready for how delicious they were.
The recipe does say to take the fat bombs out of the freezer and roll them in crushed up nuts and cinnamon. I did not have any nuts in the house, but I did try the cinnamon. It was good, but I don't think it is necessary to enjoy these.
These have been a really great way for me to snack less over the holiday weekend. Managing cravings and practicing moderation are 2 key elements to my own healthy lifestyle and that's why I just can't get enough of these fat bomb recipes.
Do something good for your body today, friends. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and are looking forward to another great week!
I have a 2 secrets to share with you all.
1. I have a horrible habit of snacking late at night. This means that I am eating during my fasting window. It also throws off my ghrelin-leptin-melatonin cycle, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
2. I have a way of stopping this habit that has already been proven to work (by me in the past), I just forgot about it the last 10 months.
BONUS SECRET: Fat bombs are the answer
You saw that right - fat bombs.
These are all the rage in the secret keto societies of the world. These bite-sized treats have a macro breakdown of about 75% fat, 10-20% protein and the rest is carbs. The fat will come from ingredients like cream cheese and coconut oil and it makes for an incredibly rich, satisfying treat that doesn't send me into a late-night binge fest.
The best part is if I am craving something like cheesecake or chocolate, there are a plethora of recipes out there that incorporate those tastes and textures into fat bombs.
This week I was missing summer quite a bit. The number of hours of sunlight are quickly diminishing, and I can feel my shoulders creeping up around my ears as the brisk, autumn wind starts to settle in the Ottawa Valley.
So to kill two birds with one stone (late night snacks and summer nostalgia), I decided to make Lemon Cheesecake Fat Bombs. I opened up my handy-dandy pinterest app, searched lemon fat bomb and VOILA! A number of recipes came up with beautiful, bright yellow options just waiting to be made.
One thing I discovered in this process was that there are comments on pinterest posts. There was one recipe that looked really good in the image, but some of the ingredients seemed off. I checked the comment section and the beautiful people of the internet had left reviews for people like me to save time! I eventually found a recipe with beautiful pictures (see image below) AND glowing reviews.
Delicious looking, right?
My thoughts exactly.
The recipe is very simple as well so this really checked all of my cooking boxes. This recipe is taken from Fat Secret.
Look at how easy that is! 35 minutes - I could have had my chicken baking in the oven at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking my meal prep.
I used full fat cream cheese, 1 whole lemon, kirkland coconut oil, and natrel unsalted butter. The liquid stevia is from president's choice.
The recipe calls for 2tbsp of sweetener. Now, in my experience with putting this liquid stevia in my tea, it is VERY sweet. In fact, stevia is about 7x sweeter than table sugar and it comes with a distinct flavour. So as I was measuring out the stevia, I knew that 2tbsp was likely too much. I didn't do a full 2tbsp but definitely more than 1.
In the end the fat bombs turned out beautifully! I didn't have silicon molds, like they suggested, but I had ice cube trays with silicon bottoms, and that seemed to work okay.
There is a very distinct stevia after-taste with these, so I will probably do 1/2 the stevia the next time I make these (because I definitely will be!)
I topped them off with blueberries for a pop of colour, and some natural sweetness.
Now when I get home late from work and I feel snack-y, I just pop one of these and start my pre-bedtime routine. In the past I have had to do this for a week or so, and then I no longer crave a big snack after work.
It just takes a little bit of preparation to set you up for success when you are trying to kick a bad habit. This took me 30 minutes and now I have 1 less thing to worry about.
Do something good for your body today and try preparing something that will help you change a habit that has been holding you back!
Riri's Discoveries blog documents Riri's most recent research, her travel adventures, and her personal fitness journey.