Wellness for the Indian Summer

Every fall when the light glows a radiant orange, I welcome the return of ritual and rhythm. The earth is now reclaiming that sweet spot in the sky where light and dark balance with a soft glow. Orange and yellow hues begin to trigger our brains to slow down and come home again.

Here in California, it can be a bit confusing. School starts, apples are in season, cinnamon tempts my senses and a slight golden glow develops ...but... the days are perfect, we argue! Weather is a balmy 80 degrees and outdoor adventures are as beautiful as they could possibly be.  We love our Indian Summers! 

Despite the lovely days, it is important to start paving the way for fall.
September is a great time for a few very important wellness routines that can be healing, restorative, and optimize your immune system for winter.

Here are 3 ways to get started...

1. PRACTICE Gratitude early this year

Yes, it takes practice. Daily practice.
However, if you can start this one daily ritual, it might be one of the most radical steps you can take for your health.
Why wait for Thanksgiving when you can practice gratitude NOW?

Recently, scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude. They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:

- Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure.
- Higher levels of positive emotions.
- More joy, optimism, and happiness.
- Acting with more generosity and compassion.
- Feeling less lonely and isolated.

So, how can you reap these benefits of gratitude?
Make a long, visible working list of everything you appreciate.
Look at it frequently and remember that it represents your life.
Try to add 1-2 things daily that you are thankful for and keep this list front and center - the more often you see it, the more deeply ingrained your gratitude habit will get.

Even on the hardest days, if I stop to reflect and read this list, I am reminded that life is good.

2. Get the golden glow IN YOUR EYES

One of the biggest challenges with the change of seasons is our own change of rhythm and how our body handles this.  Our intelligent bodies are so graceful at accepting these planetary changes because we have CLOCK GENES - we just have to let them do their work. That is right! We have genes that are specific to timing, circadian and planetary rhythm. These genes can either express good health or poor health, and guess what regulates them...LIGHT! 

In our social media and email-frenzied world, it is almost addictive to put up our feet for a few minutes and numb away into the land of digital dreams.  The problem with this is that these screens offer EXCESSIVE BLUE LIGHT. 
As our skies are growing golden, that orange hue ENTERS OUR EYES and talks to a part of our brain that tells us… “Listen, the seasons are changing! It's time to calm down and let your body rest. Your brain and your muscles need extra relaxation as winter comes.” This is why we love the golden light of September and October. However, if we are constantly staring at the blue light of screens we send the wrong message to our circadian centers... “STAY UP, STAY UP, KEEP GOING!”  

As nights get longer, we don’t get the message that this means we need more rest. The blue light is louder than the orange glow. Blue light suppresses melatonin (our sleep hormone) and gives an artificial circadian signal. 

The director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Northwestern University, Dr. Phyllis Zee, uses light therapy to treat insomnia. I do the same in my practice. By using the correct spectrum of light at the right time of day we can restore normal circadian rhythms. Let’s prevent insomnia before it happens by keeping our light exposure healthy.  Avoid blue screens and blue hued lights past dusk and let the golden glow into your eyes. For those of you who work on computers or will be watching TV late into the night, invest in blue blocking glasses.  At the very least, make sure your screens are turned to the nighttime setting, because proper light exposure is imperative for good circadian function.  Enjoy the warm colored light of fall by getting off of your blue screens to help prevent colds and flu, sleep deeply and have better health.

3. BE LIKE A SQUIRREL when it comes to the sun

Despite the recent skin cancer scare tactics of the sunscreen industry, those who have nice tans live longer than those who avoid sun and slather with screen.  I am not suggesting to get a sun burn but I am suggesting that the vitamin D load helps give the immune system a boost for the winter months. Spend the Indian summer outside and stock up like a squirrel on whats left of the sunshine. Only use sunscreen when you knowlight exposure will be too much for your skin type. Here is a list of safe non-toxic sunscreens that won't do more harm than good. 

Just remember that sunscreen-laden skin does not absorb vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is easy to store, so get out there before the skies turn gray, even if it isn’t vitamin D you’re after. Studies show that there are very strong correlations between the amount of time people spend outside in the sunshine and a decreased risk for cardiovascular and immune related diseases.

The moral of this story is…GET OUTSIDE AND GET YOUR GLOW ON!
Spending time in nature can be your triple whammy of health this fall, as natural landscapes and time spent adventuring with loved ones easily trigger a swell of gratitude in our hearts, while regulating our bodies’ natural rhythms and boosting their immune function behind the scenes. Enjoy the beautiful weather, and use it to your health's advantage...then come to class and tell us all about it.

Blessings & Gratitude,
Andrea Telfer-Karbo, FNP