Essential oils for the winter blues
If the darker months of the year are tough on your emotions and mental health, you’re not alone. Many, if not most people get some form of the winter blues! It may show up as low energy, increased sadness, or even moderate depression. There are several physiological reasons why the winter season can contribute to depressive symptoms, which we’ll touch on in this article.
The good news is, essential oils can help rebalance your system, so you can regain those positive, upbeat feelings. In this post, you’ll learn about using essential oils for the winter blues—including the best essential oils you can use to feel more serene and peaceful, and which ones can help boost your mood.
Why darkness brings you down
Darkness impacts your circadian rhythm—your body’s internal clock that determines when you feel sleepy and wakeful.
Darkness tells your biological clock that it’s time to rest, causing your body to create melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. (Melatonin has even earned the poetic nickname, “the hormone of darkness!”) Long, dark nights trigger the release of even more melatonin, meaning you might want to go to bed earlier and sleep later, or you might just feel fatigued all day.
Darkness also affects your body’s serotonin levels. The hormone serotonin plays an important role in the body! One of its key benefits is stabilizing your mood, so you feel emotionally balanced and happy. Studies show that exposure to sunlight is linked to higher serotonin levels.
That means long, dark nights can disrupt serotonin levels, and your emotional and mental health can suffer as a result.
All of these factors can work together to bring on the winter blues. It’s so common to feel sad and lethargic at this time of year that doctors have started calling it Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
How essential oils can bring back the cheer
One of the most reliable, well-known ways to use essential oils is for emotional health.
Mountains of scientific evidence and research suggests that certain oils (and their chemical components) can help us relieve symptoms by promoting relaxation, supporting rest, helping relieve stress, boosting our mood, filling us with energy, and more. That makes them perfect for supporting mental health during the winter blues.
It sounds simple, but it’s been proven that our favorite smells make us feel good! They inspire warm feelings of safety, peace, and happiness. Spend a few minutes with your favorite aroma, and you can experience a drop in stress hormones. This gives your nervous system time to regulate itself (via the parasympathetic response), so stress, nervousness, anxious feelings, and other heavy emotions feel less oppressive.
Essential oils with summer smells
Citrus oils play an especially important role here. Bright, fruity citrus oils like sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis), lime oil (Citrus aurantifolia), or lemon oil (Citrus limon) remind most people of summer, when the sweet, delicious, colorful fruits are ripe. They’re like bottled sunlight! Since citrus oils bring up such positive emotions for a lot of people, they’re a great tool for balancing mental health during the dark days of winter.
In addition to citruses, there are a few more essential oils you can use to help relieve symptoms in winter—both to relax and feel cheerful.
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Lift negative emotions during winter
We mentioned above that some essential oils can help calm stress and promote relaxation, allowing your parasympathetic nervous system to stabilize your body. This makes them incredible for soothing anxious feelings—and even heavier emotions, like chronic melancholy and fatigue.
Certain essential oils work because of the components they contain. Lavender essential oil, for example, contains linalool—a natural component proven to calm anxiety.
But even the beauty of their aromas can be enough to help dissolve negative feelings! The scent of cedarwood oil inspires safety and security, while rose oil puts you in touch with self-love, confidence, and forgiveness.
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Boost your mood during winter!
Another way to use essential oils for the winter blues is to perk up your energy. Use them to get started on slow, sleepy mornings, or spark yourself to get off the couch and do something fun!
Paradoxically, some oils that boost your mood can work in similar ways as the calming ones—by easing stress.
However, they’re not especially relaxing. Instead, they stimulate an invigorating flow of energy through your body. These oils clear your head! They help you feel awake and lively, giving you a fresh perspective and the motivation to get moving! Along with the citruses, cardamom essential oil (Elettaria cardamomum), peppermint essential oil (Mentha × piperita), and rosemary ct camphor essential oil (Rosmarinus officinalis ct camphor) are great examples!
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More tips: nurture your circadian rhythm
Along with using essential oils for the winter blues, it’s important to support your circadian rhythm. Here are a few tips!
Some people use a lightbox to help them get more exposure to healthy light. The Mayo Clinic says that light therapy might not get rid of Seasonal Affective Disorder altogether, but it may ease the symptoms. They have some excellent recommendations for using a lightbox safely, and which types of light to avoid. (A UV tanning bed isn’t a great substitute.)
And, as you might guess, exercise helps! Studies show that exercise is a key tool in the fight against depression. Harvard Health reports:
“In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression."
The limits of essential oils for depression
We love using essential oils to help alleviate symptoms of depression, but they are not a cure and should only be used as a compliment to professional mental health care.
While the essential oils listed above can help improve mood and reduce stress levels, you should not rely on treating depression such as major depressive disorder, clinical depression, postpartum depression, or generalized anxiety disorder.
It is important to seek professional guidance in order to properly manage more serious mood disorders.
Essential oils have many health benefits, can help break from depression-like behaviors, and may provide temporary relief as a complementary treatment from the symptoms of depression. But, for lasting support, finding a qualified mental health professional is crucial.