Aromatics Wellness Blog

Winter Blues? Essential oils to the rescue!

Support your mental health during long, dark nights with essential oils for the winter blues.

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 depression. There are several physiological reasons why the winter season can contribute to feeling low, 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 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 research show that certain oils (and their chemical components) can help us relax, support rest, ease stress, boost our mood, fill 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.

Citrus oils play an especially important role here. Bright, fruity citrus oils 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.

sunshine blend

Get a ready-made blend of bright citruses with our best-seller, Sunshine!

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In addition to citruses, there are a few more essential oils you can use for mental health in winter—both to relax and feel cheerful.

Lift negative emotions during winter

We mentioned above that some essential oils can help calm stress, 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.

A few essential oils that can have this effect are lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana), and rose absolute (Rosa damascena).

Some of these oils work because of the components they contain. Lavender, 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 inspires safety and security, while rose 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 (Elettaria cardamomum), peppermint (Mentha × piperita), and rosemary ct camphor (Rosmarinus officinalis ct camphor) are great examples!

sublime blend

Embrace optimism with a ready-to-use blend of uplifting oils!

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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."

Stay active in the winter with essential oils for exercise.


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REFERENCES

Fukumoto, S., Morishita, A., Furutachi, K., Terashima, T., Nakayama, T. and Yokogoshi, H. (2007) Effect of flavour components in lemon essential oil on physical or psychological stress. Stress and Health 24, 1, 3-12.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, February 2). Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression

Hoenen, M., Müller, K., Pause, B. M., & Lübke, K. T. (2016). Fancy Citrus, Feel Good: Positive Judgment of Citrus Odor, but Not the Odor Itself, Is Associated with Elevated Mood during Experienced Helplessness. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 74. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00074

Hongratanaworakit,T. (2009) Simultaneous aromatherapy massage with rosemary oil on humans. Scientica Pharmaceutica 77, 375-387.

Hongratanaworakit, T. (2009) Relaxing effects of rose on humans. Natural Products Communications 4, 2, 291.

Kagawa D, Jokura H, Ochiai R, Tokimitsu I, Tsubone H (2003) The sedative effects and mechanism of action of cedrol inhalation with behavioural pharmacological evaluation. Planta Medica 69: 637-641. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2003-41114

Lima, N.G., de Souza, D.P., Pimenta, F.C., Alves, M.F., de Souza, F.S., (2012a) Anxiolytic-like activity and GC-MS analysis of (R)-(+)-limonene fragrance, a natural compound found in foods and plants. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 103, 450-454.

Masters, A., Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Seixas, A., Girardin, J. L., & McFarlane, S. I. (2014). Melatonin, the Hormone of Darkness: From Sleep Promotion to Ebola Treatment. Brain disorders & therapy, 4(1), 1000151. https://doi.org/10.4172/2168-975X.1000151

Mayo Clinic. (2017, February 8). Light Therapy. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604

Moss, M., Hewitt, S. and Moss, L. (2008) Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang ylang. International Journal of Neuroscience 118, 59-77

Moss M, Oliver L (2012) Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology 2 (3): 103-113.

Perry, N. and Perry, E. (2006) Aromatherapy in the management of psychiatric disorders: clinical and neuropharmacological perspectives. CNS Drugs 20, 4, 257-280.

Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2013). Sunshine, serotonin, and skin: a partial explanation for seasonal patterns in psychopathology?. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 10(7-8), 20–24.

Woelk, H. and Schläfke, S. (2010) A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine 17, 2, 94-99.

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