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Essential Oils for the Winter Blues

By Jodi Cohen

My dad used to always say:  

“You need someone to love,

Something to do 

And something to look forward to”

I tend to miss him (and Max) more intensely this time of year.

Add to that the general “blah” feeling in January when the holidays and all the celebrations are over, the days feel short and dark and the weather is too cold or too wet to spend a lot of time outside.  

The shorter days always seem to make me feel tired, lethargic, unmotivated, grumpy, overwhelmed and unable to concentrate or get anything done and honestly, a little sad.  

As the new year kicks off, I am a little sad to see my daughter (who I love) return to school on the other side of the country, struggling to prioritize what to do and making future plans that I can look forward to.

The reduced hours of daylight in the winter months literally impact your hormones and your mood. 

Sunshine helps boost energy and mood by boosting your body’s level of serotonin, the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that improves your mood and helps you stay calm and focused.  Vitamin D – the sunlight hormone – helps produce serotonin, but Vitamin D levels often run low in the winter when you spend less time in the sun.

Sunshine regulates your circadian rhythm by telling your body when to increase and decrease your melatonin levels. 

The lack of natural light triggers the release of the sleep hormone melatonin that is critical to helping you sleep. Because your body starts releasing melatonin in response to darkness, you usually start to feel sleepy two hours after the sun sets, which is one of the reasons you may feel more fatigued and lethargic during the winter months.

Since serotonin and melatonin help maintain your daily rhythm. When these hormones are disrupted, you can no longer adjust to the seasonal changes in day length, leading to sleep, mood, and behavior changes.

The winter blues—or symptoms of low-level sadness lasting through the winter months—is not the same as seasonal affective disorder.

Essential oils can help ease the effects of the winter blues, by basically bottling sunshine – or the plants grown in the sun and helping to lift your spirits and boost your energy even during the darkest months of the year.

As you may know, sunlight plays a critical role in the growth and nutrient content of plants. As a primary energy source for all living organisms, sunlight drives photosynthesis, a process that captures the energy from sunlight and converts it into chemical compounds (carbohydrates) which fuel the growth and development of plants and the animals that feed off of the plants.

To be more specific, plants “capture” and store the energy of sunlight which we can access through essential oils during the dark winter months. Sunlight helps balance serotonin activity, increases melatonin production, balances your circadian rhythm, and increases vitamin D levels, which can lead to an improved emotional state.

Essential oils – especially oils derived from the peel of citrus fruits which as you know grow best in sunny climates – have been shown to lift mood, calm anxiety, alleviate depression, and literally make you feel lighter.

I suspect that essential oils work like sunshine in a bottle, capturing the energy of sunlight to help you increase your exposure to natural light during the winter.  I hypothesize that this is one of the reasons that citrus oils in particular are so often touted for their uplifting, sunny qualities.

Research on the Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive states found that “citrus fragrance was more effective than antidepressants.”  Smelling citrus essential oils allowed depressive subjects to “markedly reduce” the doses of antidepressants necessary for the treatment of depression.

Additional research found that the citrus essential oil of lemon relieves stress. The study examined the anti-stress action of the essential oils of lavender, rose, and lemon by inducing stress in mice and found that “lemon oil had the strongest anti-stress effect”.

The research suggests that lemon oil possesses anxiolytic, antidepressant-like effects.  Similar animal research found that lemon essential oil reduces anxiety.

Whenever I am faced with a new emotional or physical pain, I try to lean into the opportunity to learn through trial and error.  That said, I chose to experiment with my different emotional balance blends to personal experience which blend best boosted my mood and my energy.

Vibrant Blue Oils Emotion Balance Lung Support™ immediately lifted my mood.  Not surprisingly, the blend contains several citrus oils, including the organic and/or wild-crafted essential oils of Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin, and Orange.  Lung Support™ also contains Ylang Ylang which is derived from the flowers of a tropical tree, native to the sunny Malay peninsula and the Philippines.

Your lungs are sponge-like organs located near the backbone on either side of the heart that function as a fundamental source of life energy –transporting oxygen from the atmosphere into the capillaries so they can oxygenate blood – as well as an important channel of elimination – releasing carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere.

Feelings of sadness, loneliness, or grief can obstruct the ability of the lungs to accept and relinquish, impeding their function of “taking in” and “letting go”.  

Similarly, impaired lung function may contribute to shortness of breath, fatigue, and feelings of melancholy, like those experienced with the winter blues.

Lung Support™ blend contains essential oils derived from sunny citrus plants that can help boost mood.

For example, Bergamot is known as a natural yet potent antidepressant.  Purporting relaxing properties that have been shown to reduce stress hormone levels in the body and prohibit the release of adrenaline, Bergamot helps “trigger your brain to release (the mood-boosting neurotransmitter) serotonin” with research finding that “bergamot can help to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.”

Similarly, Lemon™ oil may help lift dark and heavy feelings and relieve stress. Additional research found that of the anti-stress action of the essential oils of lavender, rose, and lemon, “lemon oil had the strongest anti-stress effect”. Similar animal research found that lemon essential oil reduces anxiety.

What’s more, Orange™ also has a sedative effect on the nervous system and helps calm anxieties, stress, tension, and nervousness.  For example, research found that inhaling orange essential oils reduced depression-like behaviors.

Finally, Ylang Ylang has strong antidepressant properties and it helps to bring emotions into proper balance.  It is known to soothe the nervous system, calm the mind, and relieve mental fatigue, anxiety, depression, and grief.  According to studiesylang-ylang oil has been found to have significant effects in improving mood and a sense of harmony.

Lung Support™ blend works best when topically applied over the lungs or around the ears.  It can also be deeply inhaled and allowing yourself to gently release intense emotions with your exhale as a powerful strategy to allow you to micro-dose emotional release.

A normal and healthy expression of grief can be expressed as sobbing that originates in the depths of the lungs, including deep breaths and the expulsion of air with the sob.

Inhale or topically apply 2 -3 drops of Lung Support™ over the heart and lungs 2- 3 times daily or as needed.

READ THIS NEXT: Essential Oils for Grief

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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.