This 5-Minute Trick Helps You Feel Energized, Even When It's Cold & Dark Outside
'Tis the season of waking up to a cold, dark sky. And because of this dip in light exposure, you might be feeling a bit sleepy of late—natural light, after all, helps regulate our circadian rhythms by sending a cue to our bodies that it's time to be active and alert. Without the sunlight to help kick-start this process, you might wind up with the strong urge to curl up in bed and hibernate.
It's important to address, says board-certified sleep specialist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., especially if you're not getting the light exposure you once were. But that doesn't necessarily mean you must invest in a sun lamp: "Many people don't know it, but light is not the only circadian pacemaker out there," he says on the mindbodygreen podcast. "Another one is exercise."
How exercise helps balance your circadian rhythm.
In his book, Energize!: Go From Dragging Ass to Kicking It in 30 Days, Breus recommends engaging in at least five minutes of exercise five times a day during the winter. "If you follow my 'five and five method,' what you'll discover is that while you still need light exposure, exercise can be helpful." Find the five energizing steps below:
- First up, the stretch: "You've been lying in bed for somewhere between six and eight hours, so your body needs to move around a little bit, and it feels good to stretch," Breus says. Try these seated yoga poses if you need some inspiration.
- Next comes the shake, and it happens midmorning: You know how animals give themselves a shake after standing up? "It actually feels energetic when you do that," says Breus. "You can shake your hands, you can shake your arms, shake your body…" Whatever feels good and available to you.
- Then we have the bounce: "You can do jumping jacks, you can jump up and down, you can skip," offers Breus. Just perform five minutes of bouncing exercises to get your heart pumping.
- Next is build: "This is where you actually [move] large muscle groups, so pushups, situps, something like that," says Breus.
- Finally, the last exercise is balance: "I have people do a tree pose, just before bed," says Breus. "The reason it's so effective is because of the balance." When you can't think of anything but keeping your body in balance, that helps clear your mind and allows you to move forward into your sleep routine.
That last step is also an optimal time to take a sleep supplement, if you use one regularly, as you wind down and prepare your body for sleep.* For what it's worth, our sleep support+ combines highly absorbable magnesium bisglycinate with PharmaGABA®, a neurotransmitter shown in clinical trials to enhance natural sleep quality, and jujube, a fruit used in traditional Chinese medicine for calming, to promote better sleep and more energized mornings all around.*
If you can, Breus still recommends getting some natural light in your eyes first thing in the morning. "I'll be honest with you: it's good to get outside and get some fresh air," he explains. But on especially dark and dreary days when you feel extra sleepy, exercising for just five minutes five times per day can help keep your circadian rhythm on track.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.