navigating november with neuroscience

Navigating November with Neuroscience: A 5-Step Guide to Well-Being

Introduction: Why November Can Be Tough

November is often accompanied by a shift in both the environment and our emotional well-being. The dwindling hours of daylight and generally overcast weather can often lead to what is colloquially known as the "winter blues," but which can be scientifically traced back to disruptions in our serotonin levels and circadian rhythms. It is precisely at these times that insights from neuroscience can prove invaluable.

The Winter Blues

The "winter blues," or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a well-documented psychological phenomenon that often occurs during the fall and winter months. The reduced level of sunlight can lead to a dip in serotonin levels, a hormone responsible for mood regulation, as well as to mental health in general. Furthermore, it also disrupts the body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, which can lead to feelings of depression and lethargy.

1. Step 1: Stick to a Fixed Sleep/Wake Schedule

The Science

The cornerstone of managing well-being during November (or any other month for that matter) is a fixed sleep/wake schedule. According to Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Stanford University, sleep is the "Swiss army knife of health." A consistent sleep/wake schedule not only regulates our internal clock but also significantly impacts our mental and emotional state [1].

How to Apply It

  • Use a Sleep Calculator: There are online tools that can help you calculate the best time to go to bed based on your wake-up time.
  • Gradual Adjustments: If your current sleep schedule is erratic, make gradual 15-minute adjustments until you hit your ideal bedtime.
  • Avoid Stimulants: Caffeine and other stimulants can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
    Fix your sleeping schedule

Tips and Tricks

  • Set Multiple Alarms: If you have trouble waking up, set multiple alarms at different intervals.
  • No Gadgets: Refrain from using gadgets at least an hour before sleep to reduce blue light exposure.
  • Opt for Comfort: A comfortable mattress and pillows can significantly improve the quality of your sleep.

2. Step 2: Get Daily Movement

The Science

Exercise is perhaps the most potent natural antidepressant at our disposal. [2] As Andrew Huberman notes, physical movement activates neural circuits that make us feel good, thereby enhancing our mood and general sense of well-being [3].

How to Apply It

  • Choose an Activity You Enjoy: You're more likely to stick with an exercise regimen if you enjoy it.
  • Indoor Exercises: If the weather is too harsh, consider indoor exercises like yoga or Pilates.
  • Group Activities: Exercising with friends or family can be more fun and motivating.

Tips and Tricks

  • Exercise Snacks: Short bouts of intense exercise can be just as effective.
  • Use an App: Consider using fitness tracking apps for guided workouts.
  • Mindful Movement: Incorporate mindfulness techniques during exercise for mental health benefits.

3. Step 3: Soak Up Some Sunlight Within 30 Minutes of Waking Up

The Science

Morning sunlight can significantly improve your mood and cognitive function. As Huberman suggests, even 30 minutes of morning light exposure can reset your circadian rhythm, thereby boosting your mood and mental alertness [4].

How to Apply It

  • Morning Walks: Take a morning walk to combine the benefits of exercise and light exposure.
  • Light Therapy: If you can't get natural sunlight, consider a light therapy box.
  • Balanced Exposure: Avoid excessive sun exposure to minimize the risk of skin issues.
    Sunlight waking up

Tips and Tricks

  • Pet Walks: Use this time to walk your pet if you have one.
  • Breakfast Outside: Consider having your breakfast outside.
  • No Sunglasses: Allow natural light to hit your eyes; avoid sunglasses during this time.

4. Step 4: Take Cold Showers

The Science

Cold showers can activate the body's "dive reflex," reducing your heart rate and inducing relaxation. Huberman talks extensively about the stress-modulating effects of cold showers [5].

How to Apply It

  • Gradual Exposure: Start with lukewarm water and gradually transition to cold.
  • Deep Breathing: Combine deep breathing exercises to enhance its stress-reducing effects.

Tips and Tricks

  • Cold Face Wash: If a cold shower is too much, try splashing your face with cold water.
  • Sauna and Cold Shower: Alternating between sauna and cold shower can be incredibly rejuvenating.

5. Step 5: Intermittent Fasting

The Science

Intermittent fasting (IF) has been gaining attention not just as a weight-loss strategy but also for its cognitive and longevity benefits. IF can improve mental clarity and reduce oxidative stress, thereby promoting cellular repair processes [6].

How to Apply It

  • Start Small: Begin with a shorter fasting window and gradually increase it.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids during the fasting window.

Tips and Tricks

  • Herbal Teas: Opt for herbal teas if you get hungry during the fasting window.
  • Balanced Meals: Focus on protein and fiber-rich foods during your eating window.

6. Conclusion

Armed with these neuroscience-backed strategies, November can become a month of rejuvenation rather than a period of emotional and physical decline. Remember, your well-being is an ongoing project, and implementing these steps can pave the way for a healthier, happier you.

  1. Huberman, A. (2021). The science of sleep: Stanford Medicine. Retrieved from

  2. Ratey, J.J., Loehr, J.E. (2011). The positive impact of physical activity on cognition during adulthood: a review of underlying mechanisms, evidence and recommendations. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 22(2), 171–185. 

  3. Huberman Lab Podcast, Episode 32: "How to Improve Mood, Focus & Sleep"

  4. Huberman, A. (2020). Circadian Rhythms, Sleep & Health: Scientific American.

  5. Huberman Lab Podcast, Episode 18: "The Science and Practice of Breathwork"

  6. Mattson, M.P., Longo, V.D., Harvie, M. (2017). Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Research Reviews, 39, 46–58.