Are the short days and cold temperatures making you feel sluggish, depressed, irritable or sad? Do the “winter blues” have you wishing for summer? You’re not alone!
Many people experience the effects of seasonal affective disorder, or “winter blues” through the winter months. Decreased amounts of sunshine and frigid Canadian temperatures lead to reduced levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. Along with reduced sunshine, lower activity levels and a lack of motivation lead to mood changes, irritability, fatigue, and seasonal depression.
Take control of your mood and learn how friends, food, and getting active can help you beat the winter blues!
1/Get Sunny- Sunshine is a natural source of vitamin D. Adequate amounts of vitamin D help boost serotonin levels and promote feelings of happiness, while low levels have been linked to mood disorders and a decrease in energy. Take advantage of every sunny day. Bundle up and go for walks, hit the slopes, grab a toboggan, do whatever makes you happy, just get outside and soak up the rays.
2/Get Social – Stepping away from the solidarity of your room and spending time with family and friends can reduce stress, promote laughter, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. Make plans to spend the day with friends, host a party or go see a good movie. Having something to look forward to reduces feelings of loneliness and promotes excitement.
3/Get active – Move that booty! Exercise has a mood enhancing effect on the body. Getting active helps boost endorphin levels, which enhance mood and reduce depression. Endorphins are feel good chemicals which interact with the brain and trigger positive emotions. Increased levels of endorphins help improve sleep, boost self-esteem, and reduce anxiety, all resulting in improved mood.
4/Eat Healthy – High amounts of sugar along with refined and processed foods are void of nutrients, starve your brain and negatively impact mood. They cause peaks followed by drops in blood sugar leading to disturbances in mood. Focus on consuming whole foods which feed your body and support proper metabolic functions.
Increase levels of Folic acid found in kidney beans, garbanzo beans, spinach, kale, broccoli, beets, and lentils to reduce feelings of depression and fatigue. Improve energy production as well as the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine by consuming beef, lamb, salmon, sardines, Greek yogurt, bananas, garlic, and cauliflower, all rich in B vitamins. Support nerve and brain function by increasing consumption of walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, collard greens, Swiss chard, and quinoa all rich in Magnesium and Omega 3’s. Magnesium also helps to reduce stress and regulate mood through blood sugar stabilization. Finally, increasing levels of Tryptophan helps to regulate mood and promote better sleep as it is the precursor to serotonin, the “feel good hormone”. Tryptophan can be found in shrimp, crimini mushrooms, tuna, turkey, and mustard greens.
5/Stay hydrated – Dehydration can reduce energy levels and promote sluggish behaviour. To ensure you stay hydrated consume 2 L of water daily, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages. Dehydration causes your brain and cells to shrink reducing their ability to function properly. Hydrated cells = happy cells!