The holidays are behind us and the sun & nice weather seem like a only a distant dream. No wonder we feel like climbing back into bed. According to Consumer Reports, up to 20 percent of adults suffer from subsyndromal SAD, a milder from of seasonal affective disorder, better known as the winter blues.
“The increased hours of darkness disrupt brain chemicals that affect mood,” says Dr. Kathryn A. Roecklein, an assistant professor of psychology at thte University of Pittsburgh. But that doesn’t mean you have no choice but to mark the days until spring. Try these 7 simple ways to beat the winter blues and watch your mood improve:
6:30am to 7:30am
Catch a sunrise. It will set the tone for your day, boosting levels of serotonin, your brain’s feel-good chemical. Not up for an early morning? Try to get 30 minutes of sunlight a day, suggests Dr. Stephen C. Josephson, a seasonal depression specialist and associate professor at the Cornell University Medical School. If it’s gray for much of the winter where you live, consider light-box therapy, in which you sit for a half hour in front of a box that mimics outdoor light (about $100 and up). It may sound a little weird but, “They have results similar to antidepressants and with far fewer side effects,” Josephson says.
Always eat breakfast. Besides improving energy and curbing cravings, breakfast helps regulate your internal clock, or circadian rhythm, research suggests. Aim for a combination of complex carbs and protein with a smaller amount of healthy fats, suggest Jackie Newgent, a registered dietitian in NYC. Try oatmeal made with fat-free milk and topped with dried fruit, nuts and seeds; granola with plain Greek yogurt, berries and sliced almonds; or an egg with grits topped with bell peppers sauteed in a little olive oil.
Get some (fun) exercise. Besides improving energy, exercise released mood-boosting chemicals. Experts recommend squeezing it in during the daytime to get an extra dose of sunlight. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day for your favorite activity, maybe walking your dog or jogging. When it’s cold, go mall walking or, if you have access to an indoor pool, swim or do water exercises. “Your joints benefit from the hydrostatic pressure, and being immersed in warmish water when it’s cold outside fells like pampering,” says Gina Allchin.
Have a smart snack. Cravings for sweets really do go up during winter months, since they trigger the release of pressure-producing chemicals dopamine. But sugar will cause your blood glucose level to spike and then crash, leaving you hungry again. Instead, bust afternoon hunger pangs with a combination of protein, fiber and healthy fat, which will keep you full until dinner. Good choices include apple slices with peanut butter, popcorn sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, or a snack sized bag of almonds, pistachios or walnuts. This can also be a perfect time to use our natural Moodlift Complex. This unique Shaklee combination contains St. John’s wort, which research shows provides dietary support for a positive mental outlook after four to six weeks of use, and inositol, (found to be at lower levels in people with the “blues”) which complements the activity of St. John’s wort by playing a role in the proper transmission of nerve signals. Read more here
Do something nice for someone. Research suggests that small, random acts of kindness can indeed lift your spirits. Try this as your day winds down: Pay the toll for the car behind you on the way home; invite someone who’s new at your office or in your neighborhood to lunch the next day; or help a friend or relative move. It will silence your inner grouch.
7:00pm – Bedtime
Relax. Set yourself up for a good night’s sleep and counter the effects of stress with an unwinding ritual that begins early in the evening. Before dinner, hit the “off” button on your phone and computer; (for some this may seem impossible or daunting) after dinner, soak in a hot bath or sip a cup of caffeine free tea. Meditate for 10 minutes right before you hit the sheets. And count your blessings to help you fall asleep. Studies have found a correlation between reflecting on the things you’re grateful for and a more positive emotional state.
So if you feel like this winter is never ending and you find yourself with a case of the winter blues, use these tips to help you get back in a positive state of mind. And keep in mind that these tips offer positive real world benefits without having to combat side effects and a negative push back on your body. Cheers to a happier you!
Have your own tips or things you’ve found helpful? Share them with us in the comments below or with us on your favorite social network.