Chasing Those Winter Blues Away, Part II

Love this kitty!

Love this kitty!

Hi! It’s Brooke again, with some tips to help you enjoy the winter months, even if you don’t love being wrapped in 3 layers before venturing outside. In my last blog, I mentioned seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, and some of its possible causes. However, you don’t have to be officially diagnosed with SAD to get down in the dumps and bored during this time of year. Our days are shorter, nights are longer and colder, and activities are driven indoors and away from the happy, if watery, shine of the winter sun. I noticed this recently when my husband and I went to the mall to see a movie—apparently all of the DFW Metroplex decided to join us at the theater. Talk about cramping our style!

So, what can you do to bring a little more pep to your step? Here are just a few ideas:

sunshine over water

1. Get your walk on: Walking outside, especially in the morning, not only gets your blood pumping and muscles moving, increasing your serotonin levels, but also reunites you with that precious sunlight that will not only cheer you up but help your body produce vitamin D, usually in short supply this time of year. If the weather’s too cold even for walking, hitting a treadmill or walking the mall works in a pinch.

2. Boost your “feel-good” hormones: During the wintertime, serotonin is absorbed more quickly by the body, which causes dips in this mood-boosting hormone. Serotonin levels can be improved in several ways, but two of the easiest are ensuring that your exercise and your diet are on track.

woman with DB sexy

Add this pic to my vision board–done!

  • According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, for important health benefits, adults should perform at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week OR at least 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Remember, aerobic activity can still be beneficial to you when it’s broken down into 10- or 15-minute increments, done several times a day. Also, the guidelines recommend that adults participate in strength training, concentrating on working the large muscle groups at least 2 times each week. For more information, check out the guidelines (http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/default.aspx). They make a great resource for getting your family involved in healthy living!
  • When you exercise and really break a sweat or push yourself, your body releases a flood of hormones, including serotonin (the “happy” hormone) and endorphins (hormones that reduce the sensation of pain and make you feel giddy or euphoric). Sign me up!
  • In The Serotonin Secret, author Dr. Caroline Longmore suggests adding serotonin-rich foods to each of your meals. Her ideal sources of this hormone include bean sprouts, spinach, asparagus, turkey, pineapple, sunflower seeds, cottage cheese, tofu, and bananas. And look! These foods are also wholesome and clean.

3. Catch plenty of ZZZZs: We’ve heard this 100 times, but getting plenty of sleep is important for so many reasons. During the darker winter months, our biological clock is affected by the lack of bright light, shorter days, and longer periods of “nighttime” in which we must still function. If you haven’t already guessed, the biological clock is closely tied to proper functioning of a healthy body. So, when our clock is messed up, namely during the time changes each year, we are really thrown for a loop until our system becomes accustomed to the new routine. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep patterns and moods, and when we have poor-quality sleep or just don’t get enough shut-eye, we cannot function at our best and are more likely to feel down and mopey. Getting at least 7-8 hours of good, deep sleep will do you a world of good (I’m still waiting to experience this—I’ll let you know what it feels like!).

4. Add some magnesium: Magnesium is an important mineral that helps in muscle contraction/relaxation, energy production and transport, protein synthesis, and enzyme production. It even helps us sleep more deeply, which is great news. You can supplement your diet with magnesium found in vitamins, but whole foods are even better. Sources of magnesium include black beans, raw broccoli, spinach, nuts, tofu, whole grains, and some fish.

food-sources-of-magnesium

5. Lighten up: In addition to getting outside for at least 15 minutes, if possible, you can improve your mood by gathering closer to windows and skylights during the day or using “daylight” bulbs (more blue than yellow light) or fluorescent lighting.

  • Some businesses even use special “skyboxes,” or light boxes installed on the ceiling in lieu of skylights. These installations brighten up office spaces with little or no natural light, and they can even be designed to simulate various weather and sky conditions across the office ceiling.
  • There are also personal light boxes, which are prescribed by physicians and used therapeutically to reduce symptoms of SAD. These boxes of powerful light bulbs come in various strengths and are used only in timed doses (anywhere from 5-30 minutes at a time). As you can imagine, this therapy can be easily abused, but you can gain similar benefit from using brighter, blue-tinged lights in your home or office.
  • Dawn simulators are helpful if your biological clock has been monkeyed around with by the changing seasons. These simulators are used as alarm clocks, with or without alarm sounds. The light, situated on your nightstand, begins to glow very dimly, gradually growing brighter over 30-45 minutes, until the light is brightest at your programmed “wake” time. This cool machine is designed to simulate the longer amount of morning sun that we enjoy in the spring and summer. Success with the simulator takes some trial and error, until you find your appropriate range of “sunrise,” but it has been proven to help those who struggle with seasonal blues as well as SAD.
Doesn't she look happy and well-rested?

Doesn’t she look happy and well-rested?

A quick Google search will yield countless tips and tricks for dealing with the winter blues. All you need is a few good ideas that work for you. I hope you enjoy each day, whether chilly and cloudy or bright and sunny. Have a lovely one!

~Brooke

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