Tips to win against the winter blues
By Wendy M. Henrichs
Board Certified Chiropractic Pediatrician and Nutrition Counselor
It is the time of year when the winter blues sets in. For some of us the winter blues is a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) include feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed; low energy; problems with sleeping; changes in your appetite or weight; feeling sluggish or agitated; difficulty concentrating; feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty; and frequent thoughts of death or suicide. Winter specific SAD is characterized by things like appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates; oversleeping and weight gain. If you have winter SAD or the milder winter blues, there are things you can do to help. Try these tips so you can charge into spring.
Eating a clean diet is important any time of year to help you feel your best, but if you have the winter blues your diet could be part of the cause. Salads and raw veggies are excellent when in season in the summer and early fall but can add stress to your system in the cold months of winter. Steam or stir-fry your veggies and greens (al dente) to aid in digestion. Also eating warm foods will warm you up from the inside out. Soups and stews are an easy and delicious way to add an abundance of veggies to your winter diet. Add spices such as turmeric, chili pepper and cayenne pepper which are anti-inflammatory and warming to your system. Some raw fruit such as berries, apples, pears, oranges and bananas can be eaten in the winter. Bananas are high in magnesium, which improves sleep and reduces anxiety; potassium, which along with the natural sugars help to stimulate your brain; and tryptophan, which relaxes us. Turkey is also high in tryptophan. Berries are high in antioxidants and fiber and are easy on your digestive system. Try to avoid tropical fruits unless you are vacationing in a tropical climate. Also avoid foods that over-stress your gut and immune system like baked goods, sweets, pastries, processed foods, fast food, alcohol and anything with added sugars.
Exercise releases the happy chemicals called endorphins. Exercise will boost your mood, lower your stress hormone-cortisol, and increase your metabolism. Work at getting 150 minutes or more of exercise each week or 30 minutes five days a week.
Low vitamin D levels can contribute the winter blues or winter SAD along with several other symptoms. Taking a vitamin D supplement is a good idea especially where we live. The maintenance or wellness dose is 4,000-5,000 IU’s daily. You can have your medical practitioner test your vitamin D levels to see if you are deficient.
Dark Chocolate (70 percent cacao or greater) is high in an antioxidant called polyphenols. Polyphenols are mood and immune boosting chemicals that give us that good feeling after eating dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has also been shown to increase endorphin (happy chemical) release.
Getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine, when we have it, is an excellent way to boost your mood. Today’s outdoor fabrics and clothing give us an opportunity to stay warm and dry when enjoying the beauty of winter. Just 15 minutes in the sunshine a day has a positive effect on your mood
Let the natural light shine into your home and office as much as possible so you can get as much natural light as possible during the winter months. There are also several natural light therapy lamps that you can purchase for your home and office to give your mood a boost.
Don’t let winter get you down. Try these tips to boost your mood and avoid the weight gain of winter. Remember, spring is right around the corner.
Dr. Wendy Henrichs is a board certified chiropractor and nutrition counselor at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, visit TimberlandChiropractic.com, Facebook, or call 715-362-4852.