The term “winter blues” is used a lot this time of year when people start to tire of icy temps and long for the sunny days of spring, but the reality is that many of us can truly suffer emotionally from a lack of regular sunshine. And it’s no wonder—we tend to stay indoors more often, exercise outside less, and we bundle ourselves up so much that even if the sun is out, it’s tough to get any of the benefit. Characterized by the mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during cooler, darker months, the winter blues can also cause increased anxiety, irregular sleep patterns and sugar cravings. While you can’t turn the clocks ahead and make it spring, there is a lot you can do to improve your mood and beat the winter blues. Here are my top four tips for a happier and more vital feeling winter season:
1. Eat the rainbow!
One of the best ways to set yourself up for success this winter is to fill your plate with an abundance of colorful plant-based foods so that your meals are rich in serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
This trio of neurotransmitters is responsible for calmness, increasing happiness, decreasing depression, and increasing mental alertness and to manage feelings of satiation and decrease cravings. Practice creating meals that are balanced with loads of color, healthy sources of carbs, fats and protein and don’t forget to hydrate!
Beware of highly processed foods, excess sugar and stimulants that will rob you of your happy mojo. Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, artificial sweeteners, fried foods and anything that is man-made processed junk. These foods will literally suck the nutrients and the life right out of you. Protect your mood, mind and health this winter and stick to real food.
2. Be supplement savvy.
You do not need to fill your cupboards with bottles of vitamins and supplements; you DO however need a few daily fundamentals. For the days I feel overwhelmed or my hamster wheel won’t stop spinning, I turn to what I call my “calm gold,” Neurapas Balance by Pascoe. It helps me take a deeper breath, I feel my shoulders drop, and the winter blues melt away. You can find it here: natures-source.com.
I also highly recommend protecting your gut (where 70 percent of your immune system levels and the production of many of your neurotransmitters occur) by taking a daily probiotic.
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My other must-have mood and body-loving supplements are Vitamin D (liquid is best) and of course, omega-3 fish oils.
3. Get a routine.
How you begin your day; your actions, your attitude and your nourishment will hold major impact on how the rest of your day and mood unfolds. If you haven’t already created a daily ritual for yourself, it’s a must-do for beating the winter woes. Find small practices that work for you, such as journaling about what you’re grateful for first thing in the morning, starting your day with Sun Salutations, or drinking warm water and fresh lemon juice to wake up your digestive system. Whatever your ritual may be, it shouldn’t be a chore. Be sure they are truly adding to your life, your body and your mind, and not wearing you down instead.
4. Move your butt.
Exercise throughout the winter months is key to optimizing your mood, your energy and how vital you truly feel. Regular bouts of strength training, cardio, Pilates or yoga will leave you feel invigorated, alert and ready for the next challenge of the day. While lazy days are nice, being too sedentary too often will give you that sluggish, unfulfilled feeling that can lead to depression, anxiety and a lack of motivation.