The holidays are behind us and now we are really into winter. And with the season's short days, cloudy skies and freezing temperatures comes the winter blues. You might start feel sad, low energy, sleepy and just plain not-yourself around this time of year. You can help yourself get through the winter-funk with a (genuine) smile on your face by eating certain foods, exercising and getting it on between the sheets.
Foods that make us happy:
Nourish the happy part of the brain by eating these foods often:
Chocolate: It’s not your imagination; chocolate makes us feel good. Eating chocolate triggers the release of the feel-good hormone serotonin as well as endorphins which give us a feeling of euphoria. So slowly enjoy about 100 calories of chocolate if you need a pick-me-up without having to worry about your waist-line.
Green Leafy Greens: Spinach and Kale contain a B-vitamin called folate which maintains normal levels of serotonin. People that get the recommended dietary allowance of 400 micrograms of folate a day, also show a decreased risk of depression.
Walnuts and Salmon: The Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like walnuts and salmon have been shown to decrease depression symptoms. A recent animal study suggests that Omega-3 Fatty Acids, as well as uridine found in walnuts and fish, actually act like antidepressants!
Healthy Carbs: Carbohydrates make us feel good. They enable us to release tryptophan which is converted into that feel good hormone serotonin. So be sure to eat plenty of whole grain carbs such as oatmeal, fruit and brown rice.
A couple foods that will make your crash and burn…
Alcohol: Your wine, beer or cocktails might make you feel good in the short term, but alcohol is a depressant, so if you’re feeling down in the dumps, skip the mixed drink and opt for a natural sugar high from 100% juice.
Sugary food: You just read that carbs boost mood, but not all carbs are created equal. Things like cookies, cake and white bread are made of high-glycemic ingredients that cause the “sugar crash.” So avoid them to get rid of the blues.
Move and improve your mood
Perhaps a reason that many of us feel so down and out during the dead of winter is that we are less active. Exercise is good for a ton of things like maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing the risk of heart disease and cancer, and relieving the symptoms of arthritis. It also helps relieve depression.
Get high (on exercise).Ever heard of a runners high? That’s not just a made up thing that runners tell you about to get your butt up and out running with them. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins and neurotransmitters which are feel good chemicals in the brain.
Turn the heat up. Exercise increases body temperature which has a relaxing effect on the body…so in the winter it’s waaaay good!
Zone out. Doing exercise can take your mind off of whatever is getting to you, whether it is the weather outside or the let down after the holidays, going to your favorite exercise class or lifting weights can help you focus on something good you’re doing for your body.
Make new friends and keep the old. Being around people is an instant pick me up, so grab a friend, bundle up and go for a walk together or join a gym where you know people that will become your workout buddies.
Get happy between the sheets.
Sex, like exercise, is good for the heart, immune system and mood. The act of sex releases endorphins which act the same as morphine…they mellow you out as well as block pain and give you a sense of euphoria. So even though the blues can decrease your sex drive, just do it and to reap the benefits of a healthy sex life.
SAD? Seek help…
There is a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. If you experience the following symptoms particularly during the cold, cloudy winter months, talk to a healthcare professional.
- Loss of energy
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
- Over sleeping
SAD is usually treated with light therapy, medication, psychotherapy or a combination of therapies.