I really love the Holidays, the parties and events, spending time with family, celebrating, but as the New Year begins, I notice my mood getting progressively lower
I’m not alone either: fourteen percent of Americans suffer from the winter blues and another six percent from the more pronounced Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Sunlight is some pretty powerful stuff. It supplies a broad spectrum of different light rays (ultraviolet, visible and infrared) and in a stronger amount than artificial lights. While too much can certainly do some damage, sunlight is also very beneficial, especially in the regulation of mood. For starters, skin exposure to UV rays is necessary for the body to produce that all-important vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have continually been linked to lower mood and vitamin D supplementation appears to ease the winter blues in those who are susceptible.
Exposure to the sun also regulates our wake and sleep cycles and with it our melatonin levels. More darkness equals more melatonin, which creates a sense of lethargy and sleepiness. Similarly, serotonin, the neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of happiness and joy, may also be influenced by exposure to sunlight, and serotonin is related to the production of melatonin. In people who are susceptible to the winter blues and SAD, serotonin activity is lower in the winter. Yet another possible reason sunlight has such a powerful effect on our moods is that, at least in mice, it increases the release of endorphins (our natural opioid-like chemicals that help us bear pain and stress). All this research helps to give validity to the very real mood changes that many people experience during the winter.
I’ve learned over the years that my best defense is to begin early. So, for those of you that know the short days of winter will soon be affecting your mood, or even for those of you who struggle with mood issues year round, start now to proactively protect your brain and mood with the following simple steps.
Supplement with vitamin D daily
I routinely recommend between 2,000 and 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3. It’s a good idea to have your blood levels checked. If you don’t know your vitamin D levels, ask your doctor to test them for you.
Get some sunlight, every day if possible
I know this can be challenging in our Iowa winter but take advantage of any sunny days you may have and make an effort to get outside on not-so-sunny days. Even with clouds, the sun’s rays are still strong enough to exert some benefit. With our below freezing weather here you might consider investing in a natural light box that helps to mimic the light produced by the sun.
Eat a balanced diet
When the days get shorter, the weather colder, and our moods go south, it is all too easy to start eating foods that don’t really nourish the body. Eating a lot of flour and sugar quickly leads to blood sugar imbalances, which then affect mood. These foods also are devoid of nutrients, leaving the brain starving, which again affects mood. While the craving for carbohydrates is somewhat normal in the winter, try to answer the call with nutrient-dense options such as Butternut Squash soup, zucchini spaghetti with meatballs and veggie pizza.( I have some wonderful recipes here at the Shop and am always happy to share and Simply Nourished in downtown Clear Lake always has a fresh selection of produce) Fill your plate with naturally raised meat, eggs and wild fish, brightly colored veggies and fruits, and brain-healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil, and coconut oil.
Another healthy option is a Hot cup of Herbal tea filled with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. The Nutritive tea that I hand blend in the Shop is chocked full of vitamins and minerals and taste good too!
Round out your supplement routine to fully support your brain and mood
Probiotics deliver beneficial bacteria to our guts and new research has shown these beneficial bacterial help to boost our immune function and our mood. A high quality Fish oil supplies EPA and DHA, which help to support healthy brain function and mood. And a good uality multivitamin completes the picture by helping to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need for optimal function. The Journey Health Shop carries all these supplements and more!
Move your body more
As tempting as it may be to ‘hibernate’ all winter, resist the urge and get yourself up and moving. The exercise you choose should feel good and be fun, and it is all the better if you can do it outside. (See #2)
Spend time with people you love and laugh—a LOT! My best winter time event is a monthly game night with friends-it works!
Darker days don’t have to mean a dark cloud over you. Start now to feel your best all winter long.
NOTHING IN THIS WEBSITE IS INTENDED AS, OR SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS, MEDICAL ADVICE. ANY HEALTHCARE AND/OR NUTRITIONAL MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THIS WEBSITE IS FOR CONSUMER INFORMATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. SUCH MATERIAL IS NOT INTENDED AS MEDICAL ADVICE FOR CONDITIONS OR TREATMENT, NOR IS IT INTENDED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR A MEDICAL EXAMINATION BY A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL. CONSUMERS SHOULD CONSULT THEIR OWN HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS FOR INDIVIDUAL MEDICAL RECOMMENDATIONS.
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