It’s that time of year again when sunlight exposure decreases, due to the seasonal tilt of the Earth. The angle of the sun changes, and the amount of daylight shifts – all resulting in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or what’s more commonly known as the “Winter Blues.”
Health experts believe that approximately one-fifth of Americans are affected by SAD, simply because the shorter days of winter tend to lower the mood-enhancing levels of serotonin in the human body. Serotonin is a biochemical known as a neurotransmitter, and it is naturally produced by the human body.
What constitutes the “Winter Blues”? On the milder end of the spectrum are irritability, insomnia, and boredom. More serious symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include anxiety, panic attacks, even depression – some of these are associated with “Cabin Fever.” Serotonin, after all, affects mood, appetite and digestion, social behavior, memory, even sleep.
Nonetheless, science has revealed that some natural steps can be taken to minimize the effects of low serotonin levels in winter time. These include:
More exposure to light. Get outdoors more. Exposure to sunlight gives you a daily dose of vitamin D, which is crucial to regulating one’s mood. Besides getting outdoors more, one can also invest in more indoor lighting. Consult a health provider about particular brands of indoor lighting that can enhance serotonin levels. Increasing one’s exposure to light can counter winter’s lower levels of serotonin.
Exercise more. Studies have shown that exercise increases production and release of natural endorphins. Endorphins are those neurotransmitter hormones that improve one’s mood. The bliss one feels after exercise, for instance, is the work of endorphins. As a result, exercising more during the winter season can certainly elevate one’s mood, and thereby counteract winter’s moody blues.
Be mindful of your diet, and eat well. Be selective of what you dine on. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is, in fact, a chemical depressant, so it should not be used to enhance one’s mood, especially since it can lead to substance abuse. Caffeine is also inadvisable because it disrupts the brain and leads to more instances of crankiness and fatigue, sometimes even exhaustion if overused. As for comfort foods and junk treats, they would only leave one feeling bloated – that’s not recommended when feeling in the dumps. It is far better to reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fat. Instead, try your hand at healthy mood-enhancing foods such as fruits and vegetables, which also have the needed nutrients your body can use to produce more serotonin. Then, too, the Omega-3s from seafood, like fish, help with enhancing serotonin levels. Also, seek out foods rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid (or folate), since these are vitamins that are key in elevating one’s mood. Likewise, selenium is a mineral that helps minimize bad moods; it functions in the body as an antioxidant. Besides that, you can speak with your health care provider about what natural supplements you can take to alleviate your winter blues symptoms.
Yoga helps you rejuvenate, even in winter. Including yoga in your daily regimen is a wonderful way to keep yourself warm in winter. Plus, it allows you to burn off calories in a healthy way. Some of the added benefits of yoga include flexibility, mindful stress reduction, promotion of good focus, even strengthening of the body’s immune system. What’s more, yoga is associated with good meditation skills, and these help push away the shadows cast by some of winter’s dull, gray weather. Indeed, yoga has been clinically proven to prevent your body from being sluggish in winter season.
Try something new. Partaking of fun activities that add novelty and creativity is a wholesome way of pushing back the winter blues. Participate in a holiday cooking class, begin a winter sport, start a Yuletide journal, volunteer, try some holiday home improvement, reorganize or decorate around the house, beautify what’s around you, and even take up holiday crafting. Staying active, learning something new, immersing yourself in novelty all help in brightening up your mood.
Do things together with folks who wholesomely elevate your mood. Few want to be alone during the holidays – even Ebenezer Scrooge. Choose the right group of people or the right person to be with so that you need not feel stressed during winter time. Reach out to family and friends so you don’t go it alone. Even just watching a good movie with someone helps improve one’s mood. Plan a lunch date or a holiday shopping outing with your BFF, buddy, or roomie. Calling home to speak with parents or siblings is even welcomed during the holidays. Seek out good, compatible company – maybe planning a holiday at a ski resort or chalet can bring you together with some new acquaintances, too.