When winter drags on, the cold, snow and lack of sunlight can significantly throw off our internal rhythm. This disruption can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the “winter blues.” Some common symptoms can be mood changes, depression, lethargy, sleep disturbances, weight gain, anxiety, and social withdrawal. Check out these tips to help put some “spring” into your step!
When winter weather prevents you from getting outside in the sun, a light therapy box is a great way to mimic natural sunlight and reset the body’s waking/sleeping clock. Increasing your light exposure this way can also increase mood-boosting serotonin and other neurotransmitters.
Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce symptoms of depression. Mackerel, salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3, while walnuts, chia, flax and hemp are also good sources. You can also complement your dietary efforts with a 1,000 mg omega-3 fish or cod liver oil supplement. Here at DMC Primary Care we recommend Nordic Naturals and Carlsons as high quality brands to choose.
Living in the northeast, it’s hard to get enough of this so-called sunshine vitamin. Deficiency in vitamin D is almost inevitable, and we often recommend supplementing with 2,000 IU or more to maintain sufficient levels through the winter. Ask your doctor to measure your levels if that hasn’t already been done.
Getting motivated to hit the gym is difficult when it’s cold and snowy, but a good workout is a great defense against the winter blues. Finding a way to embrace being outside gets the blood pumping and provides a healthy connection to nature. If you can’t face the cold, there are ample online programs that you can do right from your living room. If the gym is your thing, try setting a goal, going with a buddy, or signing up for a new class or activity to stay encouraged. (DMC Primary Care offers a variety of classes in all levels at our Fitness Studio.)
Chronic stress is prevalent in our society today, yet it is associated with many negative health outcomes. Try less multitasking and avoid rushing. By slowing down and being present in the moment we can turn up our relaxation response. Mindfulness practices like deep breathing and meditation can be powerful anti-depression tools and take just five minutes of your day. If you need help getting started, there are several mindfulness apps to choose from—our favorite is Insight Timer!