|The wintertime blues are a very real condition. Studies show that millions of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD can vary, but generally include feelings of fatigue and an increased appetite for starchy and high-carbohydrate foods. This can cause weight gain, which further compounds the feelings of lethargy and depression.
One of the primary causes of SAD is the reduced sunlight that occurs in winter months. As the days become shorter, we produce high levels of a protein which interferes with the “feel good” chemical called serotonin. There are several treatments of SAD, including improving the diet and increased exercise. If you think you have SAD, contact your doctor for medical advice. For mild cases, here are some foods and indoor exercise ideas to fight the wintertime blues.
Watch the (simple) carbs.
Weight gain is a major side effect of SAD, primarily due to increased craving and consumption of sweet and starchy foods with simple carbohydrates. Cut out refined sugars such as candy, cakes, cookies, white bread and rice. These foods rapidly increase blood sugar level and then cause a quick drop, resulting in an energy crash. These foods also tend to be high in fats and calories which result in weight gain (which doesn’t help anyone’s mood).
Instead, go for fruits, vegetables and whole grains that have complex carbohydrates. Also boost your serotonin levels with foods that contain tryptophan such as fish, turkey, chicken, bananas, milk, eggs, nuts, and avocados. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that affects our mood, and when it is low we have feelings of depression. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan, which is why consuming foods that contain it can help increase our serotonin levels and lift our mood.
Exercise can do wonders.
Research shows that exercise aids in the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which means that exercise can help relieve both physical and mental pain. Just one hour of exercise three times a week can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and also keep you in great shape. Get as much fresh air as possible. Go for a 30-minute walk—preferably when the sun is out—to get the blood flowing. Your dog will love you for it, too.
Yoga does a body good.
If the weather is too cold and snowy, as it has been in the Northeast, yoga is a potentially life-changing indoor option. Yogic stretching is a wonderful way to center the mind through focus and deep breathing. It also improves blood circulation and sends newly oxygenated blood to the brain. The flush of new blood irrigates the muscles and joints, helps body functions such as digestion and elimination, while clearing the head and calming the soul.