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One Simple Changes BODY and SOUL to go from SAD to GLAD!

Dear Ellen, the holidays are over, days are short and dark and the weather has me feeling down and low in energy. How can I snap out of it?

Many people get depressed in winter, or suffer from "the winter blues". The medical name for this winter depression is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Most scientists believe that the problem is related to the way the body responds to daylight. It is thought that SAD sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter.

1) Light up your life!

Getting more light into your life is the first and easiest simple change for the winter blues!

Outside:
Get out as often as you can, especially on bright days. The benefits include improved focus, reduction in SAD symptoms and lower stress levels. 

  • Bundle up and order a coffee or tea outside on a terrace
  • Park outside, further away and walk to your destination
  • Use the weekend time to walk around the garden or neighbourhood. Just a 10 minute walk in the morning light can help reset your body clock and boost mood
  • Take a “mini break” to nearby mountains, forests or lakes to up your mood and get a change of air

Inside:

  • Open blinds and curtains at home and/or office
  • Sit by a window whenever possible to increase sunshine exposure
  • Brighten up your environment with light coloured linens, flowers or decor
  • Consider light therapy which involves sitting in front of or beneath a light box that produces a very bright light. Studies have shown that light therapy relieves SAD symptoms for as much as 70% of patients after a few weeks of treatment.
  • For those who have trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark out. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in the bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.

2) Get active to beat SAD

A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression perhaps through increased brain serotonin function. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: A preliminary study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only.

3) Take charge of Carbs!

Many people crave carbohydrates in winter, sometimes in an unconscious effort to boost their mood principally because carbohydrates increase serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood regulator, makes you feel emotionally stable, less anxious, more tranquil and even more focused and energetic. However, too many carbohydrates can drive blood sugar to overeating and mood swings later. To help control carbohydrate cravings, take charge!

Time eating to accommodate cravings. Experts agree the carb cravings grow stronger as the day goes on. So eat as healthfully as possible at breakfast and lunch, focusing on protein-rich low glycaemic load foods, such as:

Toward the afternoon, by the time the sun and your mood start sinking…

Plan a carbohydrate rich snack and / or dinner. Some optimal options would focus on whole non refined carbs that are absorbed slower by the body, satisfy for longer and often take longer to eat. An added benefit to carbs before bedtime is that they are known to be sleep-inducing:

  • Homemade popcorn
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain bread
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Bulgur Wheat

4) Balance

Ensuring balanced nutrition has shown evidence suggesting improvements to SAD:

  • Juiceplus can bridge the gap in winter when it is sometimes difficult to get the recommended 5 portions a day of fruit and vegetables for a balanced diet
  • 1 -2 litres of water per day: Not getting enough water can cause a chemical imbalance and even mild dehydration can seriously and quickly affect our mood.
  • Vitamin D: There is growing evidence to suggest a link between SAD and low Vitamin D levels. Most people in the northern hemisphere do not get enough vitamin D which can be further increased by exposure to sunlight discussed earlier.
  • Fish oils and other Omega-3s: Through foods such as Salmon, Sardines, Tuna, Grass-fed beef, Flaxseed, Chia Seeds, Walnuts, Grass-fed Dairy
  • Magnesium:  High magnesium foods include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit and dark chocolate

5) Revitalize relationships!

Neuroscience has proven we are wired to connect. It is built into our DNA and our brains. Everyone wants to have deep, close, secure connections. Unfortunately, many of us struggle with relationships that create a sense of not feeling safe and secure and can lead to feeling down. The good news is we can always revitalize our relationships.

Be mindful! Pay attention, pay compliments, appreciate little gestures, listen and ask questions, do little things to show loved ones that they matter.

Be Social! Getting out to talk and laugh with your friends can relieve stress and put you in a joyous state. At the very least, by providing a pleasant change of scene, and perhaps helping you to meet new people

Be positive! Everyone prefers to be around a positive person, and being positive is also good for your health. To increase your sense of this quality, keep good posture and smile. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits both health and happiness.

Be affectionate. Even though some of the feelings may not be there, show your affection anyway. Feelings often follow behaviour so start the ball rolling by acting in the ways you know will be positive for your relationships, and soon you will have the positive feelings return.

6) Plan a vacation

Plan a vacation. Longing for sunnier days at the beach? Research shows that the simple act of planning and anticipating a vacation can cause a significant increase in overall happiness. Look at the big picture and know that even after winter, spring does return and we will have plenty of tips for spring cleaning body and soul!

 

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