The other day, I went to bed at 9:30. Now if you know me, you know how totally crazy that is. I used to be the world’s biggest night owl. Even as that started to change, I’ve never voluntarily gone to bed before 11pm. Bonkers. Now, do I feel super lame and old? No! Was it because I had nothing better to do? Of course not! Rather, this insanely early bedtime was a result of my listening to my body and taking steps to combat winter blues, lack of energy, and general malaise. And guess what? It worked! I woke up before my alarm, to bright sunlight streaming through my window. I had tons of time for myself in the morning to get outside with the pup and relax into my day. I was super energized for an early yoga class (which I rocked, dare I say). And I was super productive and motivated all day long. So what’s my secret?
By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC
Whether or not you actually suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it is pretty tough to not get bummed when it’s freezing and grey outside for days on end. Our social lives take a major hit, and we are much more likely to crave getting all bundled up and cozy at home than a night on the town. It’s harder to motivate ourselves to get to the gym, and those cravings for comfort food just don’t let up. But fear not! With just a few daily steps, you can naturally beat the winter blues, improve your mood and energy, and keep your system on track.
- Catch some daylight! Especially when the days are shorter and darker, it is that much more important to get exposure to daylight. Ideally, this would be direct light outside, but, when it’s frigid and miserable outside, getting some daylight through a window does the trick too! Leave your blinds open at night, so the morning light can wake you up and help regulate your production of melatonin, and thereby, your sleep cycle! Keeping a regular sleep-wake cycle is vital to staving off wintertime depression. If your bedroom doesn’t get much natural light, then stand dreamily in front of your brightest window for a couple of minutes right when you wake up! It’s a nice little morning ritual with wonderful health benefits.
- Exercise! I know it’s hard to get to the gym when it’s 0 degrees outside, but it’ll pay off in terms of your motivation and energy, which will help you tons in the long run. If it’s super gross out, just work out at home! Don’t let the weather be an excuse to skimp on exercise! Find a dvd that you love, and sweat it out in the warmth and comfort of your living room. Exercise is one of the best natural antidepressants out there!
- Take some fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA, are amazing for balancing mood and staving off depression. Even if you eat fish regularly, supplement with 2-3 grams of high EPA fish oil every day. My favorite is NOW Super EPA.. I take it every day!
- Take vitamin D. In the dark of winter, especially in the northern parts of this fair country, it is impossible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. The result is that we’re all running around completely deficient in this important nutrient! Low levels of vitamin D can cause depression, lowered immunity, anxiety, higher stress levels, and a host of other unpleasant symptoms. It is absolutely crucial to supplement with a high quality vitamin D during the winter months, and for many of us, year round! Opt for at least 3000-4000 IU of sublingual vitamin D daily. My favorite is Biotics Bio-D-Mulsion Forte.. Just two drops under your tongue in the morning and you’re good to go!
- Load up on plant nutrients. Plant foods are nature’s amazing natural mood-boosters, and it is super easy to eat your way to a fantastic mood even in the greyest of winters. Whole grains like amaranth and quinoa are great for raising serotonin, which is your brain’s natural feel-good neurotransmitter. Olive oil and other healthy fats like avocados and nuts are also wonderful natural antidepressants. Green leafies like spinach and collards are loaded with folate, which along with other B vitamins, is vital for regulating mood.
- Treat yourself! Plan a fun winter getaway weekend, a spa day, a fun party, or even some nights at the theater, a concert, or the opera! Having some exciting things to look forward to is a great way to boost your mood and break up the monotony of a long winter.