Winter is here and for some of us, it sucks. It’s the longest season by far, and before you know it, you’re blah, blue, blah. Well, don’t shiver yourself sick, friends. There are many natural pick-me-up remedies out there that can boost your mood in no time flat.
Seasonal Affective Disorder—aptly nicknamed SAD and also known as the winter blues—is a real mood disorder that affects too many people, and the majority are women. Is it almost impossible to drag your butt out of bed in the morning?
Got unexplained nausea when you know you’re not preggo? Craving foods you really shouldn’t be gorging on, like carbs that you’re trying desperately to avoid? Let us guess. You also feel constantly drained, moodier than usual, your head is muddled, and you just want to curl up in a ball and sleep. You’re depressed, and if that means full-blown SAD or just a mild case of the winter blues, there is help. We’ve already given you a list of super foods to boost your mood when it’s dark and cold outside. Now, we’ve got some natural remedies that will help you beat the winter blues—and give you an excuse to really focus on your own well being.
10 Natural Ways to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder and Boost Your Mood in Winter
1. GET MOVING
As hard as it is to get going when you’re feeling low, your body needs activity to get out of the funk—and it doesn’t have to be sweat-inducing. Exercise not only improves your well-being but it also releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Even just regular exercise like taking a long walk or light jog, or getting on the treadmill, will help. Getting physically active helps to relieve both stress and anxiety, the two common jumping off points for SAD symptoms. The bonus here is that getting fit will help you feel better about yourself, and that can only lift your mood in winter.
2. TREAT YOUR MIND
Jessica McIntyre of Studio Blue Yoga in Toronto recommends getting a double dose of activity and relaxation by practicing yoga in a nice, warm studio, designed to feel like you’re outside on a sunny day. The unique Warm Yoga classes feature a 26-29 degree Celcius temperature that turns up the heat as you move as well as full-spectrum LED and fluorescent lights to let the sunshine in. Yoga gives you a break from from your to-do lists and time to focus solely on yourself, your breath and your body with demanding movements. Set aside an hour each day to get the body moving, the blood flowing and the breath circulating. Yoga movements can also release endorphins in the brain, which make us feel happier, helping combat the effects of the winter blues. Other mind-body therapies that may help relieve depression symptoms include:
- Guided imagery
- Massage therapy
3. FIND THE LIGHT
Studies show that a light therapy regimen significantly reduces the symptoms of SAD, so invest in a light therapy box and expect to feel better within 2-4 days. If you go for a portable one such as the Philips goLITE BLUE Energy Light ($199.99), you can take it in its own pouch everywhere. Plus, it’s rechargeable. Turn it on a few feet away from you for about a half hour each morning for at least two weeks. Keep it on all through your morning routine—eating breakfast, doing your makeup, getting dressed. Other light boxes will help waking you up slowly in the dark morning. The Philips Wake-up Light ($99.99) gradually increases from soft dawn reds through warm orange to bright yellow light 30 minutes before your alarm goes off. The light helps transition your body from sleep to waking, for a natural wake-up experience. You can even choose your desired light intensity to wake up to based on your personal light sensitivity. The easiest way to welcome light into your home? Open the blinds, trim branches that block the sun or even go so far as to add skylights. Here’s the quickest fix: Sit close to bright windows.
It sounds simple. Getting outside will pick up your mood because you’ll feel more alive. It can be a double whammy: You’ll be gettting into the light for some much-needed Vitamin D at the same time as you get some exercise. We know, we know. Getting out is harder than it sounds when your brain and body are dragging your down. Your best bet is to hit the outdoors early—within the first two hours of waking up. You want your best shot at lifting your spirits right at the start of the day before the depression has more of a chance to set in. If you don’t have the energy to go ice skating or take a hike, smart small. Use an excuse like walking the dog to get you up and out
While drinking alcohol does initially give you a lift, it’s all an illusion, and one you should avoid like the plague. In case you’ve forgotten, booze is really a depressive that will drop you hard (click here for hangover cures!), especially if you’re already feeling low. Avoid the caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate and cola for the same reason. Instead, try some soothing herbal tea to help calm your nerves or even better, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
What you put into your body has a real effect on how you feel so keep track of your nutrition. We’ve already given you a long list of the foods and supplements you should eat to combat the winter blues. You may also find yourself craving complex carbs and that’s no coincidence. When you’re suffering from SAD, you’re low on serotonin, a neurotransmitter than regulates moods. Slow down with those Oreos, though. You want to avoid sweets and carbohydrates because they give you a boost only to leave your system feeling lower. Great food choices: egg whites, nuts, peanut butter, fruits and veggies. You don’t want to lose the benefit of all that exercise you’ve been doing to help you feel better.
As you can imagine, the symptoms of SAD can make you feel alone. Being open with people close to you, or even seeing a counsellor, will help you escape the darkness. Talking it out will also go a long way toward helping you identify and remove the negative thoughts that are pulling you down. You may need some coping strategies, such as finding replacement thoughts that will life your mood. For instance, instead of focusing on feeling cooped up indoors, you can turn your thoughts to planning your upcoming vacation. What are some ways you battle the winter blues?
6 Superfoods That Will Fight the Winter Blues
Feeling the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder? Your diet just may need an overhaul.
Broccoli and Greens
Green foods like broccoli are tasty, easy to use in so many recipes and full of health benefits like pre-Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and folate, nutrients that help our immune system fight infections.
Mackerel and mushrooms have Vitamin D, but it's hard to reach your daily recommended dosage through meals. So supplementing with vitamin D is almost universally recommended.
While the “sunshine vitamin” (vitamin D) and light therapy help relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder, omega-3 fatty acids—particularly DHA—also support the maintenance of a more balanced mood.
Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and while it's not the heartiest option for cold winter nights, its health benefits are perfect for getting through the season.
Third and fourth on Canadians’ preferred list of foods to combat the winter blues are yogurt and other fermented foods and milk. These are fantastic sources of probiotics and calcium.
With lower levels of vitamin D in winter, we absorb less calcium from our diet, weakening our bones. If you can't drink enough milk, supplement to ensure you're getting enough important nutrients.