The feeling we've all felt for years, but now has a name: SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). "The Winter Blues" is how I grew up recognizing it. In recent years, we have seen many studies promoting light therapy as a resource to reduce SAD in patients by up to 70%. If you struggle with SAD, a Light Therapy Lamp is a product that, when used for 15 minutes daily, can aid in the battle with the shorter days and colder weather.
While light therapy is effective to the affective, there are a few simple changes that provide you with thicker armor (no, not fat) with which to defend your body and mind.
What you eat matters.
Foundation. If you try to build something great on a broken foundation, it doesn't matter the strength of your material or will, it's longevity has already been undercut.
We all have neurotransmitters (signals) from the brain to the body. One of these neurotransmitters comes from the hormone Serotonin. This is the "feel good" chemical that the brain sends through the body. The fun guy. A good population of people receive Serotonin from starches and sugar. This is why Mac & Cheese makes us feel so good. Or why a big Thanksgiving meal leaves us content and ready for a nap (mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, etc). However, these quick starches effect us like a hit of adrenaline. Serotonin rises, then falls. The consistency comes from a wide variety of foods that are consistently producing appropriate levels of Serotoinin, acting like a moat around the castle of our brain and body.
95% of the body's Seretonin is produced in the gut. 95%! Varying the diet contributes to a consistent intake of nutrients that support the gut, nourishing it so that your brain can receive the nutrients it needs to keep depressive moods at bay.
Eat foods with high Omega-3 Fatty Acids more often, like salmon, smoked salmon, nuts, and seeds (chia seed pudding can really lift my mood? Yes, yes it can. Free recipe here).
Consume more B Vitamins. B Vitamins lift our mood and give us energy. Any slow-cooker fans out there? 🙋♀️ Try this recipe with some of the cheapest and most nutrient-dense greens you can find.
Up your magnesium intake. Magnesium relaxes the blood vessels, which can have an anxiety-reducing effect. Pairing it with some citrus increases the Vitamin C and awakens the body's immune system. Try this salad for an easy, packable lunch high in nutrients & flavor.
When you eat it matters.
More studies are coming out about late-night eating. Any guilty parties? Having three young kids, sometimes it's the only time of day I don't have to share my snacks. Depressive symptoms show up more often in those who eat late at night, those who eat a higher amount of carbohydrates, and those who increase alcohol consumption during the Winter months. While each of these three practices may have a temporary soothing feeling, the long term effect is actually harmful.
Metabolism needs to be consistent for our mood to be consistent. When we get home at night and have a huge meal right before bed but forget to offer our body sustenance during the daytime hours, we tip the scale. Did you know your body has a phase of Rest & Digest after bedtime? When we eat a large meal within a couple hours of bed, or even a large snack, it interrupts the gut's ability to rest and digest and reset for the next day. Where is 95% of our Serotonin found? In our gut, you got it. A happy gut is a happy brain.
Love your gut a little more. Especially in the Winter when starches play a larger role in our dietary choices. Eat an earlier dinner. On nights when you know you'll be later, prep a crock-pot meal (Paleo Chili) and pack some snacks (Carrot Cake Bites - 5 Ingredients) so that you're balancing your timing and loving your gut. Add some of those delicious Omega-3's in the morning with smoked salmon for breakfast to give your brain a happy start.
Why you eat it matters.
Praxy is important, and the aforementioned bodily needs matter. But what matters equally as much is why we choose the things we do. For me? It's nostalgia. Any food or snack that reminds me of being a kid or the happiest seasons of my life are the go-to's. Unfortunately, as a kid I ate graham crackers with frosting on them. Happy gut? Not so much.
This may be one of the more difficult assessments to make, but proven to be effective. When you reach for food (wether it's a snack or a full meal), assess why you want it.
Are you hungry? If so, what have you already eaten that you can add balance to in some way. For example, if you've already had multiple servings of fruit, grab some nuts for a protein and magnesium boost. If you've only had a salad or only had breakfast, grab some lunch meat or a sweet potato.
Are you sad? Try a little light therapy and a citrus drink to wake you up and support your immune system. Grab a friend to talk to for some camaraderie.
Are you sedentary? Have you moved today? Exercising is a proven mood booster, and gets the metabolism of the gut in gear.
Try light therapy, include nutrition, exercise & intention. AND. Winter is a season, set your mind knowing there are a finite number of cold days left. Many studies suggest a Mediterranean-style diet to reduce SAD symptoms. You can do this!
Need a little help planning ahead? That's what I'm here for.