Winter is well under way and unfortunately, sometimes it can bring seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) along with it, also known as the winter blues. Many studies have shown that shorter days, less sunshine and cold temperatures impact your body and mood.
Symptoms of the winter blues include an increased feeling of fatigue, a lack of energy, a depressed mood, a tendency to be withdrawn, an increased sugar craving, an excessive need for sleep and a loss of motivation. But luckily, there’s something you can do about them. Here are our 13 tricks to help you fight the winter blues!
Starting in the 1980s, researchers at the National Institutes of Health in the United States have shown that the human body has a strong dependence on sunlight, which plays a vital role in regulating a number of hormones and biorhythms. Being exposed to little or no sunlight disrupts the chemical neurotransmitters in your brain.
For instance, sunlight keeps your body from producing the sleep hormone called melatonin by triggering serotonin production, which is the happy hormone that fights depression. That’s why the lack of sunlight you experience during the winter months can have negative effects on your mood.
Here are a few ways you can get an extra dose of sunlight, even during this time of the year:
1. Take full advantage of the sun: Getting enough exposure to sunlight is key if you want to reap all its benefits. If the sun’s out, then you should be, too! Take a break, get some fresh air and feel its rays fill you with energy.
2. Let the light in: Natural light will always be better for your health than artificial light. The amount of light output in a given area is measured in “lux.” Artificial light, like the kind in your home or office, is about 500 lux, whereas natural light can reach 100,000 lux. So pulling back the curtains and strategically placing mirrors around your house are a few ways to brighten up your winter’s day.
3. Try light therapy (also known as photography): The main reason for the winter blues is a lack of sunlight, so it makes sense to use rays of light that are stronger than regular light as a way to treat it.
4. Take a trip to a sunny location: If you’re lucky enough to have some time off this winter, why not chase after the sun, wherever it may be? This isn’t the least expensive cure for the winter blues, but it certainly has its perks!
Exercise is a natural antidepressant! Working out on a regular basis is an extremely effective technique in helping you beat the winter blues and all its symptoms, such as fatigue, a lack of motivation, bad eating habits and withdrawal. So save the excuses and hit the mat to get your body producing the neurotransmitters and hormones that will take you back to your happy place.
5. Pump up the serotonin: Just like an exposure to sunlight, physical activity triggers serotonin production, which is a neurotransmitter that’s involved in several neurological processes such as sleep regulation, mood, libido, appetite and body temperature. When you get your muscles moving, that’s when your brain produces serotonin, making you feel more relaxed in your body and mind.
6. Get the dopamine flowing with exercise: Dopamine is the hormone that controls your brain’s reward system. Your body produces it when you exercise because your brain wants to reward you for doing something it thinks is positive. The fact that it makes you feel happy also reduces your feelings of fatigue.
7. Make more endorphins: When you exercise, you also produce endorphins. During and especially after your workout, they make you feel ecstatic and euphoric besides working as an effective painkiller. You can feel their effects for up to four hours after your workout. Generally speaking, they help you defeat the winter blues. Short, intense bouts of cardio are what get your body producing the most endorphins.
You don’t need to eat more in the winter, but to stay healthy, you need to get your daily recommended doses of the nutrients your body and immune system need in order to properly function, such as vitamins, fatty acids and trace elements.
Here are a few nutrition tips to battle the winter blues and get through the season feeling at the top of your game:
8. Fill up on vitamin D: In the winter, you should be making up for a lack of vitamin D caused by less exposure to the sun. Getting enough vitamin D reduces feelings of fatigue and improves your ability to fight infections. Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that this vitamin plays a positive role in softening the symptoms of the winter blues. Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines are loaded with it.
9. Get your vitamin C: When you get enough of this vitamin, it boosts your immune system and helps keep winter illnesses at bay. Citrus fruits like lemons as well as kiwis and exotic fruits make ideal substitutes for summer berries for your daily intake of vitamin C.
10. More magnesium: A magnesium deficiency can cause muscle pain, sleeping problems and excess stress, which can weaken your immune system in and of itself. That’s why you need to be hitting your daily recommended dose of around 3 mg per pound of body weight or 5 to 6 mg per kilo of body weight. To reach this target, you’ve got your choice of spinach, nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), kiwis, bananas, sardines in oil and whole grains, which are all high in magnesium.
11. Opt for foods high in omega-3: Omega-3 is a type of fatty acid your body needs in order to function. It keeps your mood balanced and is great for your heart because it reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils such as canola oil, flax oil (US) / linseed oil (UK), walnut oil and oily fish and green vegetables such as kale and spinach.
You know how cold it gets in winter, how the days get shorter and the sun doesn’t come out as much as it did a few months before. But despite these factors, you have to keep on living and not fall into a winter slump in your everyday routine that has you going from home to work and back again.
12. Spend time with friends and family: Whether it’s your mom or your best friend, enjoy the crisp winter air by going on an invigorating walk together in the countryside, taking in the city culture or doing any other fun activity. Then in the evening, cozy up by the fire and share a tasty meal. Group activities and a warm, comforting atmosphere will definitely give your mood a boost.
13. Stay active: Hypersomnia (or excessive sleepiness) is an uncommon symptom of the winter blues. When affected, sometimes all you want to do is stay in bed, even on the weekends. Get up, get out, get moving and share a laugh to keep your spirits high all winter long.
There are four things to keep in mind if you want to beat the winter blues and stay fit this season: chase the sun, eat a healthy and balanced diet, enjoy the present moment and get physically active on a regular basis.
Experience short, intense workouts with FizzUp fitness training. They’re all equipment free and give you the freedom to work out in the comfort of your own home or outside in a ray of sunshine whenever it peeks through the clouds. All it takes is 20 minutes to get your happy hormones flowing!
What do YOU do to defeat the winter blues?