We’re right in the middle of winter, and it’s about that time when Seasonal Affective Disorder, or the winter blues really start to kick in. Some of us don’t get so affected, but for many, winter blues can mean low mood, depression, trouble sleeping, oversleeping, anxiety, less energy, an increase in skin blemishes, and much more. If you suffer from some of these symptoms, you are not alone! If you live in an area where winter weather affects your mood, it’s important to take measures into your hands to improve your environment where possible. Here are my best tips for fighting the winter blues!
Supplement with Vitamin D Daily
Daily vitamin D supplementation is by far the most important step to combat the winter blues. Vitamin D is needed daily by everyone, and aside from the sun, the supplementation is the only way you can ensure that your body receives enough vitamin D. Foods, even ones that are fortified, cannot possibly give you enough vitamin D daily to compensate for a lack of sunshine in the winter. It is best to begin taking vitamin D from October all the way up to May until the sun is strong enough to give you sufficient vitamin D. This vitamin actually acts more as a hormone in your body, so when levels get low, hormones become imbalanced, neurotransmitters in your brain behave differently, metabolic functions are altered, and other vitamin and mineral levels, such as calcium, can become depleted. Take an absolute minimum of 1000 IU’s of vitamin D daily. However, higher levels are proven to be safe to take. If you really suffer from the winter blues, I suggest a minimum of 2000 – 4000 IU’s daily or more for best results. Ensure you take vitamin D3, as vitamin D2 is not very absorbable. If you are vegan, this is my favourite vegan vitamin D3. I personally take Vitamin D every single day in the winter and notice that I feel significantly different than when I don’t take it. I am somebody who needs to take a lot and be really diligent taking it daily because seasonal affective disorder is something I suffer from yearly during this time.
When the weather is terrible, it’s easy to want to hibernate all the time. But it’s important to get outside as much as possible when the weather allows it. Simply going for a short walk in the winter can expose you to small amounts of vitamin D. Even looking at the sun is incredibly beneficial for uplifting the mood because it produces serotonin, the happy hormone. Moderate exercise and fresh air is important to promote happiness, lift depression, increase energy, and more. Exercising indoors is also beneficial, but make sure to get outside and be in nature at least a few times a week, even on cloudy days.
Set A Sleep Schedule
When the winter blues hit, sleep can be affected in 1 of 2 ways. Many people sleep less because their circadian rhythm (the body’s natural sleep cycle, which is influenced by the sun) is imbalanced. Some people oversleep, because the grey, dreary days don’t stimulate the body to wake up. I suggest setting an alarm and a regular sleep schedule. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day to get your sleep schedule and circadian rhythm on track. This will help to balance hormones, increase energy, and improve mood. You can take melatonin if you have trouble falling asleep.
Avoid staring at screens before bedtime as this very much disrupts the ability for your body to produce melatonin. Over-stimulation from the brightness of screens prevent your body from feeling tired. Furthermore, if you’re watching emotional or scary movies before bed, this will also prevent you from feeling relaxed and sleepy. I recommend turning off all technology in the bedroom a minimum of 1 hour before you would like to fall asleep. Some activities you can do instead to promote sleep include meditation, reading, yoga and stretching, and more.
Tips To Boost Mood
Boosting mood and serotonin levels is really important during the winter, especially if you experience feelings of depression at this time of the year, The sun naturally increases serotonin, so we need to do some mood boosting activities to compensate for the lack of sunshine. Some awesome ways to increase your serotonin levels are:
eating serotonin boosting foods including: bananas, almonds, dates, pumpkin seeds, raw cacao, oats, leafy greens, walnuts, and many more!
find ways to be more positive
spend time in nature
add plants to your home and the rooms you spend most time in
aromatherapy – there are many powerful mood boosting essential oils including bergamot, grapefruit, orange, lavender, frankincense, spearmint, wintergreen, sandalwood, and many more
get a massage
prioritize self-care in your life
book a sunny vacation if you are able to
A combination of these techniques and coping mechanisms can really help to improve symptoms from the winter blues. Practice self-care and make your health and well-being a priority to help get you through these difficult months.
Vitamin D The Sunshine Vitamin – Zolton Rona, MD, MSc
For personal nutrition advice or any questions on this article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org