Friday, December 19, 2014

Beat The Winter Blues

As Promised by the Fat To Fit Radio Show...

Beat The Winter Blues

It's that time of year again when the days are shorter and the nights are colder. This time of year even the best of us can feel down. The "winter blues" are characterized by the mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during this cold season. These 10 tips will help you beat the winter blues.

1. Exercise
Exercise isn't only for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. It's known to be a great stress reliever that also helps release chemicals called endorphin's which put you in a better mood.  Plus, the effects of a good workout can last for several hours after you hit the showers. You’ll have more energy throughout the day, and your metabolism with stay elevated too. 

2. Eat a Healthy Diet
What and when you eat has a great affect on your mood and energy. Avoid refined and processed foods (like white breads, rice, and sugar). These foods are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood—causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Try to incorporate more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, fruit) and get your daily 8 cups of water. These healthy foods provide your body (and mind) with nutrients, and stabilize your blood sugar and your energy levels. 

3. Get Some Sun
Most people know that sunlight provides us with Vitamin D. But did you know that it also improves your mood? Winter days are shorter and darker than other months, and because of the cold weather, a lot of people spend less and less time outdoors. Lack of sunlight can cause many people to become depressed—without knowing why! Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Try to spend a little more time outdoors.  Keep your shades up during the day to let more light in. Sit near windows in restaurants and during class. Try changing the light bulbs in your house to "full spectrum" bulbs. These mimic natural light and actually have the same affects on your mind as the real thing. 

4. Act on your Resolutions
A recent study from the CDC showed a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Women who exhibited healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, etc.) had less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy. Although researchers studied women, the results are likely similar in men. 

5. Avoid Binge Drinking
Staying in with a cold beer or a nice glass of wine may seem like the only thing to do in the winter months, and many people who feel down also tend to turn to alcohol when they’re feeling down. But alcohol is actually a depressant, and rather than improving your mood, it only makes it worse. Avoiding alcohol when you are already depressed is a good idea. Moderate drinking is fine for most people, but binge drinking (defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting) is never a healthy choice. The morning after will have you feeling sick, depressed, and even more tired, which will affect many aspects of your life. This will make your low energy and bad mood even worse. 

6. Treat Yourself
Having something to look forward to can keep anyone motivated. Winter seems endless! But if you plan something exciting, your mood improves when you’re anticipating it and when the event actually comes. Plan something that’s exciting to you, or  a special event like a play, girls (or guys) night out, or sporting event. 

7. Relax!
We are all busy with life, work, class, family, friends, appointments, meetings—even if you enjoy being busy, everyone needs some down time. Don’t be afraid to say "No" to extra opportunities. Try to spend a few minutes each day doing nothing or something for yourself. Read a book or magazine, sleep in on the weekend, go to bed early, try some meditations, or take a yoga class. Relaxation, especially in the form of yoga, can alleviate stress and leave you with a calm energy. Mental exercises like meditation and positive thinking can help keep depression at bay. 

8. Embrace the Season
Instead thinking negatively about the cold weather try to change your attitude and look for the best that it has to offer. Take up a winter sport like ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, or even sledding! Staying active will boost your energy. Seeing winter in a positive light, with all the fun activities that it has to offer, will keep your spirits high. 

9. Get Social Support
The power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors is not to be underestimated. Keep a mental list of these special people and don’t be afraid to ask for help or encouragement when you need it. Something as simple as a phone call, a chat over coffee, or a nice email or letter can brighten your mood. Socializing makes us happy.

10. Catch some Zzzz’s
The cold weather naturally makes people want to sleep more. However, this busy time of year makes it hard to get the sleep you need. With a little time management, and some self-discipline, you can meet your shut-eye needs. If you get 7-8 hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent your sleeping patterns can normalize and you’ll have more energy. Oversleeping on the weekend can actually make you MORE tired. Don’t forget naps! A short (10-30 minute) afternoon nap may be all you need to re-energize midday.

Nichols, Nicole. "10 Cool Ways to Beat the Winter Blues." Spark People. Web. 19. Dec.2014.

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