The holiday season has come and gone, and now we are in what is aptly called the “dead” of winter. Some of you are feeling great (no doubt sticking to those New Year’s Resolutions!); but for the rest of us, the grind of life feels so much more difficult now in February. The cold weather and long nights can make you feel overwhelmed and maybe a little depressed. Here a few simple and effective tips for beating winter blues.
It’s common during this season to suffer from an “I-can’t-wait-for-winter-to-end” feeling that produces mild but manageable sluggishness.
However, about 11 million Americans suffer from a more severe form of winter depression know as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or “SAD”). This type of depression relates to seasonal changes starting in the fall, running throughout winter, and even into spring.
Its symptoms include:
- Feeling down and unsociable
- Low energy/fatigue
- Appetite changes/overeating
- Weight gain
SAD is a serious matter. You should talk to a doctor about it if you’re concerned; but if you’re just trying to beat the winter blues, take your happiness into your own hands with these simple suggestions.
Reduce and Eliminate Sugar
We all know we eat too much sugar, but it’s mostly harmless, right? You’d be surprised. Eating excessive sugar can cause inflammation and insulin resistance, which are the culprits behind brain fog, fatigue, issues with regulating hormones, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. Dr. Ray Strand in his Healthy for Life book clearly outlines the the negative impact of eating high-glycemic carbohydrates and the benefits of significantly reducing them from ones diet.
Sources of sugar include bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, and processed foods. Eliminate these high-glycemic carbohydrates and get the sugar you need from fruit and vegetables instead.
If you must use sweeteners, avoid synthetic sweeteners like Aspartame or Sucralose. Try natural sweeteners like Stevia or Xylitol that won’t spike your blood sugar.
Eat Healthy Fats
Too often, people say, “I’m going to cut all fat out of my diet.” The truth is that not all fats are bad—and some fat is necessary! Your body uses fat to build cell membranes, brain cells, nerves, and many hormones.
The problem is eating the wrong kinds of fats. Here are some healthy fats that Dr. Ray Strand in his Healthy for Life program recommend: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, butter, unpasteurized cheese, grass-fed meats, wild-caught Pacific fish, nuts, and seeds.
Eat High Quality Protein
Protein is essential for our existence. Our muscles, skin, hair, eyes, and nails are primarily made of protein. Your individual protein needs will vary based on your size, body fat percentage, and physical activity levels; however, many nutritionists and health care experts agree on a general daily guideline of 56 grams for men and 45 grams for women.
Here is a ranking of protein sources:
- Best—nuts, avocadoes, olives, beans, soy, legumes, broccoli, chia seeds, and hemp seeds
- Pretty Good—cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, and tuna
- Okay—fowl (but don’t eat the skin, which contains a lot of saturated fat)
- Poor—red meats and dairy products
Take a Vitamin D Supplement
Reports continue to show that populations around the world suffer from vitamin D deficiency, especially those at a higher latitude. Vitamin D is an important factor in the maintenance of good health; it can have potentially severe repercussions for overall health, not just the winter blues.
In November 2010, the US Food and Nutrition Board and Health Canada responded to the growing evidence of vitamin D’s importance by revising their recommended daily intake. The new reference standard calls for 600 IU/day, with a Safe Upper Limit of 4,000 IU/day.
The US Surgeon General issued a statement in the early 1980’s that even a modest exercise program provides the following health benefits:
- Weight loss
- Lower blood pressure
- Stronger bones and decreased risk of osteoporosis
- Lower total cholesterol levels
- Enhanced immune system
- Improved sensitivity to insulin
- Improved energy and mental clarity
- Overall increase in sense of well-being
You need to exercise consistently over a long period of time for maximum health benefits, even if it’s something simple. Do a 30-45 minute aerobic exercise (like a brisk walk) five times weekly.
I also recommend yoga; it improves flexibility, increases strength and coordination, releases stress, and offers a sense of serenity.
Some people find light therapy effective for combating seasonal depression. If your exercise includes a walk, do it in the middle of the day to gain the benefits of sunlight. Another way to get light therapy at home is by sitting in front of a light box for a couple of hours. Light boxes provide bright light at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting.
Keeping in touch with family and friends can be a great way to beat the winter blues! Try accepting every invitation you get to socialize. Something as simple as meeting a friend for coffee can have a huge effect on your well-being. Look online for groups doing activities you find interesting—playing cards, painting, scrapbooking, bowling, etc. Take an exercise or business class or learn a second language; it’s important to have something to look forward to!
Take a nice, deep breath, and be grateful; these winter blues won’t last forever! Eat healthier, take vitamin D, take walks in the sunshine, and be social, and spring will be here before you know it!
Sheila Dancho is a certified Sanoviv Medical Institute Nutrition Advisor. She has over 20 years’ experience in the health and wellness industry and has helped thousands of people improve their lives. She’s also the Founder and President of Wealthy Network Marketing Women. To learn more about how she can help you to become Healthy and Wealthy, visit www.sheiladancho.com.
Strand, R.D. (2005) Healthy for Life. Rapid City, SD: Real Life Press
USANA. (2014) Product Information 2014