The holidays are coming to a close and as we head into January and February, we see the end of a brief period marked with celebrations, social gatherings, and good spirits. Most of us have spent the last month preparing for and engaging in endless social gatherings and we look forward to a time of calmness, where we can hopefully relax at the end of a day instead of having to rush here and there, searching for the perfect gift for that someone special, or an amazing appetizer to bring to one event of another. But while we are looking forward to rest, relaxation, and peace, something sinister creeps in. We become more aware of the absence of sunlight in our days; leaving for work or school in the dark and returning home in the dark. The bills start rolling in, and we wonder how we could have spent so much money. All around us, our friends and family are returning to their pre-Christmas schedules; social gatherings are no longer a priority and we start feeling lonely.
The Winter Blues are upon us.
You find yourself increasingly tired, moody, or even anxious. Sticking to your New Year’s resolution to eat better is near impossible thanks to cravings for sweet, refined and processed foods. Even if there were social activities on the horizon, you’d likely skip them in favor of your favorite pj’s and a plan to binge-watch Netflix with a giant bowl of buttery popcorn and family-sized bag of M&M’s.
According to the dictionary, winter is a time “characterized by coldness, misery, barrenness, or death”. It’s no wonder many of us feel a little (or more than a little) blue this time of year. But we don’t have to.
Here are 6 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues:
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
The holiday season is filled with rich foods and we spend most of it over-eating. It is very easy to continue on well into the New Year, as cravings for sweets and simple carbohydrates take hold. But these cravings, while good for a brief pick-me-up, can lead to further depression once the body has burned through them and blood sugar levels drop. Instead of cookies, pies and potatoes, reach for complex carbs. Complex carbohydrates, or “good carbs”, require our bodies to work harder to digest, meaning that their energy is released over a longer period of time.
Increasing your intake of winter vegetables and fruits is one way of improving your mood effortlessly. Not only is eating what is in season easier on your wallet, seasonal eating may also be better for your body.
See these great articles on the benefits of eating for the seasons:
Changing your Diet for the Seasons, Shape Magazine
Seasonal Eating, Cleveland Clinic Wellness
Control Your Winter Appetite, WebMD
Eat in Sync with the Seasons, Body and Soul
The Best Recipes for Winter Vegetables, Cooking Light
Winter Vegetables, About.com, Local Foods
2. Keep Active.
Exercise is a known mood enhancer, raising the brain’s levels of “feel good chemicals”, serotonin and endorphins. Even if getting outside in the cold seems too daunting, including 30 to 60 minutes of activity 3 or more days a week could improve your mood exponentially.
3. Regulate Your Sleep Patterns
Getting the right amount of sleep is essential any time of the year, but it becomes of paramount importance when battling Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). With more hours without sunlight, it is easier to sleep more during the winter, and it is more than tempting to sleep in on a lazy Saturday morning, but keeping a set sleep schedule will keep your body and mind in tip top shape. Go to bed and awaken at the same time every day – even lazy Saturdays.
4. Be Social
Isolating yourself can make depressive symptoms worse, while the opposite is true of socializing. Make seeing friends and family a priority; doing so has been shown to be good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues.
5. Stay Warm
Who likes being cold? No one, that’s who. Being cold has been proven to increase feelings of depression. This winter, avoid the temptation to skimp on warmth in favor of fashion and dress for the cold. Hot foods and drinks are another way to keep warm, but be mindful of what they are comprised of. A hearty winter vegetable soup and herbal teas are preferable to simple carbs and sugar-laden flavored coffees.
6. Get lit
In 1981, psychiatrist Daniel F. Kripke, MD, conducted the world’s first controlled study of light therapy for depression. Since then, several studies have been done on the efficacy of light therapy in the treatment of depression, and more specifically, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), or the Winter Blues.
A Canadian study put light therapy in a head to head competition with a commonly prescribed antidepressant (fluoxetine), and the results show equal improvement in both groups, however the subjects using light therapy showed faster improvement than their counterparts taking fluoxetine.
Kripke himself found the same results; “The response time to [light therapy] is quite rapid, often within a week or two, which is more rapid than the response to antidepressant drugs or psychotherapy,” he said in an article in Psychiatric Times. “But my reading is that antidepressants by themselves are not as effective as light therapy by itself,” says Kripke to WebMD. He notes in a 1998 study that light therapy brought relief to many patients within one week, while antidepressants took about eight weeks.
In the winter, lack of sunlight causes the body to over-produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates your body clock and sleep patterns and has been linked to depression.
Michael Terman, PhD, director of the Winter Depression Program at New York Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Medical Center, says “The body clock takes its cue from sunlight, especially that in the morning. But as you get [further away from the equator], there’s a 4 ½ hour delay in sunrise in mid-winter versus the summer. This difference is enough to affect circadian rhythm timing and throw the body clock out of sync.”
By incorporating light therapy into your daily routine, you can assist your body in maintaining its circadian rhythm. When it comes to using lights to relieve depressive symptoms, “Timing is very important. By administering it first thing in the morning, you keep your body clock on its springtime cycle during the winter, and that’s how the depressive symptoms are lifted,” says Terman.
To learn more, Kripke has an online book available here.
How to use In Light Wellness Systems to Help Beat the Winter Blues:
The key to using light to alleviate symptoms of depression is the eyes. “Light enters the eye, which activates a body clock system that is similar to what controls seasonal breeding and hibernation in animals,” says psychiatrist Daniel F. Kripke, MD.
Upon waking up in the morning, place the Facemask* over the eyes, place a Red or Blue Body/264** pad on the low back, covering the adrenal glands, and place a Red or Blue Local/132** pad over the chest, covering the heart area. Run setting A.
*Use ONLY the Facemask when covering the eyes. In Light Wellness Systems & Whole Health at Home do not recommended any other pad over the eyes.
**Any pad can be used in place of the Body or Local pads, so long as they cover the areas they are intended to cover.
© Trina Waller and Western Canadian Health Products Ltd., 2014 – 2017. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this article, and the material contained within, without express written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given the post author, Western Canadian Health Products Ltd., and WholeHealthatHome.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be construed as such. Light devices are not intended to cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. If you have a disease or illness, consult with your physician or health care provider prior to using any light device. Use only as directed by manufacturer.
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