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Chase Away Those Cold Weather Blues

9/14/2011 11:09:28 AM

Tags: Cold, Winter, SAD, Depression, Health, Medicine Cabinet

J.PattonToday, I woke up this morning to a less than cheery sight—dreary, gray skies, sprinkles pinging off my bedroom window and a daily forecast with a high of 67 degrees. There’s no doubt about it, folks—fall is on its way.

I admit that the end of my favorite season is quite a bummer. Each year, I dread the endless span of sunless days and frigid temperatures that start around October. And I’m not alone. In fact, some Americans (one in six) even suffer from a depression caused by the change in seasons called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms, which include depression, hopelessness, loss of energy and anxiety, are usually triggered around the beginning of fall and carry on into the winter months.

It's easy to understand why gray skies and cold temperatures can bring you down.
Photo by gurdonark/Courtesy

Even if you don’t suffer from this type of depression, some days the winter blues are simply impossible to shake. Luckily, there are a few changes you can make to raise your spirits:

Exercise regularly. Getting daily exercise isn’t only important to warding off obesity—it can also make you happier. Studies show physical exercise is great for relieving stress and anxiety. It also helps you feel better about your body—so get moving!

Go outside. Walking around outside when temperatures are below freezing may not seem like the healthiest idea, but research shows that getting outside and soaking up the sun can boost your mood significantly. For best results, pay Mother Nature a visit within two hours of waking up each morning.

Get adequate sleep. This may seem basic, but not getting enough sleep at night may make you cranky and irritable the next day. Sleep directly relates to how much serotonin your body produces, which is one of the chemicals required for good mental health. So, hit the sack at a decent hour each night. 

Eat mood-boosting foods. It’s true—there are some foods that have been proven to fight depression and bring a smile to your face.

• Foods high in vitamin B12 and folic acid (folate) help keep mood disorders, dementias and disorders of the central nervous system away. A few foods high in folic acid include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, parsley, broccoli and lentils. Meat, fish, poultry and dairy products contain vitamin B12.

• Mom always said to eat your fruits and veggies—and here’s yet another reason why mothers simply know best. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and nutrients that will help support your health during the winter months, and a healthy body equals a happier body.

• Eating a diet high in whole grains provide your body with an antioxidant called selenium, which has been proven to help minimize lousy moods. Selenium is often found in whole grains, including brown rice, whole-brain bread and oatmeal.

• When you’re feeling down in the dumps, visit your grocery store’s seafood section for some relief. Fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as herring, rainbow trout, salmon and tuna, have been proven to lessen the symptoms of depression.

• A vitamin D deficiency may be a major culprit when it comes to your winter blues. Studies show that people can help manage their moods by getting adequate vitamin D during the winter months. Since the majority of our vitamin D intake comes from the sun, this may be tricky. However, vitamin D can also be found in foods like fatty fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.

Giving a few of these methods a try during the gloomy months ahead may make winter a little more bearable. However, if you’re still suffering from sad thoughts and hopelessness, pay your doctor a visit for a proper diagnosis and treatment options. 

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