Chilly, gray days making it harder to maintain a healthy, positive mindset? Check out these proven strategies to beat the winter blues.
Do you feel low during the cold, dreary months of winter? There is a scientific explanation for that. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression brought on by the changing seasons. Around 2 million people in the UK, 10 million Americans and more than 12 million Northern Europeans experience seasonal affective disorder, also known as the winter blues. The National Institute of Mental Health defines SAD as a recurrent type of major depression characterized by feelings of hopelessness and despair, exhaustion, difficulties with concentration and sleeping and changes in appetite. Luckily there are things you can do to ease the winter blues. Try these five evidence-based strategies to lift your mood and feel your best this winter:
1. Go for a nature walk
Have you noticed that your mood significantly improves after a jog or a run? Research shows that exercise improves mood, reduces depressive symptoms and alleviates stress. So, exercising daily, even for a few minutes, is excellent for beating the winter blues as it helps improve your mental and gut health. For the best results, exercise or take a walk in nature–it amplifies the cortisol calming effect.
2. Spend time with the “good” bacteria
Did you know spending time with your healthy and happy friends can boost your health and significantly improve your mood? This is due to bacterial transfer. Moreover, emotions are contagious; catching someone's bad mood is as easy as catching germs. Researchers refer to the phenomena of one person's emotions spreading to another as emotional contagion (EC). It involves a range of feelings, from rage, sadness, and fear to joy, enthusiasm, and happiness. So, if you want to beat the winter blues, it is crucial to surround yourself with healthy and positive people.
3. Practice circadian fasting
The body's internal clock is made up of 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms that work in the background to carry out vital processes and functions. If you want to keep the winter blues away, living closer to the circadian rhythms is important. Here’s what you can do to balance your circadian rhythms:
- Try to follow a routine each day
- Spend time outside during the day to balance melatonin levels
- Align your diet to the circadian rhythms–eat only during the daytime, stop eating at sunset and try to only eat within a window of 12 hours or less, and fast for the remaining 12 or more
- Avoid blue light before bed time
- Get adequate sleep
4. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Did you know that what you eat has a significant impact on your mood? An unhealthy diet is one of the top reasons for inflammation. This is why, people with poor eating habits are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. Eating anti-inflammatory foods that your brain and gut bacteria love can fight off the winter blues as they produce more dopamine and serotonin. Poor memory and depression are linked to decreased brain serotonin levels.
5. Take care of your gut
Your mental health is linked to your gut health. Our cravings, emotions and behavior are all influenced by the dopamine, serotonin, hunger hormone mimicker and inflammatory factors produced by our gut bacteria. According to a review published in 2012, probiotic bacteria or antibiotics have shown a role for the gut microbiota in modulating anxiety, mood, cognition and pain in several studies on germ-free animals and animals exposed to pathogenic bacterial infections. So it is equally important to maintain a healthy gut to beat the winter blues.
To learn more about the strategies that can improve your mood and help you overcome the winter blues, schedule your 1:1 consultation with me today, here.