The months of January and February can bring on a blue mood for many of us.
The mornings and evenings are dark. The weather is often gloomy and bleak. Never mind when the deep freeze sets in for those of us in the colder regions. Or the days of seemingly endless grey wet weather for those on the coasts.
This often leaves us feeling lethargic. Our eating and sleeping patterns fluctuate and our poor habits in these times can exacerbate this funky mood. We often refer to this as the winter blues.
There are a few simple ways you can beat back the blues and reset the serotonin level in your brain.
Lace up your shoes or skates and head outside.
Admittedly, getting exercise at this time of year can sometimes be a bit of a chore. The weather doesn’t always cooperate and finding the motivation can be challenging. Depending on the climate where you live, it may be easier or more difficult to get outside and move the body. However, it’s been demonstrated that a vigorous amount of aerobic activity for at least 20 minutes four times a week can turn around a depressive mood. If you aren’t the athletic type, this can be as simple as a brisk-paced walk or finding a set of stairs to climb up and down for the duration of your activity.
Sunlight is one to the best ways we get our daily dose of vitamin D to help moderate our mood. Try to spend at least 15 minutes every day outdoors.
You can double up the mood-boosting power by exercising when the sun is shining. Even on gloomy days, it’s helpful to get outside.
However, when the sun is tucked away behind a thick layer of clouds, we can also get vitamin D through our diet.
It’s almost too easy to find comfort in greasy, refined carbohydrates when we’re feeling glum. Pizza, doughnuts and potato chips seem all the more appealing when we’re feeling down. But these foods negatively impact our bodies a few ways. First, they tend to be high in fat and sodium which aside from the potential long-term health consequences of heart disease and diabetes, tend to lead to poor quality sleep. That, in turn, makes us feel more lethargic. Foods high in trans fats may also impair our brain function.
But you can boost your blue mood with food by adding those high in vitamin D, like fatty fish and fish oil, in your diet. There are many foods sold today that have been fortified with vitamin D so look at those in stores. Finally, switch up the fried foods for leafy greens high in iron and fresh vegetables whether you are steaming, boiling or broiling them in the oven.
Consuming protein and complex carbohydrates will keep you more full between meals, better manage your blood sugar level and lessen the desire for sugary snacks throughout the day.
Maintain a sleep routine
Getting enough regular, quality sleep at night is really important to maintaining a good mood. There may be physical reasons you can’t sleep properly at night, whether it’s a body pain or problems breathing, and those need to be addressed.
Those physical ailments or conditions aside, a few tips for getting quality sleep include:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- Creating a routine that lets your brain know it’s time to go to sleep
- Avoid using your phone in the bedroom
- If you’re the type of person whose mind races and takes a long time to settle down, it could be helpful to write down all the things that are worrying you to allow you to set it aside for the night and tackle it in the morning.
If you’re feeling down and can’t seem to find a way to cheer yourself up, mindful meditation might help you turn your mood around.
There are plenty of great resources available explaining how to begin a meditation practice.
The reason it may work for you is that meditation allows you the space to pay attention to thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative, without criticizing yourself for having them. Rather than push them away, meditations encourages you to notice the thought, accept and acknowledge it. When you practice meditation regularly, you’ll learn to pay attention and manage your emotions as they come to you rather than reacting to these emotions.
It takes time to master so don’t expect it to happen overnight. But its benefits are tangible.
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