For day 13 of 31 Days of Healthy Ways to Enjoy the Holidays More we’re talking about how to avoid getting SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) this holiday season. Your tip today is to arm yourself against SAD with these strategies to keep seasonal depression from ruining your holiday mojo.
Winter technically hasn’t even started yet but the days are shorter and the nights longer which we’re exposed to less daylight. This can disrupt our sleep cycle, affect our mood, sex drive and even cause crazy food cravings. Do you find you have a hard time getting out of bed this time of year? Do you feel cranky and overwhelmed? Is that double burger from Five Guys impossible to resist? You might have a tinge of SAD and it can make winter seem even longer than it is. So what can you do about it?
Take a Vitamin D3 Supplement
Vitamin D is responsible for several important functions in the body, including regulating the immune system, building strong bones, and keeping muscles and nerves functioning. Our bodies create vitamin D for all these vital processes through exposure to the sun. Unfortunately, people living in the northern hemisphere can’t produce enough Vitamin D during the colder months because we’re at a farther angle to the sun. There are only a handful of foods that contain Vitamin D naturally (cod liver oil, egg yolks, beef liver, swordfish and salmon). Odds are this time of the year, you’re getting most of your vitamin D from fortified dairy and cereals but the form that is used for those foods (D2) is not as effective as D3. Research suggests that low levels of Vitamin D contribute to seasonal depression and since we’re not able to get it from enough sun exposure or from our food sources, the next best thing to do is to take a supplement.
The Vitamin D Council recommends adults take 5000 IU a day during the winter months if they suspect they have a deficiency. Vitamin D is a powerful supplement so if you are on any medications or have any medical conditions you should talk to your doctor about whether vitamin D is right for you.
Stock up on Omega 3s
There are a whole world of health benefits associated with the consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids, including improvement of depression symptoms and cognitive function. Studies have shown a correlation between low levels of Omega 3s and depression and with our long winter it’s important to make sure you get enough of them.
Eat wild caught fatty fish once or twice a week and be sure to check out the mercury content of those you buy regularly. If you’re not a huge fan of fish, a fish oil supplement is a great idea. Look for one that contains both DHA and EPA and has been tested (and passed) by IFOS for purity, stability and heavy metal levels.
If you’re vegetarian, load up on walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower to get your Omega 3s. The health benefits are a little less powerful than eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement but it’s far better than going without.
Eat up Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are awesome because they’re loaded lots of goodies including magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc and tryptophan. They’re also a good source of fiber, protein and those fab omega 3 fatty acids we talked about earlier. The reason they’re good food for people suffering from SAD is because of the tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that converts into serotonin in the body. Serotonin is known for helping us get a good night’s sleep as well as preventing depression. Eating foods high in tryptophan will help you get a good night’s sleep, prevent depression and even reduce social anxiety.
Other good sources of tryptophan are egg whites, spirulina, Atlantic cod, milk, chicken, game meat and sesame seeds.
Exercise is a well known mood booster. All that hard work releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine! Your body and brain loves these chemicals. Studies show that a regular exercise program can improve mild to moderate depression. It’s probably related to the release of those chemicals but there’s also something to be said for the personal satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with finishing a hard workout. Put on your sneakers and get moving.
I hope some of these strategies come in handy so you can feel good all winter long.