Surviving the Winter Blahs
Winter sucks. Unless you’re a person who enjoys the bitter cold, the short days, and the absurd amounts of various forms of water falling from the sky. Starting in October and culminating around the end of February with the shortest day being December 21, many people suffer from winter blues, or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Sufferers of SAD spend entire winters with a mood level no higher than “meh.” This condition affects up to 6 percent of American adults and as many as 5 percent of children between 9 and 19 years old-although these numbers grow higher the further away you are from the equator. At least another 10 to 20 percent of Americans are estimated to suffer from milder symptoms related to the changing seasons. Women outnumber men four to one. SAD has been recognized since 1845. It is a very real condition, and has been the cause of many suicides and seemingly random acts of erratic behavior.
The lack of light exposure in the winter or an imbalance in the amount of melatonin produced by the pineal gland are believed to be the cause of SAD. A common treatment for SAD is light therapy, a way to replace the sun and make the body think it’s spring all year round. Light therapy may not be a feasible answer for some people, but there are plenty of things you can do yourself free or low cost.
Not all of us suffer chronically with SAD, but we are all prone to overeat in the winter, and to feel seasonal related lows. Our bodies seem to crave carbohydrates, sweet, sugary and starchy foods. Could it be that we are comfort eating to feel good and compensate for light and sun or do we need more calories to keep our bodies warm? Although we are drawn to carbohydrates and even fattier foods in the winter, we can always choose hot satisfying foods like soups and include plenty of fresh fruit and veggies in our diet, which will give that feeling of bulk and supply essential nutrients. If fresh fruit and vegetables are difficult to find in your area in the winter months, frozen ones are the next best choice. There is a part of us that longs to hibernate during the winter months, to go to bed, to snuggle down in the covers and not wake up until spring. But life goes on and few of us are in the position to hibernate! It does make sense though to go with the flow and let our bodies have the extra sleep that they crave. And with adequate sleep, there is less chance of overeating.
Even if we are not always inspired or at our best during the cold months of winter, there is a lot we can do to stay creative, fresh, alive and happy. Just follow these simple tips and beat the winter blues:
Wear layers of clothes rather than heavy pieces to avoid feeling weighed down.
Peppermint essential oil helps with sadness and depression, and is a great energy booster.
Make the most of the season: wrap up and go for a invigorating walk or try a winter sport. Adapt exercise routines to the winter conditions. Keep moving. Don’t forget to keep your head covered when it’s really cold. You can lose anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of body heat otherwise.
Take a multivitamin.
Learn something new. Start a hobby. Developing an interest in something new will make you feel good during those long winter months. Stay sociable and interact with family and friends.
Wear bright colors, even if everyone is wearing dark tones. Color will give you a real lift. You might be surprised at how many of your friends and family will admire you for bringing color into your life and wardrobe.
Bring color into where you live. Paint a room with bright cheerful colors. Bring flowers into your home, fresh when possible, dried or even artificial ones when it’s not. Surround yourself with beauty.
Go ahead and sleep a little longer-embrace the season!
Stay hydrated! The body is often tricked into eating when you are only thirsty! Plus a well hydrated body is less likely to get both sick and depressed.
The capsaicin found in chili peppers boosts energy, enhances circulation and will pick you up from the winter blahs.
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