5 Steps for Mental Wellness This Winter



As we move towards the holiday season, which I love, I have to mentally prepare for the cooler weather.  Thankfully the spring-like temperatures are lingering around longer.  I love the summer but I’m slowing learning to embrace the winter without a meltdown…my struggle is real. 

For so many people this change of season can cause winter depression or “winter blues.” Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a form of depression in which people experience depressive episodes during specific times of the year.  The most common time of the year for SAD is during the winter.  Approximately 3% of the US population suffers from SAD.

Some of the symptoms include:

·       Oversleeping

·       Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates

·       Weight gain

·       Tiredness or low energy

Potential Causes of SAD:

-Melatonin levels in the body can be disrupted during the seasonal change.  The darkness, due to shorter days, increases the body’s production of melatonin. This chemical is responsible for our sleep patterns and mood.

-Vitamin D production is lower because of the reduced sunlight.  Adequate levels of vitamin D are needed to produce serotonin, which is a major neurotransmitter involved in mood. 

-Circadian rhythm, aka, the “body clock” is a cycle that tells our body when to sleep, rise and even eat. This rhythm is affected by environmental cues like sunlight and temperature.  A growing body of research has shown the adverse health effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm such as cardiovascular illness, obesity, depression and bipolar disorder.

For people who suffer from bipolar disorder, the fall and winter months can be a time of depression.

If you find yourself battling these symptoms, don’t try to white-knuckle your way through it. Talk to a physician or mental wellness expert to get a conventional as well as a holistic treatment plan.
 
Here are some things you can do this winter to improve your mental wellness:

1. Get enough sleep.  You need to aim for eight hours per night.  Most people compromise in this area but your body heals when you’re sleeping.  Actress/singer Jennifer Lopez “swears by eight hours a night as her number-one beauty secret.” That's a double bonus.  

2. Workout with friends. During the winter most people hibernate or have limited social interactions aside from work.  By working out with friends, you can get the exercise you need and socialize.

3. Exchange your morning coffee for some hot apple cider. YUM! According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no “clear link between caffeine intake and depression,” however, caffeine can cause sleep problems that affect mood.  Caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

4. Incorporate light therapy by getting up earlier for a morning walk in the sun or purchasing a light box.  You can sit under a light box in the morning for 30-60 minutes or use a technique called “dawn simulation” in which a light is programmed to turn on in the morning in your bedroom.

5. Winter nutrition. According to Ayurvedic medicine eating with the season allows your body to return to its natural rhythm.  Paul Douillard, DC and Ayurvedic practitioner, during the fall and winter our bodies call for food high in protein and fat. Douillard says that the body naturally craves soups, nuts, warm grains, and protein like meat and fish during the winter to stay warm.

So I’m headed out to purchase new bed pillows, apple cider, and vegetables for my soups while walking in the sunlight with a friend!

Let me know in the comments below which practices you will incorporate this winter.

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