Whether it’s SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or just a common case of the blahs, try these simple strategies to boost your energy and beat the cold weather blues.
The winter blues is a lesser form of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but can still be debilitating,” says Jonathan Prousky, chief naturopathic medical officer at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.
SAD is characterized by fall and winter depressions, excessive sleeping, increased appetite with carbohydrate cravings and weight gain.
Research suggests that a lack of bright light and low levels of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical and vitamin D may contribute to this condition. Although SAD does not increase with age, it is more prevalent among women and patients with pre-existing mood disorders, adds Prousky.
Whether you have SAD or just a common case of the blahs, try these 10 simple strategies to boost your energy and feel what a cheering effect they have.
1 | Try a mini-spa in the shower. Alternate the water temperature from hot to cold — one minute hot followed by one minute cold, repeated three times — to speed up metabolism and boost circulation, thus eliminating sluggishness. The Swedes have long used hot/cold to increase vitality.
2 | Turn on a light box. “Research suggests that using a light box to deliver intense, bright light (between 2,500 and 10,000 illuminance, or lux) early in the morning (7 a.m. or earlier) is effective in lifting the winter blues,” says Prousky. Commercially available light boxes use the full spectrum of light found in nature to restore levels of mood-regulating brain chemicals.
“The therapeutic response time is generally two to four days, with greater improvements occurring within one week. Side effects are virtually nonexistent when the boxes are used properly, and there is no damage to the retina. Patients with risk factors for retinal damage such as diabetes, cataract surgery and photosensitizing medications should be monitored by an eye doctor and regular doctor.”
3 | Turn on to D. “There is a link between vitamin D and mood during the winter months, and Canadians — particularly those over 50 — have significantly lower levels of this mood-boosting vitamin,” says Alan C. Logan, PhD, a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School Mind/Body Medical Institute. This is largely because vitamin D is manufactured in the body in response to sun exposure on the skin, explains Logan.
“In addition to its importance for bone health, vitamin D has been shown to support normal communication between brain cells. Studies have shown that oral vitamin D 400 to 600 IU supplementation is helpful in easing depression and warding off the winter blues among older adults.”
And, when possible, get outside for short periods while the sun is shining.
4 | Exercise regularly. Physical activity is crucial to avoiding and combating winter blues. You’ll get a natural high from the release of endorphins, and your energy levels will remain high for a while after you stop exercising. Toronto fitness expert Eva Redpath suggests getting outdoors and breathing fresh air.
“Winter can be one of the most beautiful times of year. Walk the dog after dinner, go skating, organize a ski trip, make a date and try snowshoeing.”
5 | Make time for breakfast. A healthy and high-energy winter begins with eating breakfast every day, says registered dietitian Stacey Segal, as it replenishes blood glucose levels in the brain. You’ll notice improved strength and endurance that last into late morning.
Segal recommends breakfast cereals as they are a good source of protein while being low in calories and fat to help you manage your weight. In the winter, she tops cereal with frozen blueberries for an added hit of anti-oxidants to help a stressed immune system.