5 Ways to Beat the Blahs

What to do when all you feel like doing is hibernating.

A winter wonderland it might still be out there, but the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto estimates that as many as 35 per cent of Canadians get the “winter blues” – feeling less positive overall. That’s aside from the two to five per cent that have severe seasonal depression (also known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD) and another 10 to 15 per cent that have a milder form for which symptoms may include lethargy, oversleeping, increased appetite and weight gain. Here are tips to put some spring in your step in case the wonder is wearing off.

1 Step Into the Light
To start, get out of the den at least once a day during daylight hours advises registered dietitian, blogger and columnist Jane Dummer. Sunlight triggers our body’s secretion of serotonin, the hormone that increases alertness and positive mood. Conversely, as sunlight fades our bodies secrete less serotonin and more melatonin, getting us ready for sleep.

Try light therapy, which has shown to be effective in treating SAD. The compact and portable Philips goLITE BLU (from $150) mimics the sun’s spectrum to improve vigour and can also be used to counteract jet lag.

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2 Work Up a Sweat Fight
fatigue with exercise. A regular routine can actually increase energy levels and benefit everyone from healthy adults to people with chronic conditions including diabetes and heart disease. What’s more, exercise helps protect seniors – even those who start working out after age 65 – against mental and physical ailments.

Try a digital trainer. Simply flip on any Internet-enabled screen (computer, tablet, smart TV or mobile) and cue up Evolve Func-tional Fitness (evolvefunctionalfitness.com). Similar to using Netflix, members access instructor-led, low-impact fitness segments based on primal movements (push, pull, squat, lunge, twist, bend and gait) to strengthen the body for activities as fundamental as a brisk walk.

3 Feed the Mind and Body
In MINDfull: Over 100 Delicious Recipes for Better Brain Health (HarperCollins), a science-based cookbook for the brain, author and senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute Dr. Carol Greenwood cites a study in which older adults boosted late-afternoon cognitive performance with a soda-like drink. Greenwood worked with award-winning recipe developer Daphna Rabinovitch to offer all-day options, including Afternoon Brain Boosters like Chili Chocolate Bark with Cherries and Pistachios – better than a can of pop and no doubt tastier. Go here for recipes.

To satiate that 3 p.m. craving Dummer herself suggests a handful of almonds and an ounce (roughly two squares) of dark chocolate (70 per cent or more cocoa). It’s a perfect pick-me-up with healthy fat, vitamin E (used in treatment of diseases including diabetes and Alzheimer’s) and magnesium (getting more of the mineral from your diet might decrease the risk of stroke in hypertensive men) from the nuts as well as mood-boosting properties from the cocoa.

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4 Get What You’re Missing
From November through February, above 42 degrees north latitude, the UV energy is too weak for us – that’s almost all of us Canadians except for those fortunate folks living on our southern-most point of Pelee Island, Ont. – to synthesize vitamin D. Get it from food sources such as egg yolks, fortified milk and certain types of fish including salmon, herring, halibut and tuna. Dummer also suggests two to three meals of fish a week for the omega-3 fatty acids, which enhance brain health and have been shown to improve symptoms of depression, as well as a vitamin D supplement of 1,000 IU a day during the winter months.

Look for a 1,000 mg DHA-EPA combination like Jamieson’s OmegaRED Super Krill – Grandma was on to something with a spoonful of cod liver oil, but these promise no fishy repeat. Now, that’s innovation. And get two in one with Nature’s Bounty Omega-3 With Vitamin D Gummies.

5 Snooze or Lose
When it comes to restorative rest, it’s about quantity and quality. The Mayo Clinic points to the following culprits that can compromise your zzzs: chronic health problems such as arthritis, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease and depression as well as nighttime urination (nocturia), menopause and even medication, so check with your doctor.

Try better sleep strategies like these. Go to bed at the same time each day. Don’t exercise in the evening. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Take a warm bath and try a balm like Aveeno Stress Relief Moisturizing Lotion, containing calming scents of lavender, essential chamomile and ylang-ylang oils or read to relax before bedtime. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and use it for sleep and intimacy only. As well, Jamieson’s Stress Support Night Capsules use melatonin, lemon balm, lavender and chamomile to help you fall asleep faster, for longer and help reset the body’s sleep-wake cycle to get you back on sleep-track.

Zoomer magazine, March 2014