If you find yourself feeling sluggish, tired, and a bit depressed during the winter months, don’t worry—it’s not just you! In fact, feelings of sadness during the long, dark, cold winter months is so common that it has been classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Appropriately named, SAD is classified as a type of depression that often occurs annually, beginning in the autumn and continuing into the winter. The key causes for this shift in mood in many folks is the lack of sunlight and shorter days that winter brings. Sunlight is our main source of vitamin D—our sunshine vitamin—which helps keep us happy and glowing brightly. As the days get shorter through the fall and winter season, many of us miss out on this key factor in health and happiness since we might work during the day, only to go home when the sun is already setting. It’s tough to feel sunshiney and happy when the majority of your day is literally dark. The lack of sunlight affects our circadian rhythms and neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the brain that help regulate sleep, mood, and appetite. So yes, if you’re feeling sluggish, tired, and unhappy, that might be why!
Symptoms of SAD might be mild or severe, depending on the individual. They are wide ranging, causing things like depression, impaired concentration, fatigue, low libido, carbohydrate cravings, anxiety, mood swings, weight gain, lethargy, and low motivation. I know, none of this sounds too fun—so if you’re starting to think that we just painted a picture of how you’re feeling lately, or even if you want to help prevent feeling these things throughout the winter, we have some practical tips and tools that can help you battle SAD, lift your mood, and feel as bright as you would on a hot summer day.
Get moving! Physical activity and exercise is one of the number-one things you can do to lift your mood and alleviate feelings of depression. In the winter, this might seem tough when the wind chill is -16, but there are many ways to get your body moving. Join an indoor hot yoga class, or look some up on YouTube in the comfort of your own home. Have a mini dance party to start your day off with some energy. Take your dog for a brisk walk, or enjoy one on your own in nature—it is the BEST mood therapy! Even if it’s freezing outside, if you layer your clothing, your body will start to feel warm once you’re moving. It won’t take long before you’re enjoying the brisk outdoors and feeling happier.
Include protein in every meal. This one is so important! Protein is a vital building block for neurotransmitters like serotonin, your happy hormone that helps boost your mood, curb carb cravings, and stabilize your blood sugar. Each meal you eat should include some clean protein, whether from naturally-raised, antibiotic-free meats, nuts and seeds, free range eggs, raw milk cheese, protein powder, or other sources.
Eat a rainbow of veggies. While we’re on the topic of food and nutrition, make your veggies count! Vegetables contain many mood-boosting vitamins and minerals, and to help ensure you taking advantage of all they have to offer, make sure you eat a variety of colours. Each different colour, like white/yellow, red/purple, green, blue, and orange, has different health benefits and properties that all add up to one big happy effect. Make up half your plate each meal with veggies and feel bright in no time.
Eliminate processed and packaged foods. These types of foods not only contain things like refined sugar, preservatives, and other harmful ingredients, but they also likely contain unnecessary chemicals that are devoid of nutrition and minerals that your body actually needs. You might be consuming enough food through processed and packaged foods, but if it doesn’t have the right building blocks that your body needs to be healthy, you’re doing more harm than good. Steer clear of processed and packaged foods and choose real, whole foods instead.
Stay hydrated. Often when we feel tired, moody, or sluggish, all we really need is a glass of water. Though you might not be as hot or thirsty in the winter, make sure you’re still staying hydrated with a variety of healthy beverages like water, herbal teas, and green teas. Ginger tea is a great herbal tea to warm you up after being outside in the cold, and Siberian ginseng is an herbal tea that can help boost energy and vitality in the body. Green tea contains the amino acid l-theanine, which provides a clam, focused energy and helps feel relaxed. One of Janet’s favourite teas is Oatstraw, which has shown to boost mood, reduce anxiety, help you feel an overall sense of calm, and even eliminate headaches. Try her challenge of drinking a cup a day and see how you feel! All of these are great choices for hydration! Just remember that caffeinates beverages and alcohol detract from your body’s hydration needs—so be sure to replenish if you consume these drinks.
Enjoy Mineral Matrix. Francis Mineral Matrix is a whole-food source of more than 25 naturally-occurring macro and trace minerals that our bodies recognize and use with ease. Often, we are missing minerals in our diet, and Mineral Matrix can help fill in the gaps that we have. Made from pure dehydrated goat whey, this is an all-natural beverage that provides many building blocks we need to improve health, have more energy, better our mood, balance hormones, and so much more. It mixes easily into hot water and is delicious on its own as a hot drink with some cinnamon, or made into Janet’s Mineral Matrix Hot Chocolate with cocoa powder, hot water, heavy cream, cinnamon, and a touch of maple syrup or stevia. Comforting, warming, and nourishing!
Power up with superfoods. Include some superfoods in your diet to provide you with loads of minerals, nutrients, and energizing benefits. Some great options include goji berries, cacao nibs, raw cacao, and sea vegetables. All of these will help boost mood and help you feel better!
Load up on fats. Healthy fats, that is. Healthy fatty acids can help to positively impact your mood, and most of us are not getting enough healthy fats. Choose a high potency fish oil that includes a high concentration of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA. This has been shown through studies to benefit mood. Also, choose healthy fat-containing foods like coconut and olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut butter ghee, and free-range eggs.
Select some key supplements. Some individuals may require mega doses of specific nutrients to help stabilize their mood and feel better, especially in the winter moods. Some supplements that have been shown to positively affect mood include B vitamins, magnesium, fish oil, vitamin C, and St. John’s Wort. Adaptogenic herbs also help nourish your adrenal glands, which are the masters of your hormones, so explore rhodiola, ashwagandha, holy basil, and astragalus. Many of these come in combination supplements or in tea form. To figure out what supplements might work best for you, come and talk to our experienced supplements staff or make an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor in your community. We have lots that we can recommend!
Sometimes if you’re feeling more affected by SAD than usual, your body might be telling you that it needs some rest. It’s important sometimes to know when to turn off your batteries and recharge. Accept the natural rhythm of the winter months and use this time to give yourself permission to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Enjoy a warm bath in Epsom salts, do some deep breathing, curl up with a book, or even take a nap. Sometimes rest really is the best medicine.
Still looking for more help? We have knowledgeable, experienced and helpful supplements staff at every Goodness Me! location who would be happy to help you figure out a solution that works for you! Ask us about Seasonal Affective Disorder and some foods and supplements that might boost your mood, and we can help put together a plan. Or, ask us about some naturopathic doctors or other health experts in your community, and we can help you out there, too. Until then, enjoy these tips for a happier winter!