Is winter getting you down? As the weather gets colder, all we want to do is curl up by the fireplace (or our dorm room heaters) and hibernate. Although comfort food and cozy nights keep us warm, they also take a toll on our mental states. For some, this can get to the point where it is diagnosable: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is characterized by depression due to lack of vitamin D, which your body produces when it is exposed to the sun. The deficiency depresses levels of melatonin, a hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycles, and serotonin, the hormone that makes us feel good. As a result we feel perpetually tired, grumpy and crave sweet snacks, which doesn’t help. AT ALL. Whether or not you are actually diagnosed with SAD, or just find yourself feeling down in the winter months, be proactive and follow these tips to boost your mood and energy.
It may give you a little, happy energy boost at first, but the crash after a sugar high can easily make you feel worse than you did before. Any ingredient with syrup in its name or ending in “-ose” is usually bad news.
A Lot of Alcohol
Besides being full of calories, booze is a depressant.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Lean proteins such as salmon, flax seeds and walnuts contain high amounts of amino acids. They increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which, in turn, boost your mood. Lean proteins are also a great source of energy.
Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries help prevent the release of cortisol, a hormone involved in the stress response.
Leafy greens, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, oranges, lentils and soybeans are all healthy snack alternatives.
The sunshine vitamin! Your body is able to absorb vitamin D through certain foods: milk, egg yolks and bony fish. You can also purchase vitamin D supplements at any pharmacy or grocery store.
The natural sugars and potassium in bananas help fuel your brain, while magnesium improves sleep and reduces anxiety.
Many people turn to chocolate when they need to self-medicate, however, eating a pint of chocolate ice cream isn’t always the most effective way to do it. Dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao contains phenylethylamine, which encourages endorphin release. This family of chemicals make you feel like you’re falling in love.
And don’t forget to exercise! Although it might be hard to bundle up and drag yourself over to the gym, research has shown that exercising for just 45 minutes a few times a week boosts your mood.
Meals to brighten your mood: