Updated: Feb 1, 2019
Grey skies, freezing temperatures, and the wet outdoors can certainly cause a dip in your mood this winter. Short days and little sunshine (especially here in the northern states) can lead to a little moodiness to flat out depression, or seasonal affective disorder. Yes, you can go to your local doctor and get on Prozac (which does work, I prescribe it often) but before you do - try these 5 more natural ways to boost your mood.
1. Get sun or get more Vitamin D.
We don't get much sun in Seattle this time of year, but when we do, it is treasured. Just the other day, while walking my dog, I saw my neighbor sunning himself in a lawn chair, which he positioned himself in direct sunshine. He didn't care it happened to be right on the street. Ah, I said, he knows about Vit D. But he probably didn't get enough that day. In the summer, light skinned folks can get adequate Vit D with 15 min of direct sunlight whereas dark skinned individuals need about 6 times that much exposure. And furthermore, in the wintertime, especially in the northern hemisphere, very little UVB rays reach the earth and thus no Vit D can be synthesized You can simply take a Vit D supplement- I recommend Vit D3 about 1000 IU daily, and if you live in the Northern hemisphere or are a dark skinned person, you need more, about 2000-5000 IU daily. Also, eat foods that are high in Vit D such as fatty fish (mackerel, tuna, salmon) liver, cheese, egg yolks, and fortified foods with Vit D. A serving of wild caught salmon contains 1000 IU whereas farmed salmon only about 250 IU.
2. Prioritize physical activity.
We know that exercise boosts our mood but it can be hard to get motivated when it is dark and cold outside. Join a gym, check out a new yoga or fitness class, or a dance class series. To help motivate yourself, you can commit to a fitness event like a race in the spring, so that you will need to train in the winter. Plan your week of activities in advance, scheduling some varied activities so it will be fun and different each time.
3. Choose mind boosting foods.
Besides foods high in Vit D (see above), eat foods high in the following:
* omega three fatty acids. Again, these are many fishes- sardines, salmon, mackerel, trout, seabass. And shrimp and oysters too. Not a fish fan? Eat walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, seaweed, soybeans, and kidney beans.
*vit C. Citrus fruits are in season this winter, so try different varieties and see which ones energize your taste buds.
*lean protein Choose grass fed lean beef, good quality chicken, fish, milk and beans.
*dark chocolate Eat a square or two, of the 70% dark chocolate- The more cocoa, the more flavanols which can elevate your mood. Avoid,however, the highly refined carbohydrates and sugar (in milk chocolate, chocolate cake and ice cream) which can wreck havoc on your blood sugars and mood.
*B vitamins- Try leafy greens like collard greens, spinach, and kale.
*prebiotics- Snack on yogurt, kefir, or kimchi and sauerkraut, or warm up with a bowl of miso soup. We all know this is good for your gut, and your gut is your second brain! (More on this later)
4. Savor sound sleep.
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Limit your sugar and caffeine intake, eat a light meal at dinnertime and avoid late night beverages. Clean the clutter in your bedroom and remove electronics, lights and sound. Blackout curtains work wonders and dim your cell phone or alarm clock lights. And this is a big one- decrease your screen time in the evenings before sleep- maybe read a book or do some yoga instead. Do all of this, and you won't be counting sheep for long.
5. Plan for an adventure.
If you can't fly off to Tahiti this winter, at least do some research and plan your next vacation - Just thinking about it will jump start your mood. Imagine yourself on a sunny beach in Hawaii with the warm sand in between your toes. Or explore Mexico City's sounds and sights and food. This planning will inspire and re-energize you this winter and before you know it, you will be on holiday!