If you live in a cold winter climate then you know what I’m talking about when I say the winter months can really get you down. Daylight is short, we’re cooped up inside for the most part and have a little bit of the post-holiday blues. I hear you. It can feel like the weight of the world to push yourself to do something that otherwise would be so easy for you to do. Or to simply feel like a hermit inside.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but I think I have turned into that person who talks about the weather affecting how they sleep and what’s hurting them that day. Ha, ok maybe I haven’t quite gotten to the level of aches and pains being correlated to the rain but I do feel the weather wearing on me when we go weeks at a time without sunlight here in Chicago. Isn’t it crazy how the sunlight can truly recharge us?
It’s weird because a grey day once in a while actually helps me feel more productive, but it’s the constant grey of the winter months that really takes a toll on my mood long-term. If you irritated with low energy this time of year, you’re definitely not alone. Over 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) aka winter depression. There are varying degrees at which people experience SAD, and if you are prone to depression it is recommend that you speak with your doctor if symptoms of depression worsen in the winter months.
For those like me who experience it mildly, I like to get ahead of knowing that I’m going to feel this way in the winter months by making sure I’m getting enough of certain foods in my diet and doing activities that get my mind off of the super blah day outside. Sometimes you just need to snap out of it and be your own sunlight you know?!
When the weather gets dreary I like to plan little activities on weekends or weeknights so that I have something to look forward to or plan a vacation during this time. It might just be something little like getting my toes done or trying out a new workout class but just something as simple as that can totally put a positive spin on the week.
I always try to include foods that are in season in my diet and on top of that there are certain foods that getting more of in the winter is helpful for a good mood. They’ll help keep the positive vibes flowing and protect your immune system from cold and flu season. As always if you’re not sure how to or if you should incorporate certain foods into your diet based on your health and lifestyle, consult with a dietitian.
If you’re interested in talking with a dietitian, I offer free 30 minute consultations and am taking clients for spring 2019. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Salmon. Salmon is a great source of protein to include in your diet year round, but especially during the winter months because of its omega-3 fatty acids. People who eat omega-3-rich fish tend to have a lower risk of depression and a more positive affect, which is defined as how much you experience positive moods and feel joy. Salmon also contains vitamin B-12, which helps produce brain chemicals that affect mood. Low levels of B-12 are linked to depression. I like to aim for eating salmon twice a week!
Blueberries. Blueberries are bursting with antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C. Great for your immune system, digestive system and you guessed it, your mood. Their flavonoids (the type of antioxidant) help activate brain pathways for better cognition and studies have shown that blueberry and blueberry juice consumption has been associated with positive mood.
Check out these blueberry recipes: paleo blueberry shortbread bars
Dark Leafy Greens. Spinach, kale and other leafy greens are a great source of magnesium, a mineral important for so many functions in your body and one that most Americans are not getting enough of. A magnesium deficiency is linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression
Yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir. What do all of these foods have in common? They contain probiotics (the good bacteria that your gut needs!) There is more and more information coming out about the gut brain connection because it turns out they are very closely related and what we do know is that people that have more probiotics in their diet see improvements in their perceived levels of stress and have a more positive mental outlook. A probiotic supplement works too! Here’s my favorite one.
Eggs. Eggs yolks are a good source of vitamin D. vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin that most of us are not getting enough of in the winter which brings about the irritability and feelings of a “blah mood”. They are also high in vitamin B12 and choline, important for the nervous system and for improving mood.
Check out these egg recipes: kale egg muffins
Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin Seeds are a great source of magnesium too. A favorite of mine, I had to add these to the list because they are so easy to incorporate into your diet in fun ways. Sprinkle on top of a salad, smoothie, yogurt, or oatmeal just to name a few. They’re also high in immune protecting zinc, iron and plant-based protein.
Check out these pumpkin seed recipes: pumpkin seed crusted chicken tenders
Avocado. Avocados are high in healthy fat, fiber, vitamin E and B6. I don’t know about you but I know that what adds to the weather getting me down is constantly feeling hungry when I feel like I just had a meal or snack. Adding ½ an avocado to salads, grain bowls, eggs, toast, etc. is a great way to add some staying power to your meals overall.
What do you do when you’re feeling the winter weather getting you down? Share below to get the conversation going!