Winter Blues

Its winter time, the days are shorter, that feeling of lethargy and lack of motivation starts to creep back and no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to drag yourself to the gym or have the discipline to say no to the leftover Holiday treats. New Year’s resolutions seem daunting and as much as you want to change you just can’t seem to make yourself do it. Why is it so much harder to make health changes in the winter? Is it just because it’s cold and we want warm, comfort foods and cuddling on the couch more than salads and going for a run?  That definitely is part of it but there is also a scientifically proven disorder that happens to an estimated 10 million Americans every year called, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

According to the Mayo Clinic and Psychology Today, Along with the 10 million Americans suffering from SAD, another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD, affecting women four times more than men. Not everyone with SAD has the same symptoms, but symptoms commonly associated with the "winter blues" include the following:

Often times we don’t want to acknowledge depressive feelings because of the social stigma but there are many ways to help prevent and improve symptoms related to SAD.

Sunlight - Because SAD seems to be tied directly to the production of serotonin ( a brain chemical) which drops with the decrease in sunlight, getting Vitamin D is essential to staving off the winter Blues. Getting outside on sunny days, making sure to leave your blinds and curtains open to allow as much sunlight in as possible, or in severe cases of SAD using Light Therapy Daily can improve the symptoms. Light Therapy mimics the light of the sun and by sitting near one of the lamps for a set amount of time can improve symptoms drastically.  Here is a link to a list of the best home therapy lamps:

Take a Vitamin D supplement - This is the safest and most consistent way to get the adequate Vitamin D that you need through the winter months. But remember, not all supplements are created equal; make sure that you are getting Vitamin D3 instead of D2 and preferably in liquid form as the absorption rate is far superior. Here is a link that is very insightful and helpful -

Workout – Working out releases endorphins, endorphins make you feel happier and even euphoric. A meta-review published in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal suggested that, exercise might be comparable to therapy or anti-depressants as an effective treatment for depression. Find a workout buddy and head to your gym because the simple act of staying in an active routine can improve your mood tremendously. You can also find a new hobby to do during the winter. Learn to swim at your local indoor pool, join an indoor rock climbing gym, hot yoga, take up mixed martial arts, or join a bowling club – Just something to get yourself out of the house.

Nutrition – Nutrition will always be a key to brain health, but especially during the winter months when eating a salad or drinking a veggie juice sounds so much less appealing than a hamburger or cake. Countries that consume the most sugar have higher rates of depression, and scientists hypothesize that it hinders the body’s ability to cope with stress and can worsen anxiety.  We crave sugar because it gives us an almost instant energy boost and high and when we are depressed it can give us a momentary happy feeling. But then we crash, and we feel worse than we did before; the weight gain, bloating, and sluggishness, only perpetuates our feelings of self loathing and depression and once again we are caught on the vicious cycle of feeling bad and trying to eat away our feelings. You don’t have to be perfect but focus on the 80/20 principle of nutrition (refer to previous blog) and try to add more healthy fats, proteins, and fibers every day instead of focusing on what you can’t have. Eating in a way that heals the body will always help your mental outlook as well as your energy levels and drive and beyond SAD will dictate how you feel on a daily basis so pay attention to what is fueling your body.

Dr Aaron Rose Chiropractic Doctor at Rose Family Chiropractic and Founder of Prosperous Health with a degree in Nutrition and Exercise Science.

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