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5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Many people start feeling a little down during the winter months, especially at higher latitudes. Hundreds of studies have been done on this seasonal phenomenon and many solutions have been found to show improvements in mood. A few are listed below.

1. Exercise – Researchers from Northern Arizona University found that just 10 minutes of moderate exercise — a brisk stroll, for instance — both improves your mood and re-energizes you.

  • Do Yoga – One study comparing the benefits of yoga versus walking found that, “The yoga subjects reported greater improvement in mood and greater decreases in anxiety than the walking group.”
  • Another larger study of 98 participants found that exercise alleviated seasonal depressive symptoms.

2. Get more exposure to bright light – The same study on exercise found that those participants who were also exposed to bright light during their exercise did even better. The conclusion: Bright light administered twice a week, alone or combined with physical exercise, can relieve seasonal mood slumps.

3. Eat less sugar and fewer carbs – The literature on the link between depression and metabolic syndrome is mounting. The most recent meeting of the American Psychiatric Association devoted a section to “Nutrition Psychology“– a new science linking poor nutrition with the prevalence of mental disorders. Over and over, the findings indicate that eating leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts), legumes, fresh fruits, whole grains, and lean meats can support mood health and brain function by feeding friendly bacteria, reducing foods that cause bad bacteria to explode, reducing systemic inflammation, and so many other things!

4. Get a good night’s sleep – A review of several studies about the correlation of sleep with mood noted that, “An association between circadian clock function and mood regulation is well established and has been proposed as a factor in the development of mood disorders” 

5. Check with your physician about your balance of Tryptophan Hydroxilase 2 (TPH2).  One study notes that, “Numerous pieces of evidence indicate the association of [seasonal affective disorder] SAD with decreased brain neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) system functioning. Tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) is the key and rate-limiting enzyme in 5-HT synthesis in the brain… the brain 5-HT deficiency contributes to the mechanism underlying SAD… it is effective in the treatment of patients resistant to light therapy…l-tryptophan treatment prolongs the antidepressant effect of light therapy.”

Next time you’re feeling the effects of shorter days, check in with these variables to see if there’s anything that needs to be brought into balance and beat those winter blues!!!