Cold, dreary weather and shorter days make it easy to succumb to the “winter blues,” which is characterized by lack of energy and motivation and mild depression-like symptoms. While you may want to reach for the sweets, caffeine or junk food to boost your spirits, they may make your mood worse in the long run.
Here are six mood-boosters to get you through the winter in better spirits.
FOCUS ON QUALITY CARBOHYDRATES:
Rather than indulging in holiday treats rich in added sugars, eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables can help keep your blood sugar levels steady which helps maintain a better mood and keeps cravings at bay too.
Create appealing meals and snacks that give you and your family antioxidants and nutrients that can help keep their spirits high. Add lots of color by using in season vegetables like sweet potatoes, winter squash, kale and chard; and fruits like oranges, apples and pears. Frozen vegetables like broccoli, peas, spinach and asparagus make colorful side dishes.
SPICE IT UP:
Herbs and spices awaken the senses and can re-energize the mind. Add dried or fresh spices to your meals and snacks. For a great mood-boosting meal, add your favorite spice to a fatty-fish such as salmon, halibut, or tuna. You’ll get the one-two punch of vitamin D and omega 3’s from seafood that have been shown to improve mood. Plus the herbs and spices can help relax blood vessels to improve circulation.
GO FOR THE CRUNCH:
Foods with a great crunch, like apples, carrots, celery, popcorn, and nuts provide a crunch that energizes your mood. Not only are you getting key vitamins and minerals, crunching helps to stimulate the release of those “feel good chemicals” called endorphins.
GET MORE VITAMIN D:
Vitamin D does more than help build strong bones. Research shows that it can boost moods and fight those winter blues. We get vitamin D from the sun and from foods like salmon, tuna and eggs, and from milk products that are fortified with vitamin D. But during the winter months, there’s less time to be out in the sun — and less of it—so it’s hard to get enough vitamin D. During the winter months, especially if you live in northern latitudes, you may need to include a daily vitamin D supplement.
TAKE A WALK:
Physical activity has been shown to improve mood and energy. Get out for a quick walk around the block…. or if the weather is too bad, and it’s too dark; find some fun indoor activities that you can do as a family!
Benton, D. and Donohoe, R. The effects of nutrients on mood. Public Health Nutrition: 1999; 2(3a): 403-409.
Penckofer S., Kouba j, Byrn M, Estwing Ferrans C. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010: 31(6): 385-393.