Struggling with trying to keep your energy, motivation and mood up? You’re not alone. This winter has been particularly trying on many people. While the snow has just about melted and the temperature is slowly starting to rise, it seems like Mother Nature is being a bit of a tease. Just when you think it’s time to put away that winter jacket, there’s another cold front moving in, bringing overcast days and a chilly wind.
Fortunately there are strategies to help hold you over until the sun decides it’s time to grace us with its presence a little more often. Here are some simple tips to help keep you healthy and happy during this unpredictable time of year.
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin is that lovely vitamin that is usually generated in our bodies through sunlight exposure. Unfortunately at this time of year, it’s incredibly difficult to get adequate amounts of vitamin D naturally due to altered wavelengths of the sun’s rays and the obvious lack of sun exposure. But be weary of dosing vitamin D yourself – while most people this past winter are consistently vitamin D deficient, too much of this fat-soluble vitamin can lead to toxicity. It’s best to have your vitamin D levels tested via blood work so dosing can be prescribed accordingly. What is an optimal dose for one person may be too much or not enough for another.
I’m a firm believer that you are what you eat. From personal and clinical experience, a well balanced, nutrient dense diet is not only helpful for your body physically but also mentally/emotionally. The Mediterranean diet’s health benefits have been well described, ranging from protection against cognitive decline to reduction in the risk of metabolic syndrome (Selhub, Logan 2013). But what’s less often reported is the diet’s association with positive mental outlook and resiliency against depressive symptoms versus the typical standard North American diet (Selhub, Logan 2013). In general, increasing your intake of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as carotenoids and magnesium can have a significant impact on mental/emotional wellbeing (Selhub, Logan 2013). Think foods like wild salmon or trout, cherries, green leafy vegetables and beetroot.
It may be cold and crummy out most days but studies support that regular outdoor exposure to nature can be a good thing for mental health (Suzuki 2012). Getting outside for a simple walk on a cool day may not sound like the most exciting thing in the world but sometimes you’ve just got to go for it. Routine enjoyment of a natural outdoor setting has been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, depression and stress, increase energy levels and boost the immune system to name a few (Suzuki 2012). A highly recommended book to read regarding the importance of regular nature exposure is “Your Brain on Nature” by Drs. Eva M Selhub, MD and Alan Logan, ND.
Making simple, sustainable changes in our daily diet and lifestyle can do wonders on our mental/emotional wellbeing. Especially at this time of year, we could all use a little pick-me-up!
Selhub EM, Logan AC. (2013 June/July). Sports Nutrition: In the context of lifestyle medicine. Integrated Healthcare Practitioners, pp. 62-67.
Suzuki D. (24 May 2012). Prescription for health and happiness: a daily dose of nature. Retrieved from: http://www.davidsuzuki.org