Well, it’s time to pack away the pumpkins and dig out those holiday lights as we welcome in the winter season! While the winter months are typically filled with cheery decorations, cozy nights by the fire and holiday parties filled with family and friends, those short days and grey skies can still have a way of getting you down. The good news is you don’t have to get stuck in a slump, just check out these simple tips to lift yourself up and beat those wintertime blues.
Chocolate tops the list, and it’s not just because it’s delicious. This tasty superfood is high in the compounds phenylethylamine (the love chemical) and anandamide (the bliss chemical) as well as theobromine, which all offer a well deserved ‘pick-me-up’ without those nasty side effects of too much caffeine. Cacao is also very high in minerals and antioxidants which give you an energy boost and help to keep your immune system strong. Make sure to look for cacao in it’s raw form, because ‘regular’ cocoa powder loses many of these benefits in the roasting process. Look for raw cacao powder, cacao nibs or dark chocolate (70% or higher).
Fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut have earned a fantastic reputation for supporting digestive health, but did you know that they also promote a happy mood and cognitive clarity? This has to do with what is commonly referred to as the ‘gut-brain axis’. Studies are consistently concluding that intestinal bacteria play a large role in cognitive health, and a compromised microbiome can lead to anxiety, depression and other psycho-emotional imbalances. These healthy bugs also influence the production of serotonin (sometimes referred to as the ‘happy hormone’) and modulate the stress response.
There are 8 core B-Vitamins used in the human body. These vitamins are used in every step of the Citric Acid Cycle (the process that your cells use to produce energy), making them extremely important for every function of the body, including mood regulation and cognitive clarity. The B family (especially B3, B12 and B9/Folic Acid) play key roles in supporting neurological function, and are also involved in manufacturing neurotransmitters like serotonin. You can find a rich source of B-Vitamins in brazil nuts, oats, avocado, eggs, meats and of course, nutritional yeast. You can also talk to your health care practitioner about the benefits of supplementation.
Omega-3 fatty acids have become a household staple for many people. Supplementation is used to treat everything from eczema to dry eyes to PMS to chronic pain. Studies also show that 600 to 1000mg per day of EPA and DHA causes a significant reduction in symptoms of seasonal depression. Omega-3 also plays a major role in reducing the body’s inflammatory response, which helps ease symptoms of that nasty winter flu. Omega-3s are found in oily fish such as wild salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring and mackerel. Plant sources include nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds.
It can be tempting to retreat during the winter months. While it is important to use this more introspective time of year to relax and restore, too much downtime can really take a toll on the mood. One of the best ways to keep spirits high is to always have something to look forward to.
Winter is a great time to pick up a new hobby (or revisit an old one), volunteer in the community and to reconnect with family and friends. If you’re lucky enough to live here on Vancouver Island, take advantage of our mild climate and get outside. On those cooler days, check out a nearby rec centre or gym and see what classes or activities they have that you might be into.
Cooler temperatures and darker days don’t have to bring you down. By eating the right foods and staying inspired, you can feel your best all year long!