Short days, cloudy skies and inclement weather add to the gloom that often comes with the winter season. This mood of gloom often peaks right after the holiday season is over. The celebrations, blinking lights, parties and fireworks are over yet the days are still short and the air cold. You’re feeling low and there may be a good reason for it.
Extended periods of low light and darkness have a direct effect on your hormones. Specifically, your body generates serotonin in response to exposure to daylight. In the absence of daylight, serotonin will be lower in your body. Serotonin plays a role in regulating your moods, your attitudes in general and it may also influence how hungry you feel. This can lead you to snacking, which may only sink you lower if the snacks are loaded with sugar or starch.
For many people, the feelings of sadness and depression in winter are symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Sleep may be disrupted by low levels of serotonin, as the body needs it to help produce melatonin which helps you to sleep. Other general symptoms include excessive napping, irritability, panic attacks and obsessing over things that seem trivial to others. Without assistance, most people find their symptoms abating when spring arrives, around April or May depending on where you live. The days are longer and warmer and serotonin levels and outside activities begin to regulate your body in a happier cycle.
Activities that help to boost your serotonin levels can go a long way to prevent SAD from affecting you during the winter. A variety of SAD lamps, or blue light lamps or sunlight lamps that emit daylight spectrum light have been shown to boost serotonin temporarily and enhance the mood. Twenty to thirty minutes a day in front of one of these lights and you should notice a difference quickly. Exercise is a great way to regulate your hormones and improve your overall health and fitness, which naturally leads to higher self-esteem and a positive outlook. Even a twenty-minute walk each day can make a big difference.
Avoid high carbohydrate sweets and starches as much as possible, including pasta, rice and bread. These foods spike your insulin levels which leads to further drowsiness and that only adds to your low feelings. Instead, choose nutrient-rich vegetables and proteins with every meal. These foods help to boost your metabolism and help to keep your hormones in balance. If you face a long gap between lunch and dinnertime, eat a few nuts such as walnuts or almonds. These nutrient powerhouses will keep you balanced and ward off the hunger pangs that tempt you in the wrong direction. Add Omega-3 oil to your diet as it also makes a direct contribution to enhancing your mood.
Go to as many open houses, social meetings and group gatherings that you can. Go walking with a friend. Connecting with other people keeps you socially engaged and outwardly focused. If you made a New Year’s resolution, now is the time to put it into action. Aside from the health benefits of exercise, a regular routine or project with specific milestones is likely to lift you out of the doldrums. Celebrate every small accomplishment and before you know it, spring will arrive and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.