Do you suffer from winter blues? Sweater weather and hot chocolate by the fire is so cozy and romantic, right? But it’s also normal to feel a bit under-the-weather at this time of year when the days get shorter and darker. My Mom (in the UK), has just informed me that with the time change it’s now pitch back at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. And my BFF, Mel, has to take her kids to school in the dark. Even living in Los Angeles (I knoooooooow!), I start feeling a bit blah when the gray days set in. YES – we do have seasons here in LA. If we get three or four gray days in a row, I’m on the serious lookout for some rays of sun, because sunlight makes most of me feel better. It’s also a temperature thing. The chilly days make us want to cozy up inside. This can be wonderful, but it can also mean less exercise, heavier food, and general sluggishness. I dunno, whether you love or hate the winter, my hunch is that it’s a little easier to wake up an embrace the day with exuberance when the sun’s shining. There are, however, other ways to lift your mood if the gray, rainy days have set in for you. Here are my 5 tips to lighten up your winter blues:
Writing: Doing a series of writing exercises, as outlined by the brilliant James W. Pennebaker always helps me when I’m feeling a bit down. The colder, darker days encourage me to get hunker into the couch and or a cozy chair, and reflect. This is an ideal opportunity to buy a journal and start writing. There are often events and emotional disturbances from the year that I could do well to work through on paper. I highly recommend grabbing a copy of one of his booksto lead you through the process. Grab a cup of warm lemon verbena (very soothing) tea, and get stuck in.
Up my exercise:The efficacy of exercise in lifting mood, has been studied extensively. The tricky thing is to break the cycle of inactivity. When it’s cold outside, we want to curl up in a ball with the covers over our head. So the key is to start small. Just five minutes of walking a day can turn into ten, and then twenty minutes. And if you already exercise, maybe try changing it up to a different kind to avoid getting stale or having the plateau effect take hold. Exercise never fails to transform my mood.
Eat foods containing tryptophan.Tryptophan is an amino acid, which processes serotonin (the feel good chemical in your brain). Many plant foods contain tryptophan, including: pumpkin, soy, potatoes, cauliflower, wheat, and walnuts. Luckily these foods are in season now. Try making a delicious pot of my cauliflower soup.
Consider taking a 5-HTP supplement. It’s derived from seed pods of a West African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia. 5-HTP is the nutrient precursor to serotonin, which means it converts directly to serotonin, in the brain. Many people have found this supplement to be a mega-mood-lifter. I love the Natrol 5-HTP fast dissolve supplement* because it’s delicious and makes me feel more calm and relaxed. Mom can’t live without it.
Make sure you are taking Vitamin D: If you’re not getting direct sunlight on your skin at least 3 days a week, you probably need to supplement with Vitamin D. Low levels of Vitamin D can seriously impact your health in general. I recommend taking 1,000 – 2,000 IU per day. I take Natrol’s Vitamin D3(2,000 IU) daily. You generally need to take more as you get older because the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D in the skin from the sun, diminishes with age. I do recommend getting your Vitamin D levels tested when you go in for your next physical exam. Most people I work with find out their levels are too low. Very rarely do I see anyone with levels that are too high, although excess Vitamin D can cause health issues. So, if in doubt, get tested and consult your physician.
Mindful Meditation and breathing: When I combine all of the above practices and supplements, my mood lifts. Mindful meditation is key for me, because I get to breathe into the feelings in my body. Instead of trying to avoid mental and physical pain, I get to soften into it. Winter is the perfect time to get cozy on a comfy meditation cushion, with a furry blanket around my shoulders. If you are new to mindfulness meditation, try an App such at Insight Timer, or Head Space.
Thank you to Natrol for partnering on this sponsored post, all opinions are my own.