Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beating the Winter Blues

With three times the normal amount of snowfall already recorded for January, many of us are feeling desperate for warmth and sunshine. Unless you have the good fortune to be able to flee to a tropical hideaway, it's a good idea to shake up your routine. 
  • Humor is healing. Seek out a funny friend or a favorite comedy.
  • If you have children, remember that you are not responsible for entertaining them. Challenge them to come up with new games and to entertain themselves. A great book full of old school, inexpensive activities is "The Orange Mama Laid", by Kirsten Denny. (Available on Amazon)
  • Get outside on sunny days. Even better, leave your sunscreen off for 15 minutes to maximize absorption of Vitamin D.
  • If you exercise, try a new sport or class to create some novelty for your body and brain.
  • Plan your real or imagined spring garden. Consider starting seedlings indoors in March. Visualizing a bountiful garden and planning for fresh food will lift your spirits.
  • Do a good deed. Even small acts like offering a smile to a cranky neighbor or letting someone into traffic have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and create a feeling of well-being.
  • Check your caffeine intake. We often unconsciously increase our caffeine consumption during the Winter to keep the cold at bay. If this is the case for you, gradually bring it back down to no more than two to three cups a day. More than that can cause irritability and interfere with sleep.
  • More hours indoors can lead to more hot Toddys and wine by the fire. If you are prone to the blues, limit your alcohol intake as much as possible- it's a depressant, and it interferes with sleep. 
  • Low folic acid levels are associated with depression. A good source of folic acid is found in leafy green veggies. If they aren't your top food choice, chop them and add them to soups and stews for the last five to ten minutes of cooking. This works well with swiss chard and spinach.
  • You've heard it before, but I would be remiss if I did not mention Omega 3 fatty acids, which play a crucial role in overall health. However, Omega 3's are found in greater concentrations in the brain than in other parts of the body, and have been shown to alleviate depression. Omega-3s can be found in fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, and in lower quantities in ground flaxseeds, walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs. Ground flaxseeds can be substituted for small portions of flour or pancake mix without sacrificing taste.
Making all these changes would be daunting. Try choosing a few that appeal to you, and monitor your mood, health and overall level of functioning for the next four to six weeks. Hopefully you will see some positive results. And if you happen to have that tropical hideaway, count me in.

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