Maintaining physical and emotional health during the winter can be a challenge. Outdoor exercise is often not an option, especially if you live in a northern climate; and it is normal feel a little down.
Fortunately, there are effective methods of dealing with the situation. Eating right, finding creative ways to work out and fostering a positive outlook can prevent bad habits from developing when the snow flies and the temperature drops.
The ‘Winter Blues’ and SAD
People tend to be more withdrawn, with lower energy levels, in the winter. That can lead to eating too many carbohydrates and not getting enough physical activity, which cause weight gain.
For some, the condition is more severe than “winter blues,” qualifying for a diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). These patients can become “gloomy” and “irritable,” with a sensation of hopelessness and a poor self image, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Studies have indicated that SAD results from a shortage of sunshine, which happens when the days get shorter during the cold months. One researcher, Dr. Brenda McMahon of Denmark, pointed out that “daylight is effectively a natural antidepressant.”
She wrote in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology: “Like many drugs currently used against depression, more daylight prevents serotonin (from) being removed from the brain.” Medical News Today explained that serotonin is “the so-called happiness neurotransmitter.”
Some people are more vulnerable than others because genetics affect the brain’s ability to release serotonin. More than 16 million Americans, about 80 percent of whom are women, suffer from the condition each winter.
Another way of understanding the phenomenon is to consider the circadian rhythm, also called the body’s internal clock, which is thrown out of whack when the hours of sunshine decrease. One remedy is light therapy, a treatment that reportedly works for more than 70 percent of those who try it.
A Balanced Diet
While proper nutrition is critical throughout the year, it is especially important in winter. You know the drill: Eat a lot of vegetables, particularly the green, leafy varieties; while avoiding fat, sugar and carbs.
Veggies are key elements of the Mediterranean diet, which also features fruit, fish, whole grains, beans, nuts and olive oil. Multiple studies have proven that these foods promote strength, energy and a positive outlook. Such a diet is low in calories, and provides most of the vitamins, nutrients and fiber the body needs. It wards off obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and various illnesses and diseases.
You may believe that your busy schedule does not allow enough time to prepare healthy meals. However, it actually can take a half-hour or less to cook vegetable-rich entrees. Winter is a good time to discover (or relearn) the joys of cooking. Try out some new recipes or recreate meals you have enjoyed in the past. Experiment with herbs and spices.
Nasty weather makes it harder to take part in outdoor exercises like walking, running, bicycling and playing sports. But that is no excuse for not working out.
Winter is the ideal time to start going to a gym, health club, spa or fitness center. These facilities offer equipment such as stationary bikes, treadmills and rowing machines. Some have running tracks or swimming pools, as well as fitness-training services and yoga classes.
Exercising with others who share your fitness objectives is an opportunity for social interaction and mutual support.
Another option is to find ways to work out in the safety, privacy and convenience of your home. Exercise equipment can be expensive, so you may want to try workouts that do not require any gear. They range from low-impact activities like stretching to more strenous activity like running stairs. You can walk in place, do jumping jacks, perform yoga moves or do aerobics.
I’m here to flip your switch. We will work together to get your soul and human self back. We will set small goals to fit in your crazy life.
It’s okay to pause… slow down