Beat the winter blues
It has been unseasonably cold here in Houston. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying a break from our typical hot and muggy weather but this winter has seemed rather extreme. Recently my skin is noticeably dryer and my energy and mood has just not been the same.
tips to beat the winter blues and support your body and mind during colder and darker months.
1. Keep on moving
Admit it. You aren't walking or running outside as much as you were during the summer months. I get it. The last thing you (or I) want to do when it's below freezing outside is leave your warm cozy home or apartment to walk outside or drive to the gym. But what if there was a way to incentivize yourself to move, beyond the long term health benefits of daily movement, although that is great too. Perhaps you might sign up for a hot yoga class to entice you from your unheated couch and into the cold. Another idea is utilizing that sauna (bonus points if it's infrared) that your gym membership comes with. You know, the gym that you pay monthly dues for but typically take a 2 month hiatus from, even though you're still paying for it. Once you make it there you can make the decision to only sit in the sauna or if you are feeling inspired by the other gym goers around you maybe you put in a small workout...since you're already there! Also, you don't HAVE to leave your house to get a good workout. Push your couch out of the way and try online websites such as; Do Yoga With Me. There you can browse through hundreds of free streaming videos for all levels. Barre3 is also a great resource to stream barre type workouts at home. Above all, you must find a way to keep moving even when motivation is low as the benefits in mood and energy can be seen almost immediately after working out and the lack of movement can throw you into a vicious cycle.
2. Get Your Vitamin D
During the summer months, most of us are able to get adequate vitamin D from the sun. Winter days, however, are much shorter in length which means we are likely not receiving adequate vitamin D from the sun during these months. During the winter months, you can make sure that your diet is fortified with Vitamin D. It's no question that Vitamin D plays an integral role in bone health and immune health but did you know it also plays a role in mood? Adequate Vitamin D levels are needed in order to activate and release "feel good" neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Low levels of Vitamin D are also associated with depression, autism and bipolar disorder. Some dietary sources high in Vitamin D include; pasture raised eggs (specifically the egg yolk), grass fed dairy (butter, cheese, and yogurt), grass fed beef, mushrooms and cleanly sourced animal liver. A breakfast of 2 eggs with mushrooms sauteed in grass fed butter, and served with grass fed beef sausage would be the perfect Vitamin D packed breakfast.
4. Bump up your protein intake
Although many are familiar with the word Serotonin or even the class of drugs known as SSRIs which increase serotonin levels in the body; not much time is spent discussing how this brain chemical or neurotransmitter is created. Feel good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin actually come from amino acids from protein. Ensuing adequate amounts of protein each day means that you are providing your body with adequate amino acids that act as building blocks to build neurotransmitters as needed. Collagen Peptides, bone broth, pasture raised eggs/chicken, grass-fed beef and wild caught fish are excellent sources of protein and thus amino acids. Nuts, seeds, turkey and fish are specifically high in tryptophan which is an amino acid that is converted into serotonin. While chicken, pork and sunflower seeds are specifically high in tyrosine which is turned into dopamine. Aim for about 60-80 grams of protein minimum per day or about 4-5 oz of biological protein with each meal.
5. Establish a self care routine
Although food can be a major way to nourish the body it is important to also nourish and support our mind too. Establish a daily or weekly routine for you to practice in order to support your mind and emotional well being. Whether that be a guided meditation (try the Calm application) once daily or a weekly or monthly massage; make it a goal to make these things a regular part of your life rather than a rare occurrence. Other ideas include use of essential oils topically in a carrier oil (I have an entire blog post on this) or in a difuser to uplift energy and mood. Reading a good book or using a journal to write down thoughts and emotions can also be uplifting and have significant effects on mood and stress levels.
You also might consider the use of dry brushing, which entails using a natural brush on the surface of dry skin to stimulate lymphatic flow and detoxification. Dry brushing can also be used to promote circulation and works to exfoliate the skin. Though dry brushing is typically dry- hence the name; during the winter months you might use essential oils such as chamomile or lavender diluted in organic olive oil or rose hip oil to support and nourish your skin too. Just simply place a few drops of your premixed and diluted oil onto the brush before brushing your skin. If using an oil, I recommend doing so after a shower to allow your skin to soak in the moisture. During winter months I prefer the use of essential oils diluted in olive oil while "dry brushing" as my skin tends to be very dry. If you choose to just dry brush without oil, then I would do so before a shower to aid in exfoliation of dead skin.
These are just a few ideas of ways to incorporate "self care" into your daily or weekly routine. Be sure that you establish a routine that is realistic and supportive of your individual needs. I encourage you to make your acts of "self care" a part of your daily or weekly routine ,even at times when mood and energy is stabilized so that you maintain this healthy habit.