The Positivity Cycle: How to Fight Depression During the Winter Months

SAD, winter blues

When the colder weather makes its presence and darkness prevails, depression can be on the rise.

In a nation that tends to overuse and abuse prescription drugs it's no surprise that 1 in 10 American adults are being medically treated for depression. There are many mental and emotional disorders that rely heavily on medication, and some cases that intervention is very necessary. However, there are also many natural ways to add positivity to your life to help with seasonal affective disorder or the Monday blues.

Here are a few nutrition, exercise, and wellness tips to help you on your way to a positive, and healthy winter season:

Nutrition

Unfortunately, our culture does not readily utilize one of the best ways to combat depression, and that is with nutrition and exercise. In fact, there are a plethora of nutritious foods that purposefully boost endorphins to promote a positive vibe in our bodies. Here are my top picks to get you started.

  • Turkey: is probably the best food for combating depression because of its high tryptophan content; this chemical stimulates serotonin production, which is a natural feel-good chemical our body produces.
  • Walnuts: get the edge when it comes to lessening the symptoms of depression because they are among the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3s in walnuts support overall brain health.
  • Dark chocolate: helps to release serotonin and relaxes the blood vessels of the cardiovascular system, making this a guilt-free treat.
  • Dark green leafy veggies: contain folic acid, a B vitamin that can help with mild depression. Enjoy spinach, kale, beet greens, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, and more!

Exercise

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety and depression, boost self-esteem, improve sleep, and help with weight management and overall cardiovascular health.

  • According to a 2013 study, you can shoot for the following schedule when using exercise to fight depression: Set aside three to five times a week for aerobic exercise, and make sure you're sweating for about 45 to 60 minutes a session. You want to maintain your heart rate at about 50 to 85 percent of its max.
  • Spending time with a pet is one of the best ways to increase endorphins and decrease depression. If you can combine yoga, which has breathing exercises and body movements shown to decrease depression, and include your furry friend, you are getting a 2 for 1 boost.
  • Swimming is one of the best exercises to increase endorphins, especially if you can get a little sun and serotonin at the same time. There are lots of different pool workouts, to add variety to your workout regimen. These water exercises are great for all ages because they are low-impact and easy on your joints and bones.
  • Lifting weights is one of the best ways to lose body fat and tone up. When combined with high-intensity intervals, it is a great way to get in shape and boost those mood-enhancing hormones as well.
  • Dancing is not only great exercise, it also a fun way to chase away the blues. In addition to lifting your spirits, dancing also improves memory and builds confidence.
  • Set goals for your exercise regime and work up until you meet those goals. Some of these goals may include a half marathon, triathlon, or Spartan race.

Read more about yoga for mental health

Other depression fighters

  • Sniff lavender or vanilla: Certain aromas can lift your mood by influencing the production of endorphins – the brain's "feel-good" chemicals.
  • Take vitamin D: Since vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin and sunlight is often in short supply during the winter months, it's easy to be deficient in this vitamin. Have your vitamin D levels checked and then take an appropriate dose to get your blood levels of vitamin D up to a healthy level. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends 2,000 International Units daily, but you may need more.
  • Get a light box: One of the most effective ways to fight winter depression (often referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD) is the use of a light box. Also known as light therapy, the use of a light box for about 30 minutes a day can help improve depression by impacting the brain chemicals involved with regulating mood. This light box is a good example.
  • Journaling: Writing down your thoughts, dreams, frustrations, and feelings can help take the edge off depression. Consider using journaling as part of your depression-fighting program for the winter months, and you may find it to be helpful year-round!
  • Laugh: It's been observed that children laugh about 300 times a day, whereas adults laugh, on average, only about five times each day. The more we laugh, the better our perspective.
  • Kiss, hug, and other stuff: According to Stanford University, studies show that being touched reduces stress – as well as alleviates pain and helps to heal injuries. Taking time for intimate moments soothes us, uplifts us (due to the release of those mood-enhancing endorphins), and gives us a sense of belonging and security.
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Lisa Roth Collins is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and is the Marketing Manager at NaturallySavvy.com. She is passionate about health and wellness and tries her best to make healthier choices every day for herself and her family. Her journey to natural health was driven by her own struggles with digestive discomfort, depression, and anxiety. Lisa returned to school in 2014 to study nutrition at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition. She threw herself into her studies so she could learn as much as she could to help herself feel better and thrive. Upon completing the program and being certified as an RHN, Lisa began her work at Naturally Savvy where she has been able to help so many people learn to make healthier choices for themselves. Through her work, she has connected with so many incredible people in the industry whether other authors, influencers, or brands. Plus, she is affectionately known as "Techie Spice" because of her ability to wrap her head around technology. Every day she gets up with a renewed sense of energy and ready to make a difference. You can read all of Lisa's content here. In her spare time, Lisa loves to try new recipes, make delicious and nourishing meals, and she is an avid reader. For more information about Lisa, check out her profile on here.