This year in general I know so many of you have been hit hard. Whether it be emotionally, financially, or physically – you are not alone. I’ve spoken to so many people lately who have really felt the struggle lately and thought I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that here. Mental health (more articles here) is something I am very passionate about and believe the more we talk about it, the more we can normalize conversations around it.
In the winter, reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression. (Mayo Clinic)
For me, the winter blues been something I’ve experienced since childhood. With nowhere to escape because of the global pandemic this year, I’ve been even more proactive in setting myself up with products, foods, and resources that will help make the dark days a little easier. While nothing alone is a silver bullet, each thing adds an element of support.
Here are some things I’ll be using this winter to take care of my mind and body – each backed up by research.
I have and always will be an enthusiast when it comes to believing in the power of therapy. This fall I knew it was time to focus on my mental health again but all the local therapists were booked!
So I went virtual for the first time. It’s been a game-changer.
Therapy has become more affordable through some great online sites and there are so many different avenues to take. This includes text therapy, virtual group therapy, and more. If you’ve never tried and are on the fence I’d say – might help, can’t hurt!
Here are some sites to take a look at:
Sun lamps positively impact your body’s regulation of melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep-wake cycle, as well as serotonin, which helps regulate your mood by relaying signals in your brain. One study reports that bright-light therapy is now considered to be the first line of treatment for SAD. (Cleveland Clinic)
I have used a sunlamp since I was in middle school (thanks Mom for being ahead of the curve on these things!). They used to be BIG, ugly boxes but now they have amazing quality lights that are sleek and they are super affordable! Here’s a great-looking and budget-friendly Sunlamp.
Even better, if you are exercising at home one study showed “fitness training in bright light resulted in greater relief from atypical depressive symptoms and more vitality than in ordinary room light”
and let’s talk…
During the winter, it’s imperative to eat meals at regular intervals. This will help keep your serotonin levels in check, that chemical in the brain that has a calming effect.
I’ve done some research and here are some foods and the facts behind how they support our mental health:
Complex Carbohydrates are linked to serotonin production and lack of carbohydrates may cause changes in your mood. This means stock up on complex carbs like beans, oatmeal, 100 percent whole-wheat bread, quinoa, barley, and sweet potatoes.
Dark green vegetables like spinach and peas are high in folate, a key player in the production of serotonin. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.
Legumes are also high in folate and protein and low in fat. They are an excellent option for those who are vegetarian or meat-restricted diets.
A great option are chickpeas which are rich in fiber, iron, and vitamin E.
One study from the University of Pittsburgh found that people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to experience moderate or mild symptoms of depression.
Sources that contain the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, walnuts, and salmon.
Chicken and turkey are both rich in vitamin B6, which plays a role in serotonin production in the body. They are both a good source of selenium and other vitamins and minerals, too.
I believe that mental health should be at the forefront of our wellness routines and that it should be part of the regular conversations we have in our homes.
I hope that if you feel like you may need more support with your mental health that you won’t hesitate a moment longer to get help so you can find some relief. If you are not sure where to start, speak with your primary care doctor for recommendations or a licensed professional in your area.
Here are some organizations and articles where you can learn more: