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How to Fight the Midwinter Blues

Spring may be just a few weeks away, according to the calendar, but winter is far from over. February can be brutal for people, as the cold, grey weariness of winter hangs on. Many parts of the country go days or weeks without sunshine, and even when it does appear, it’s pretty anemic. Cabin fever begins to boil deep inside our souls.

This is also the time of year when the flu is on people’s minds. Not a week goes by that someone from the office drops out for a few days to fight “the crud.”

Then there’s the holidays. All the fun and festivity of Christmas and New Year are long past. Valentine’s Day is a mixed bag – some have good plans; others hate it.

Overall, this is not a happy time of the year for many people.

Fight Back the Blah

So, what are some things we can do to manage our moods and fight the winter blues? Here on “Think Tight Thursday,” we want to make the most of our internal life – the mind, heart, and emotions – so we can enjoy a balanced, whole life, inside and out.

Things We Can Eat

I never recommend what people call “eating your feelings” – glossing over your sadness by eating a bunch of unhealthy “comfort foods.” But there are a few things I can recommend that have some proven clinical benefits:

Vitamin D3

One of the reasons that sunlight contributes to a cheery disposition is that it is an important source of Vitamin D3. But if your area doesn’t get a lot of sunlight in the winter, there are a handful of foods that contain a beneficial amount of D3: fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, and wild salmon are great), whole milk (if your diet allows for it), certain types of mushrooms, and eggs. Sounds like a great omelette to me.

Vitamin D3 is also a fantastic way to beat the flu!

B-Complex Vitamins

The B complex is loaded with benefits for your brain, according to a great article by dailyburn.com: “B1 helps the body make healthy new cells. It’s often called an anti-stress vitamin because of its ability to protect the immune system…B6 (pyridoxine) is a major player in mood and sleep patterns because it helps the body produce serotonin, melatonin and norepinephrine, a stress hormone…B9 (folate) is used medically to keep depression at bay and prevent memory loss. You can get it naturally from dark leafy greens, asparagus, beets, salmon, root vegetables, milk, bulgur wheat and beans.”

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Let’s go back to the fish to find a second benefit that can help perk up your mood. These fatty acids have specific brain-supporting properties to fight depression, in addition to the overall health benefits, like improved circulation and reduced inflammation. Another great source is walnuts.

Turmeric

Found in many Indian and Asian dishes, Turmeric is a great way to get your groove back. “Turmeric can indeed be considered one of the ‘spices of life’ because of its profound anti-inflammatory activity,” says Shawn Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist and author of Vigor: 7 Days to Unlimited Energy, Focus, and Well-Being.

Dark Chocolate

Let me hear the ladies shout! While much of the chocolate served in the U.S. is appalling, there is some research that suggests that organic dark chocolate has a number of health benefits, including releasing serotonin and mood enhancement. Now, don’t go and pound down a Hershey bar (the sugar along will make you an open target for the flu). It has to be the right kind of chocolate, and only a little bit of it.

Other Tips

While there is an important “Eat Right” component to this week’s “Think Right Thursday,” there are also some important “Live Right” and “Move Right” tips we can consider.

Do Something New

One of the things that makes winter so hard is that people get bored, stuck inside all the time. After awhile, staring at the same walls all the time can really bring you down. Take a trip to a part of town you don’t normally visit. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. Make an effort to do something fun, even if you don’t feel like it. Having fun doesn’t come naturally to everyone all the time, especially when they are depressed. Get your dopamine levels up with a simple change of scenery.

Get Enough Sleep

One of the key contributing factors of depression is not getting enough sleep. Sometimes, life is just too busy. Pick something that you can cut out of your life for a few days, to make time to get more sleep. One thing that helps a lot of people overcome sleep issues is to shut off all electronic devices at least one hour before going to bed. Give your eyes and brain time to unwind from that all stimulation before you try to shut yourself down for the night. Inadequate sleep is both a cause and a result of depression, so it creates a vicious cycle quickly.

Get Into A Routine

Going to bed and getting up at the same times every day, eating on a consistent schedule, exercising regularly – all these contribute to a sense of well-being and control. Sometimes, depression is a response to the feeling that life is out of control. Take back the wheel.

Set A Simple Goal and Achieve It

When I have felt depressed, I felt like I couldn’t accomplish anything. I began to doubt my ability, my dreams…everything. Setting a simple goal (like getting on a regular schedule for two days in a row) can give you something to look forward to. Achieving that goal can make you feel powerful again. It doesn’t take a lot of success to get yourself back in the saddle.

Talk To Someone

Depression sometimes starts when people feel isolated. Talking to a trusted friend, a healthcare professional, or a minister can help you unload the bottled up feelings you carry around. I’ve found that, when I have a problem in my life, saying it out loud puts it in perspective. When you hear yourself say it, you start to see the problem for what it really is, even while your mind still thinks it’s some gigantic, looming..thing.

Pray

I don’t know what you believe about God, but I know Him personally. I talk to Him in prayer. He listens and He gets involved in my stuff to the extent that I ask Him to. There’s real comfort in that.

Don’t Give Up

If you’re dealing with depression right now, please know that I understand how much it hurts, even if I don’t know all the circumstances in your specific case. I encourage you to talk to a qualified healthcare professional or counselor soon. In the meantime, if you will begin to apply these tips into your daily life, I think you’ll start to see spring coming in a little faster than before.

I’ll see you here next week.

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