Boost your mood and well-being through nutrition and fitness.
Almost a quarter of Canadians experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD),1 also known as, ‘the winter blues.’ Symptoms may include weight gain, depression, sugar cravings, a lack of energy and more.
This winter, use these 7 health hacks to boost your mood, beat depression and stress, and feel lighter, more energized and healthier.
1. Become best friends with beneficial bacteria
Your gut health affects more than just your digestion. Taking probiotic supplements filled with beneficial bacteria may enhance not just how you process your food, but may also strengthen your immune system, give your skin a healthy glow and much more.2
2. Eat some sunshine
In the winter, approximately 40 percent of Canadians don’t get enough vitamin D.5 Colloquially referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D plays an important role in our nervous system and our mood.
Taking a vitamin D supplement may help prevent SAD6, 7 and may also reduce the risk of many diseases.8, 9 Depending on your age, gender and life stage, you should aim for 200 to 400 IU of vitamin D per day.10
3. Add protein to your winter toolkit
Whey protein may reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol while simultaneously boosting levels of serotonin, a hormone that’s linked to feelings of happiness.11
Winter can be a busy season. If you don’t have time to add protein to each meal, consider LeanFit Whey Protein Powder, which you can conveniently mix up in a cup or a shaker bottle.
4. Walk it out
Studies have shown that going for a walk or jog improves your mood, reduces anxiety and minimizes stressful tension, and you’ll notice these winter blues-busting effects within the first five minutes of hitting the gym.14 The Harvard Medical School notes that walking fast for just 35 minutes daily has a significant effect on depression symptoms.15
To maximize the positive effects on your mood, put on some warm clothes and head outdoors. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology16 studied people who walked in nature and people who walked in an urban setting. While both sets of people walked the same amount of time, those who worked out in a natural setting experienced more of the positive effects on stress hormones.17
A similar study found that all exercise enhanced its participants’ moods, but exercising in nature showed greater improvements.18
5. Sip away the sadness
On a cold winter’s evening, a steaming mug of tea can ease away the stress of a hectic day.
Take it to the next level by incorporating mood-enhancing herbal teas. For example, valerian root tea may treat anxiety and barley tea may promote relaxation.19
6. Breathe out the blues
If you’re feeling down this month, your body and mind may be trying to tell you that your life is out of balance. Find inner peace and balance with exercises focused on mindfulness.
Yoga and deep breathing can help you to better handle the many stresses and fluctuations that come with shifting seasons, and numerous studies show yoga’s effect on beating anxiety, stress and depression.20
7. Color your way out of sadness
Bright colours aren’t just for children. If winter is feeling especially gloomy and dark, colour therapy can ramp up your sense of happiness.
Psychologists have found that specific colors can stimulate specific emotions, giving us a playful, fun way to stay emotionally and mentally energized. The colours green and yellow can make you feel happier, while the colour red can energize you. Vibrant houseplants, artwork or even a coffee mug on your office desk can also be creative ways to incorporate more mood-boosting colours into your life.
- Mood Disorders Association of Ontario; FAQs- Seasonal Affective Disorder; Last accessed January 21, 2016↩
- WebMD; What Are Probiotics? Mary Jo DiLonardo; Last accessed January 21, 2016↩
- Journal of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity; A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood; August 2015; January 21, 2016↩
- British Journal of Nutrition; Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects; March 2011; Last accessed August 21, 2015↩
- Statistics Canda; Vitamin D Blood Levels of Canadians; March 2013; Last accessed January 21, 2016 ↩
- Journal of Medical Hypotheses; Possible contributions of skin pigmentation and vitamin D in a polyfactorial model of seasonal affective disorder; November 2014; January 21, 2016 ↩
- Mayo Clinic. Vitamin D. ; Last accessed January 21, 2016 ↩
- The Globe and Mail; Statscan finds widespread vitamin D deficiency in Canadians; Martin Mittelstaedt; Last accessed January 21, 2016↩
- http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/surveill/nutrition/commun/art-nutr-adult-eng.php#b1 ↩
- Canadian Paediatric Society; Vitamin D Supplementation; John Godel; October 1, 2007; Last accessed January 21, 2016 ↩
- Inside Tracker; Whey Protein’s Impact on Mood and Stress; November 2014; Last accessed January 20, 2016 ↩
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance; April 2015; (Abstract: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/04/29/ajcn.114.084038.abstract) Last accessed January 21, 2016; If you don’t have a AJCN login, Shape magazine does a nice write-up: ↩
- ScienceDaily; Full Serving of Protein at Each Meal Helps One Achieve Maximum Muscle Health; May 2014; Last accessed January 21, 2016
Mamerow et al. “Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults.” J Nutr. 2014 Jun; 144(6): 876–880. Published online 2014 Jan 29. Last accessed January 21, 2016 ↩
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America; Exercise for Stress and Anxiety; Undated; Last accessed January 21, 2016 ↩
- Harvard Medical School; Exercise and Depression;↩
- Li Q, et al. “Acute effects of walking in forest environments on cardiovascular and metabolic parameters.” Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Nov;111(11):2845-53. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-1918-z. Epub 2011 Mar 23. ↩
- Jee-Yon Lee, Duk-Chul Lee. “Cardiac and pulmonary benefits of forest walking versus city walking in elderly women: A randomized, controlled, open-label trail.” European Journal of Integrative Medicine Vol 6, Iss 1, Feb 2014, pp5-11. ↩
- “What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis”; Environmental Science & Technology; May 15, 2010; ↩
- University of California’s Explore Integrative Medicine; Stress-Reducing Foods; Shannon Wongvibulsin; 2014; Last accessed January 21, 2016 ↩
- Harvard Medical School; Yoga for Anxiety and Depression; ↩