A couple of weeks ago I noticed that my brain seemed kind of foggy and that I was feeling a bit down. This went on for a handful of days until I started tossing around potential reasons in my head. Maybe I was just overwhelmed with the time of year and the extra things on my to do list, maybe it was because, Chris, my partner in crime, was out of town and I didn’t have her around to bounce things off of or just giggle with, or maybe it was because this time of year has a tendency to bring loved ones to mind and I was just missing my sister. But, as I walked to my car into another dismal, overcast Michigan winter day, it occurred to me that while all the above were probably contributing to my mood, it was very likely the lack of sun was in fact changing my brain chemistry and making all the other factors harder to deal with.
This is a VERY real thing and some of you may have heard it referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D. Basically, in the absence of sunlight, our body makes more of a hormone called Melatonin. Melatonin is also the hormone that naturally increases in our system at night putting us in a state of rest. So first of all, when sun is scarce and Melatonin increases, we start to feel sluggish and sleepy kind of like we are preparing for hibernation. Here’s the key factor though…(stay with me if you’re interested or skip to the last paragraph if you just want a solution)… Serotonin is a Melatonin precursor. Translated: as we use up more Serotonin in our system in order to produce more Melatonin in the absence of sunlight. AND as you may or may not know, Serotonin is a chemical in our brain that has two primary functions: 1)calmness & 2)impulse control.
So what we see with S.A.D., as our Serotonin levels decrease, is more depression, less energy and the inability for us to calm or soothe ourselves. And then as a whole separate issue, we see more binge eating, more excessive drinking and more shopping sprees as our ability to control our impulses diminish.
I bet you’re thinking right now…wow this explains a lot…right?? So heres the key…there are several things we can do to make more Serotonin and in doing so we can offset the winter blues and this lack of willpower...here’s 10 ways to increase your Serotonin…
1. Grab a few minutes of sun when it does happen to pop out…bundle up and go for a walk
2. Eat good carbs…you actually need carbs to make serotonin. Fruits, Veggies and Whole Grains
3. Connect…go to lunch with a friend, hug your kid,
or hang out in the BL Link
4. Laugh, giggle, watch a funny movie
6. Surround yourself with positive people
7. Get a good night’s sleep 7-8 hours/night
8. Excite your senses…diffuse essential oils, burn a candle, get a massage, listen to soothing music
9. Eat Omega 3 fatty acids like walnuts and salmon (key component of your nerve cells)
10. Breathe…take a yoga class, meditate, just breathe in and out through your nose.
There you go!! Pick one or two areas you might need some work on and notice how your mood as well as your ability to manage your weight improves!! Let's fight these winter blues together!!