Did You Know: December 2013

Fact: The gloom caused by the winter months in much of the country is biologically felt to some degree by an estimated one in four of us.
-Michael Terman, PhD, director of the Winter Depression Program at New York Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Medical Center

Consider These Six Tips to Help You Fight the Winter Blues

By: Nicolette Howells, PhD

1. Sunlight Get as much sunlight as possible. Light enters the eye, which activates a body clock system that is similar to what controls seasonal breeding and hibernation in animals, says psychiatrist Daniel F. Kripke, MD, who conducted the first controlled study of bright light therapy for depression in 1981. This system is connected to the brain’s appetite hardwiring, which might explain why you may have more food cravings in winter.

2. Exercise It isn’t only for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. It’s great for relieving the stresses of life. You’ll have more energy throughout the day, and your metabolism with stay elevated too. Exercise also helps your mind by releasing neurotransmitters and chemicals that improve your mood.

3. Eat a Healthy Diet What and when you eat has a great effect on your mood and energy. Avoid refined and processed foods (like white breads, rice and sugar). These foods are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood—causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Try to incorporate more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, fruit). These healthy foods provide your body (and mind) with nutrients, and stabilize your blood sugar and your energy levels. In addition, using things like peppermint can help revitalize your energy and help you feel nostalgic for the time of year.

4. Plan Ahead Having something to look forward to can keep anyone remain motivated. But if you plan something exciting, your mood improves when you’re anticipating it and when the event actually comes. Plan something that’s exciting to you—a weekend trip, a day at the spa, a get together, or special event like a play, concert, or sporting event.

5. Embrace the Season Instead of always avoiding the cold and the snow—look for the best that it has to offer! Take up a winter sport like ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, or even sledding! Enjoy these opportunities while they last—after all, they’re only here a few months per year. Staying active will boost your energy. Seeing winter in a positive light, with all the fun activities that it has to offer, will keep your spirits high.

6. Keep your Mind Active Many people in the Midwest and northern states feel their activity level significantly decrease during the winter months. While the previously mentioned tips can help combat this, don’t forget about the power of the mind. If you are not able to keep yourself as physically active as you would like, keep your mind active by writing, doing puzzles, playing trivia, etc.



Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo
Information taken from the following helpful links:
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Nicolette Howells, PhD is a clinical psychologist in Columbus focusing on children, adolescents, and their families. Private practice at The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy of Greater Columbus and adjunct faculty at Columbus State Community College.