Nine Healthy Habits for Winter Wellness
For some of us, cooler weather can mean the desire to wrap up, move less and eat more. It can also affect your mood depending on where you live and the amount of daylight you’re exposed to – or not! Less sunlight makes serotonin, the mood-enhancing chemical in the brain, less active. And this can leave you feeling tired and hungry.
If you are prone to winter blues and illness try these top tips you can get started on now to take care of your mind, body and soul right through this winter.
1. Get enough essential fats
Your diet can directly affect your mood. So, make sure you’re enjoying a mixed diet. Fish such as salmon, sardines and fresh tuna are excellent choices because they are protein-rich and also contain omega-3 fats. These can affect your mood in a number of ways. According to Australia’s Black Dog Institute, because these essential fats (so called because your body can’t make them for itself and so they must come from the diet), are involved in the functioning of the brain. Plus, they are anti-inflammatory and inflammation is related to a number of chronic (long-term) conditions including anxiety and depression. Also, one type of omega-3 fat, called DHA, forms part of the structure of the brain.
Good vegetarian sources include walnuts, flax seeds.
2. Be prepared
The B group of vitamins has many roles including the release of energy and the production of hormones in the brain that help with a healthy mood. Low levels of some of them - folate (folic acid) and vitamin B12 - is linked with depression although more research is being done to find out why, what happens and how much is needed. Find folate in leafy veggies and fruits and vitamin B12 in liver and salmon.
3. Ease stress with berries
Stress hormones use up tiny stores of vitamin C – the body can’t hold much of this delicate water-soluble vitamin to begin with. So, you need to consume it daily. Nibbling on vitamin C-rich foods such as berries might prevent the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. So, to feel calmer, super foods will bring you more contentment than comfort foods.
4. Cut out the white stuff
And talking of comfort foods, a lot of people turn to carbohydrates to soothe. But sugar - whether brown, raw or any other foods or drinks that contain added sugar and too litte omega - may alter the function of your brain, slowing it down.
5. Pick dark chocolate
It's a fact. Chocolate is good for you. Not the fat-rich sugary kind, but dark chocolate that is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. So, pick yourself up with a few squares of really good chocolate with as high a cocoa content as you can.
6. Let the sunshine in
Getting enough vitamin D is important not only for a healthy body, but for a healthy mind. Deficiency has been linked with anxiety and depression. Unlike most viatmins, this one doesn't just come from food - we make it when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Even in sun-drenched Australia and New Zealand, we can be low on the so-called sunshine vitamin. So, as well as enjoying a little winter sun each day with a walk or run, eat vitamin D-containing foods such as free-range eggs, mushrooms and canned fish (such as salmon). It is also available as a supplement.
7. Get moving
Colds, coughs and sniffles are an expected part of winter but if you keep moving and find ways that you can enjoy getting fit, you may also feel better about yourself and boost your immune system at the same time!
8. Don't look for relief from a bottle
Try not to get into the habit of winding down with alcohol. It has a sedative effect on your central nervous system and one drink may help you relax but drinking heavily and/or over a long period can increase anxiety. Talk to your GP for more advice.
9. Keep your promises
If you’ve made promises to yourself that you haven’t kept, such as regular exercise, decide on a regime and stick with it. You may not feel like it, but exercise is all the more important in the colder months. It burns calories, shifts fat and boosts your immune system.
As well as exercise, you may have made other promises to yourself that you may not have kept. As we approach winter, think about the promises you made and why you made them. Are they still as important? Or are other things more important now? What do you need to do to start moving towards your goals? Whether you want to be healthier or more focused or fitter, today is the right day to start.
- Black Dog Institute. Omega-3 and mood disorders https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/factsheets/omega-3.pdf?sfvrsn=4
- Coppen A1, Bolander-Gouaille C.Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jan;19(1):59-65.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15671130
- Brody S1, Preut R, Schommer K, Schürmeyer TH.A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002 Jan;159(3):319-24. Epub 2001 Nov 20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11862365
- UCLA Newsroom. This is your brain on sugar: UCLA study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids can offset damage, researchers say http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/this-is-your-brain-on-sugar-ucla-233992Jorde R1, Sneve M, Figenschau Y, Svartberg J, Waterloo K.
- Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial. J Intern Med. 2008 Dec;264(6):599-609. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2008.02008.x. Epub 2008 Sep 10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18793245