There is a phenomenon that occurs at this time of year—the February blues, or winter doldrums. The short days and cold weather start to get to us. Feelings of depression, lack of motivation, restlessness and irritability can become more common. While it may be enough to simply chalk this up to the time of year and try to hang in there until the daffodils herald the coming of spring, we suggest a different approach.
1.) Check Your Vitamin D Levels
It is important to know that there may be physiological factors at play. For one thing, it is very common for our vitamin D levels to drop during the winter months. While this deficiency can start in the late fall, the effects of the deficiency may not be felt until about now. One of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency is depression! Even if you already supplement with vitamin D, the level that you are taking may not be enough during the winter. You may want to ask your healthcare provider to check your vitamin D level so you can adjust your supplementation accordingly.
2.) Pay Close Attention to Your Diet and 3.) Minimize Alcohol Intake
This is also a great time of year to pay attention to what we eat. One common coping mechanism against the dreariness of winter is to increase our consumption of comfort foods. During the winter, people tend to eat more foods high in fat and carbohydrates. So-called “winter foods” such as pasta, potatoes, baked goods, red meat, creamy soups and casseroles tend to show up on our dinner tables more often.
We also tend to drink more alcohol this time of year. Alcohol and these winter foods may provide a temporary sense of comfort, but after weeks of consuming these foods, the physiology of our body will be negatively affected. Food is, after all, more than calories. Food contains molecules which communicate to our cells and influence our cells’ actions. A diet with more simple carbohydrates and saturated fats up-regulates inflammatory signaling, decreases insulin resistance and affects the production of stress and sleep hormones. One of the net effects is that we begin to feel irritable, depressed, and anxious. And you can see the vicious circle that happens from here as we self-assuage with more of the same foods.
4. Eat More Fruit and Vegetables
In several human clinical studies, higher consumption of vegetables and fruit is directly correlated with lower levels of depression. It makes sense because these foods support optimal hormonal levels, reduce inflammation and help us to process insulin. Aim for five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day. And if you crave warm winter foods rather than that salad, just steam your veggies and bake your fruit.
5. Infuse Each Day with Gratitude, Peace and Love
Don’t let seasonal sadness get you down. Simple adjustments can make a huge difference in how you feel. You are worth it today and every day throughout the year! And remember to infuse each and every day with some measure of gratitude, gentle peacefulness, and love.