Beat the Winter Blues: Start preparing now for a healthy, happy winter
Winter is coming; and the best time to start battling the winter blues is before they even set in. If you tend to get dark, tired and gloomy through the colder months then check out my doctor-approved tips on how to start preparing yourself to have a healthy and happy winter.
Research in Ontario suggests that approximately 15% of the population experiences “winter blues.” Typical symptoms include lethargy, low mood and anxiety. Integrative medicine focuses on the prevention of illness before symptoms even arise, so mid-fall is the ideal time to start preparing for a healthy winter. I recommend that my patients start building healthy winter habits now, before the snow and shorter days set-in. Here are some healthy, natural ways to set yourself up for a happy and energetic winter:
- Start an exercise routine: It has been proven over and over again in scientific studies; regular exercise consistently helps to reduce feelings of depression and lethargy. It can be very difficult to start an exercise routine when in the winter when most of us would rather be cozied up in bed than pumping iron in the gym. Getting started on a new exercise program is the most difficult part. If you’re currently inactive start exercising now while the days are longer and you still have some sunny energy leftover from the warmer weather. Begin with 4 weekly 45 minute workouts – bonus points if you exercise outdoors to gain a little extra exposure to sunlight while you still can.
- Prepare your home for the colder months: Fall is the time when I stock up on my favourite winter-scented candles (winter woods and maple make my home smell so lovely and cozy during the fall and winter) and invest in a few faux-fur throw pills and extra warm blankets for our bed. Since most of us will be spending more time indoors during the colder months it’s important that your home feels cozy and inviting. Now is also a great time to purchase some house plants at amazing end-of-season prices. Studies show that having a single house plant in your living space can boost mood by up to 11%.
- Increase your intake of Omega3 fatty acids: These healthy fats can help to maintain adequate levels of the “feel good” brain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) that increase feelings of happiness and reduce symptoms of depression. New research even suggests that most depression is actually related to increase levels of inflammation (known as the cytokine theory of depression), and omega3 fatty acids are one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatories. Your body cannot make omega3s so you need to supplement with fish oil or a diet rich in anti-inflammatory omegas. Start eating more of the following foods: fish, flaxseed, hemp, walnuts and dark leafy greens (especially spinach), or speak to your naturopath about adding a high EPA fish oil supplement to your fall health protocol. Many fish oils contain fillers and heavy metals, or the wrong ratio of EPA to DHA – so it’s important to work with a professional when determining the appropriate brand and dose for your health.
- Eat seasonally: In order to continue building optimal health through the fall and winter you should focus on eating foods that help you consolidate your energy and prepare your immune system for the cold months ahead. It’s important to help your body adjust to the cooler weather by cooking your food longer than you would in the summer to make it easier to digest. That means I’ll be replacing my daily raw salad with roasted vegetables and warming mugs of soup. Pay attention to the produce that is featured at your local farmer’s market, or check this list to see which fruits and vegetables are currently in season. Increase your intake of root vegetables, warming spices like ginger (warm ginger tea is my cold weather go-to), and vegetable-rich soups and stews to give your body all of the nutrients and vitamins needed to optimize mood and energy.
- Take your Vitamin D: Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is important to support mood during the winter. Canadian guidelines suggest between 400-2,000 IU of D3 daily to maintain adequate vitamin D levels throughout the year. However, it’s important to note that vitamin D is fat soluble and can therefore build up over time in body tissues, for this reason I advise that patients get their blood levels of Vitamin D checked in order to determine the best dose. Now is a great time to check your D status and start supplementing right away to prevent a winter deficiency.
- Get some fresh air and sunshine daily: Although vitamin D supplementation is helpful, the sun is the still the best source of this sunshine vitamin. Throw on your coat, scarf & mitts and head outside for a minimum of 10 minutes of sun, as often as possible before the days get any shorter.
Prepare early for a happy, healthy winter.
Looking to connect with a Naturopath in Oakville to discuss your health goals? Book your appointment here.
While these tips can be beneficial it’s still important to check in with your Naturopath, Therapist or General practitioner if you’re regularly experiencing depression, seasonal or otherwise. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Naturopathic doctor or primary care physician. Do not use the information in this document for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Always speak with your Naturopathic doctor before taking any medication or nutritional or herbal or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read online.