from Christi Lehner's 'Winter Blues' Teleclass
Make sure to check out my Winter Blues Survival Kit!
What are the Winter Blues? If you have the Winter Blues, you may:
· Feel bored and restless - like you have cabin fever or are stir crazy
· Be irritable, grumpy, or tense
· Crave sweets and eat more than normal lots of emotional eating
· Feel lethargic - sluggish - hard to get moving
· Be sad or down or moody
· Feel fatigued - sleeping (or wanting to sleep) much more than normal
· Lose interest in sex
· Have trouble concentrating
Why do we get Winter Blues?
The fact that the winter blues occur when the days grow shorter is not a coincidence. Sunlight is crucial to our health, and when we don't get enough exposure to sunlight our mood and our health suffers.
Why does this happen? When you're out in the sun, your serotonin levels go up. Serotonin is the hormone in our bodies that elevates our mood. In the winter, we don't get much sunlight, so we don't produce as much serotonin. The result? We feel blue!
There's another hormone that's affected in the winter. The sleep hormone - melatonin - which is produced by the pineal gland in our brain - is also affected by light and dark. Melatonin is the hormone that lets our body know it's time to sleep. When it's dark, your melatonin levels increase.
So, if you find yourself getting tired these days when the sun sets at 4:30 in the afternoon - when you still have 1-2 hours of work left - that's due to the increase in melatonin.
In winter, we not only have low levels of serotonin (the - feel good
- hormone) but our melatonin (the - sleep - hormone) kicks into gear
earlier in the day, making us tired sooner. No wonder we feel a little
out of sorts during winter!
How about celebrating Winter?
Winter is really an amazing season, one that is totally different and
unique and special from all the rest.
Chinese medicine believes that the seasons have a very profound cyclical
effect on human growth and health. Chinese medicine says that we are
influenced by climate changes and we should live in harmony with them.
Yet most of us don't change the way we live during the winter. We go
about our days in the winter as if they're like spring, summer, fall
days. We keep going, just as quickly, with the same diets, the same
bedtimes, and the same workout routines.
It's no wonder we have such a hard time during the winter! It's no wonder
we have intense cravings at night for warm, comforting rich foods, because
it's cold outside and yet we're still eating salads, cold yogurt, and
fruit every day for lunch during winter! It's no wonder we have cabin
fever, because we don't go outside in the fresh air like we did during
snow days when we were kids!
As winter draws closer, our blood starts to thicken. We start to feel
more introspective, and we start to store our energy and strength. The
cold and darkness make us seek inner warmth. Winter is a time to draw
inwards, to trust ourselves, to tap into our intuition. It's a time
to rest, meditate, and store a bit of extra weight.
But to do that we need to slow down a bit, and relish the warmth of
our homes and breathe in the briskness of the air!
How to Avoid the Winter Blues?
Winter is a time for hibernation, for
warming yourself up, for cuddling, staying in, and being a bum! Use
these ideas to help you enjoy staying inside during winter:
· Go to bed earlier than normal. Even if you can't
fall asleep right away, the important thing is to get horizontal and
give your body a rest. Try napping on the weekend afternoons, too.
· Buy a hot water bottle (just like grandma used to
have). Take it to the office to warm your belly during the day. Fill
it up with hot water and put it at the foot of your bed before you retire
for the night.
· Take a hot shower or bath. This is a great transition
activity. After I meet with my clients, or do my lectures, I come home
and have a hot shower.
is a natural mood booster, and it keeps us from feeling depressed in
the winter. Here are ways to get moving this winter:
· Do you have the right equipment and warm winter clothing?
· Do you belong to a gym? Or do you have outside
· Exercise works best when it's something you look forward to, so choose
something that fits your personality and fitness level. Dancing,
kickboxing, yoga and brisk walking are all great ideas.
· Do you have a buddy who can help motivate you? If
not, check out exercisefriends.com. How about talking on the phone while
you walk, to catch up with friends? How about walking to drop off dry
cleaning or buy stamps? Kill two birds with one stone! Then you can
go home and get toasty WARM.
· How about- aiming small? - Only commit to walking,
then run if you feel like it. Decide not to work out at all, then go
to the gym if you feel like it. Do a gentle yoga class instead of your
typical cardio routine, and then see if you have more energy to do some
time on the bike.
· Try a "winter sport" to get you outside and moving.
How about snow-shoeing, snowboarding, ice skating, or cross-country
skiing? How about doing yoga in a heated room? Buy a few workout DVDs
that you can do from the comfort of your home.
Food can offset Winter Blues. Which foods
are best in the winter?
· Eat a lot of soups, potatoes, and warming foods.
Instead of eating raw spinach and veggies, try sauteing them in olive
oil instead to warm them up. Have stew!
· You may find yourself craving comfort foods like
bread and mac & cheese. That's because these carbohydrate kind of
foods raise serotonin levels. Remember, our serotonin levels decrease
in the winter, because we don't get as much sunlight. So our body tries
to compensate by craving carbs and sugary foods. This is our body's
way of boosting serotonin levels - Keep these comfort foods in your
diet in moderation - use them as rewards for working out.
· Have healthy snacks in the afternoon when your blood
sugar levels drop. Try sweet potatoes baked with pecans and honey. Try
whole wheat pitas dipped in hummus or salsa. Try trail mix with raisins
or dates. Try an apple with peanut butter. Yogurt with granola and raisins.
Oatmeal with nuts. Olive spread on whole grain crackers. Use the Healthy
Snack List to find some snacks that will work for you.
· Bitter and salty foods are helpful. They promote
sinking, centering quality, which cools the exterior of our bodies so
we notice the cold less. Base your winter diet around foods like oatmeal,
brown rice, buckwheat noodles, endive, turnips, asparagus, alfalfa sprouts,
aduki beans, dark leafy greens, carrots, parsnips, winter squash, and
berries. To flavor your foods, try soy sauce, a little salt, sauerkraut,
garlic, green onions and ginger. These spices will heat your body up.
· Winter cooking styles: use ones that promote warmth
and strength and comfort. Slow-simmer, pressure-cook, bake, or saute.
· Foods that stress your body during the winter are
dairy foods like ice cream, cold foods and drink, too much raw food,
sugar and honey, over-salting.
· Omega-3 fatty acids are very helpful in getting rid
of depression. You get these from tuna, salmon, walnuts, sesame seeds,
olive oil, and flaxseed oil. You can also also try fish oil or cod liver
How to stay positive/upbeat during winter?
· Get out at lunchtime and look at the sun. You'll
be amazed at how much better you feel with a few minutes of natural
sunlight sprinkled throughout your day. Our depression is often caused
by lack of sunlight.
· Buy a full-spectrum lamp that will cast natural sunlight
into your office or bedroom. Full-spectrum lighting that replicates
the same healthy "ingredients" in natural sunlight. It will boost your
mood. Check out mercola.com or Happylite box from Verilux.
· Take a snow day. Remember how exciting it was to
be stuck at home during a blizzard when you were in school? Mother Nature
uses winter to force us to slow down, go inside, and get quiet. Set
aside a - well day - from work where you stay home with nothing to do,
nowhere to go, and no one to bother you. Don't use this day to run around
doing errands - use it as a recharge and refresh day. Plan it into your
schedule so you can take full advantage of it. I guarantee you'll be
twice as productive when you head back to work the next day.
· Get thee to a beach! Taking a beach vacation while
everyone else is in the snow makes you giddy! A beach trip should be
on your to-do list every winter. Just two days in the warm sand and
sun will revitalize you, I promise!
· Organize your living space (clearing clutter can
be calming for your mind)
And above all else, make sure you stock yourself with a Winter Survival Kit!