Most people don’t mind winter when the holidays are approaching. However as soon as January whines down, the snow piles up and the temps bottom out; we all hope that the famous rodent sees his shadow and gives old man winter the boot.  Studies show that 6 out of every 100 people in the U.S. experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, better known as SAD.  This disorder often occurs during the winter months and research suggests that the low level of serotonin in our brain coupled with a reduction of vitamin D intake may contribute to it.  It is characterized by depression, excessive sleeping, increased appetite, weight gain, etc.  Whether you are suffering from the blues, cabin fever or SAD here are some suggestions from the Dismas Home of New Hampshire that can help boost your mood and energy while appealing to all your senses.

Turn on the Sun

When Mother Earth is on her trip around the sun and your part of the world is tilted away, the light from that big fiery ball has to spread over a larger area making it weaker.  Now there are many sunny days in the winter months but it is hard to want to bundle up and go outside when the wind is fierce and the cold is bone-chilling.  Studies show that using a lightbox that mimics natural outdoor light, pumping around 10,000 lux, can help ease SAD symptoms and positively affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep.   There are many great options online for lightboxes that vary in price but if you are on a super strict budget and a little crafty here is the link to a DIY lightbox.  With a little creativity and research, you can brush up on this design and make it your own.

Get your Grub on

The blues can serve up cravings for comfort food which are usually high in fat, carbohydrates, and sugar. Although these foods are comforting, they have a tendency to intensify tiredness and moodiness.  Instead try to eat more plant proteins like leafy green vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, and whole grains.  These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals to help restore your energy levels.  Consider replacing heavy pasta dishes and red meat with fish or seafood that are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids; that are known to support proper nerve cell functioning and reduce depressive symptoms.  For a sweet fix try a little dark chocolate which can elevate your mood by releasing endorphins into the brain.

Help make a donation so the residents at the Dismas Home have resources for healthy eating.   

Exercise not Extra Fries

If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a thousand times, 30 minutes of exercise a day keeps the doctor away, ok maybe that’s an apple but you get the point.  Exercising daily for 15-30 minutes can help ease anxiety, improve overall mental health, strengthen your immune system and help you maintain a healthy weight.   It isn’t easy to leave your warm, cozy bed but just think about how great you will feel when your brain is swimming in those feel-good chemicals.  Exercise doesn’t have to look like pumping iron or training for a marathon, try walking, yoga, skating, or dancing.  Make it fun, make it your own, and before you know it will become a habit you’ll chase.

Next month, we will continue our talk with three more helpful tips!

Pump up the Volume

Have you ever listened to a song and transported back to the very first time you heard it?  The right tune can spike endorphin levels, lessen pain and induce a natural high.  Music therapy has the ability to encourage positive physiological behaviors which in turn can assist in managing and controlling emotional issues.  Studies show that music therapy can help reduce stress, improve mood and cognitive functions, fine-tune language and social skills and promote emotional bonding. When enjoying your favorite tunes, allow the notes to wash over you, sing like you are on a TV show, dance like there is no tomorrow, get that heart pumping.

Follow Your Nose 

 It is said that our sense of smell is the strongest of our five senses and is best able to influence brain activity.  Inside your nose is a large nerve called the olfactory bulb that extends from the top of your nose and plugs directly into the areas of the brain that process emotion and learning.   Essential oils from plants can reduce stress, promote relaxation and enhance cognitive function.  They also have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties so using them can keep some germs at bay.  Try these scents;

Lemon promotes concentration and has calming and clarifying properties that are helpful when you’re feeling angry, anxious, or run down. 

Lavender has calming properties that help control emotional stress, soothe the nerves, and can relieve nervous tension and depression. 

Jasmineis commonly used as an antidepressant because of its uplifting capabilities that produce a feeling of confidence, optimism, and revitalized energy. 

Rosemaryhas stimulating properties that fight physical exhaustion, headaches, and mental fatigue. 

Stay in Touch 

Being around family and friends can help to boost your mood and motivate you to do the things you love.  Ask a friend to meet up for coffee, catch a movie or have a hang session.  It may surprise you to find out that the person you are meeting up with might need this interaction just as much as you do. Scientists say the ‘cuddle hormone, Oxytocin, rises when we hug, touch, or sit close to someone else and just twenty seconds of affectionate touch triggers its release.  Our sense of touch is the first sensory system to develop in the womb, it is our first language and one of the most powerful means of communication. The very act of embracing our loved ones can help us feel safe, connected and accepted.  With the pandemic still hanging around please practice safety while loving your loved ones. 

Make it Visually Appealing 

Creating an environment that can improve your mood may be simpler than you think by using color.  Many people are drawn to colorful things because they invoke feelings of happiness, calmness, and inspiration.  Red and violet can boost your adrenaline because they are bold and energizing.  Green and yellow can help you feel happier because they are a reminiscence of nature, lush greenery, and sunshine.  For a relaxing and calming effect, hues of blue can remind you of the sky and ocean.   You can decorate your space with throw pillows, soft blankets, aromatic candles, or flowers in shades of these colors.  It could also be fun to try a colorful scarf, lip/nail color, or a bright quirky hat.  

Winter can be brutal but remember warmer days are around the corner.  We at the Dismas Home of New Hampshire hope you will be able to boost your mood with one or more of these suggestions and for now, Stay warm!

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