11960051_10106490317333955_6015088265092406286_nSpring is right around the corner! Okay, not ‘right’ around the corner but the end is in sight.

Are you feeling blah, blue or are you one of the millions of people struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

If so, my heart goes out to you. I’ve suffered with the insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, listlessness and gained weight SAD can bring. I tried therapists, herbs, acupuncture or anything that promised a brighter day.

Today I’m sharing steps I took to feel better.

First Re-frame Your Mindset
Our society is always plugged in, on the go and overstimulated. We are exposed to less natural sunlight during this time of year and winter’s energy is low.

Why not embrace hibernation vs. fighting it? Use this time to slow down, reflect on areas of your life that are working well and which ones aren’t.  Create a plan of action to do more of the things are working. Start small and by the time spring hits you’ll already set some health habits into play.

Nutrition Prescription:

  • Increase dark leafy greens. Spinach, kale, and collard greens contain folate, a B vitamin that helps produce the ‘feel good’ and energizing neurotransmitter serotonin. Greens strengthen your immune system, are energizing and can lift your spirit. I’ve seen a huge change in my outlook on life since I’ve boosted my green intake. Warm-up your salads by a sprinkling quinoa or a diced roasted sweet potato on top. Greens are great in soups, smoothies, casseroles and pestos.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Often overlooked, this protein-packed seed contains magnesium. A ¼ cup serving provides 50% of your recommended intake of this mineral. Magnesium helps you relaxation, better sleep and aids with digestion. Add these magical seeds to salads, soups, or in homemade granola.
  • Lentils: Filled with fiber, protein, folate and tryptophan. The fiber and protein will help stabilize your blood sugars which will also stabilize your mood. One cup has 90% of your recommended intake of folate and 18 grams of protein. The complex carbs in lentils also boost tryptophan production which also boosts serotonin levels. Add these to salads, use them for vegetarian taco meat, or make lentil soup.
  • Enjoy dark chocolate but avoid refined sugars. Polyphenols in dark chocolate elevate mood and relieve anxiety and depression. Look for chocolate bars with 60% cacao. Refined sugars increase inflammation and anxiety and decrease immunity. Swap the legal crack with my amazing DIY chocolate cacao bites.
  • Cashews.  (an awesome cheese substitute). Cashew cheese is a knock-out substitute for cheese and has a SAD fighting profile to boot. Cheese is a comfort food but can cause you to feel blogged down and is easy to overdo (aka packs on unwanted pounds). In the food documentary, Food Matters Dr. Andrew Saul reported that eating two handfuls of cashews is equivalent to taking a prescription dose of the popular antidepressant Prozac. Cashews are also high in tryptophan, so you’ll get another dose of that happiness-inducing serotonin.
  • Flax Seeds: The omega-3 fatty acids found in flax seed help you maintain healthy levels serotonin and another brain chemical associated with happiness and a decrease in depression, dopamine.  Aim for two tablespoons of ground flax seed a day by adding flax seed to smoothies, soups, salads.

Lifestyle Prescription

  • Laugh. Google Ellen’s instant mood boosters or watch a funny movie. Laughter helps heal the soul. 
  • Move. Get your endorphins pumping. Yoga, a brisk walk outside, dance party or any other activity get you out of your head and into your body.
  • Meditation, gratitude, guided relaxation and visualization. Try this. Close your eyes and imagine yourself somewhere warm, a beach maybe, feel the sand beneath you, the wind in your hair, the smell of the nature, and the mist coming off the ocean. Take a mental vacation for a couple minutes. This exercise has been one of my favorites.
  • Invest in a SAD light. Sitting in front of this box has been shown to be effective for helping people with SAD. Check out this great article from Dr. Andrew Weil.
  • Get Your Vitamin D Checked: Deficiency of vitamin D is linked to depression. Dr. Mark Hyman says to get tested for 25 OH vitamin D. The optimal range is 100-160 nmol/L or 40-65ng/mL. If deficient choose a supplement with the word “gramma” not alpha. Here is the one I use.

Try this techniques and if they don’t help please make an appointment with your physician or a therapist.

Wishing you health, happiness and peace.