Shaking off the winter blues……for good

I have written in the past on the effects of diet on a person’s mood.  I bring this blog to you today due to the arrival of Spring!  Many people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) every year and now that the warm weather is beginning to peek its head through the clouds it’s time to shake off the winter blues….for good!

Depression affects approximately 19 million American every year.  In fact, at some point in their lives 10%-25% of women and 5%-12% of men will experience clinical depression. * Major depression disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and is so common that it is often referred to as the “common cold” of mental illness.  It is definitely recommended that you discuss your symptoms with your physician if you are experiencing signs of depression.  They may recommend medication initially, but more and more physicians are beginning to make recommendations based on exercise and diet to treat depressed patients. 

It has been shown that being active and eating more whole foods can have significant effects on our mood, energy levels, and ability to cope with stress.  I have experienced bouts of depression for years and have experimented with different workout schedules, eating habits and the effects they have on my mood and outlook on life.  I can honestly say that I feel more positive, confident, motivated, and have more energy when I am sticking to a healthy regimen.  When reading some articles on SparkPeople.com, I came across a list of “Do’s” that I would recommend trying out and things I am already doing in my daily life to help keep away the blues.  So instead of recreating the wheel and typing up these ideas of my own, I will share with you the list from SparkPeople. 

DO structure your meals. Eat at approximately the same times each day and don’t skip meals. Enjoy three well-balanced meals and plan snacks between meals. This will help insure that your body is getting the right nutrients throughout the course of the day.

DO eat quality nutrients. Dieting itself is a stress on the body. Individuals who are trying to lose weight and have a history of depression must work to eat foods that are good for the body and the brain. Try incorporating more whole foods, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats by starting with this list of super foods.

DO eat plenty of calories, even if you are trying to lose weight. Extremely low-calorie diets alter your metabolism and increase your risk of malnutrition. Eating less than 1,000 calories per day reduces the amount of tryptophan (an essential amino acid that is needed to produce serotonin) in your body. As a result, serotonin levels drop, which increases symptoms of depression and its chances of recurring. If you have trouble meeting your calorie needs, read Calorie-Boosting Tips.

DO consume plenty of Omega-3s. Research suggests that certain omega-3 fatty acids can help with depression, either by correcting overactive cell signals in the brain or by allowing serotonin to pass through cell membranes more easily. Foods rich in omega-3s include cold water fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel), soybeans, walnuts, eggs fortified with omega-3s, and ground flaxseed.
DO cut back on caffeine. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, making you feel anxious and interfering with sleep patterns. Consume no more than 200- 300 milligrams of caffeine daily.

DO avoid alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and illicit drugs can interact with antidepressant medications and other over-the-counter medications. For many, depression and substance abuse are already closely connected. If you think you have a problem, seek help. Addictive or abusive behaviors can prevent you from a full recovery.

DO eat plenty of “good” carbohydrates, which increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. High serotonin levels can improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression. At minimum, aim for at least 130 grams of carbohydrates each day. And try to forgo the processed, “white” carbs (white rice, white bread, white flour, etc.) in favor of less processed foods like whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread and whole grain cereals), fruits and veggies.

I’d like to add a couple more……

DO try to incorporate some physical activity into you daily routine.  Pick something you enjoy ( walking the dog, jogging, bike riding, gardening, working out with a friend, dancing, yoga, etc).  Just get moving!  I promise as hard as it may seem you will feel a thousand times better after you move your body. 

DO begin journaling.  Writing down your feelings, mood, frustrations, etc can help you work through a problem you are facing.  Sometimes writing down what’s bothering you will help you see just how easy a solution may be or what’s bothering you is silly to begin with.  I would also challenge you to write down good things that happen throughout your day.  After a while you will begin to focus more on this category than on the little daily annoyances. 

You may struggle at first and you may slip up every once in a while, but pick a few of the ideas above and do the best you can.  If you have a bad day, just know that tomorrow will be better.

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