By Dr. Alexis Blanks, Naturopathic Doctor
It’s 2 p.m. and I need the lights on to see across my normally bright living room – outside there isn’t even a hint of blue sky as the rain comes steadily down. We’re in the depths of winter, a time when people have less energy, dour moods and suffer more colds and flues because of it.
It’s a good time to hit the reset button; here are some healthy tips and reminders to break the winter funk, stoke your internal fire to keep you healthy and happy.
1. Go outside and take a friend with you. Most would agree that intuitively, going outside sounds like a good idea to improve mood and health. Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School conducted a large-scale study linking group nature walks to improved mental health and reduced stress. Group walks in nature were associated with significantly lower depression, perceived stress and negative affect, as well as enhanced positive affect and mental well-being.
2. Get your Vitamin D. When you’re skin is exposed to sunlight, your body makes Vitamin D. Healthy vitamin D levels are important for many reasons, it is certainly important for a healthy immune system and may contribute to positive mood. See point No. 1! As added insurance, I recommend Vitamin D supplementation during these grey months. As a general rule, I consider 2000IU’s a day for an adult to be appropriate but I also encourage having your vitamin D levels checked to better personalize the dose. Vitamin D is absorbed with fat so take it with a meal.
3. Get Active. Several studies have shown exercise can be as effective as taking an antidepressant, with longer lasting effects and several positive side benefits. Most people also find that exercise increases energy and relieves stress, which in turn strengthens the immune system. I know it’s hard to get going sometimes, especially on these grey days. I often suggest to people: put on your shoes and coat and go out the door and take a few steps…tell yourself, you can always turn around, but getting out the door is usually the hardest part.
4. Give your diet a makeover. The holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy yummy food with friends and family but many find that they come out of the holidays with more bad habits and an extra sharp sweet tooth. Having lots of refined sugars and flours can lead to fluctuating blood sugar and from there, fluctuating moods. Sugar also hinders the body’s ability to fight colds and flus. After the holidays is as good a time as any to hit the reset button on your diet. Get rid of those leftover temptations, stock your kitchen with healthy whole foods (LOTS of veggies), get inspired with a new healthy cookbook or food blogger. One of my favourites is www.nourishingmeals.com.
5. See a naturopathic doctor (ND) for better personalized care. We ND’s take an individualized approach to health care to help strengthen your immune system, and work towards the happiest, healthiest you.