#1 Work Up A Sweat
Need a lift to get you through the last dreary days of winter? You can fight off the doldrums with a daily 20-minute sweat session.
If spring isn’t getting here fast enough for you, 20 minutes of vigorous activity a day is all you need to maintain mental wellness. Of course, the more you do, the better you will feel, but we’re talking bare minimum here. Since exercise is also a great stress buster, take those 20 minutes in the middle of your workday, when you feel like you’re about to pull your hair out. Getting away from your desk helps you take a step back, literally and figuratively, and allows you to put your 9-to-5 woes in perspective.
#2 Munch On Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of tryptophan, which the body uses to make the feel-good hormone serotonin.
Plant a seed for better mental health: Keep a stash of pumpkin seeds on hand for snacking and for adding crunch to other foods. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body uses to manufacture serotonin, a hormone associated with improved mood and sleep. Roast them yourself by buying raw pumpkin seeds (sometimes called pepitas), spreading them on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil and seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper. Bake in a 350-degree oven for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Snack on a handful of them in mid-morning or during the afternoon. Or sprinkle pumpkin seeds on yogurt, over salads, or on top of baked sweet potatoes.
#3 Beat Winter Blues with a Light Box
If you struggle with the winter blues, make this the year you try a light box: Thirty minutes a day can improve your mood in just one week.
Long nights, short days, low temperatures and an emotional funk — they’re all just an unavoidable part of winter, right? Not necessarily. If you are one of the 11 million people estimated to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (seasonal depression caused by the lack of sunlight in the winter months) or one of the 25 million who experience the milder, yet still troubling, winter blues, research shows that using a light box is as effective as taking antidepressants. According to a Canadian study that compared the effects of light therapy and Prozac, 30 minutes of sitting in front of a light box every day for eight weeks worked just as well as Prozac to ease depression, and started to have an effect after just one week. The Philips goLITE BLU energy light is compact, easy-to-use and clinically proven to be effective.
#4 Fight Depression with Fish Oils High in EPA
Improve your mood with fish. Depressed people may benefit from fish oil supplements that contain extra EPA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid.
A new study has found that, when it comes to treating mood disorders, some omega-3s may work better than others. If you are suffering from depression, taking a fish oil supplement that’s high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) might help. According to a meta-analysis presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting, people who took fish oil pills that contained more EPA than docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) experienced mood improvements, while those who took supplements containing more DHA did not. Though more research is needed, the findings suggest that depression relief from fish oil may come down to a specific ratio of the two fatty acids. The study also found that fish oil did not boost the moods of people who are not depressed. Though people with depression shouldn’t rely only on fish oil to relieve symptoms, taking a supplement with EPA may help. To get more EPA in your diet, eat fatty coldwater fish, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, trout and halibut.
#5 Meditate for Multiple Benefits
Keep yourself happy and healthy this winter by meditating. Meditation can help you cope with stress, improve mood and boost immunity.
We all know that stress has the power to wipe us out — mentally and physically. Who hasn’t gotten a headache or a bad cold after a particularly trying week at the office? Stress-management techniques like meditation can help us feel calmer, happier and even more energetic. What’s more, new research shows that these positive psychological changes can affect our health all the way down to our DNA. A study at the University of California, Davis shows that meditation helps keep our genetic material healthier and longer lasting, which means better health and longevity for us. Past research suggests daily meditation may also boost the immune system. If you’re new to meditation, download the Cleveland Clinic’s guided meditation app to your iPhone or learn how to reduce stress with our guided online program, Stress Free Now. Try to practice meditation for a few minutes every day.
#6 Breathe Deeply
Daily mindfulness training can combat the effects of a high-stress situation. Buffer your mood with deep breathing exercises.
We all know how stressful situations can get the better of us. They can make us irritable, distracted and even forgetful. Practicing mindfulness techniques can help. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied the effects of mindfulness training — learning how to be present in the moment without reacting emotionally — on a military group about to be deployed to Iraq. They found that the more time spent on daily mindfulness exercises, the better their mood and working memory. Mindfulness allows us to not get lost in our thoughts or emotions, and instead teaches acceptance of the situation. To begin, sit in a comfortable, upright position, somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Set a timer for 10 minutes so you won’t have to glance at the clock. Gaze somewhere in front of you as you focus on your breath. Notice the sensations, like the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen. If thoughts arise, just acknowledge them and then let them go and come back to the focus of your breath. Don’t judge yourself harshly for stray thoughts, for it is the nature of the mind for thoughts to arise. The practice is to recognize when you have been carried away by them. Pay attention to each moment and each breath during this time. Take this time for yourself and see how much better you feel at the conclusion.