January 16, 2017 is designated as "Blue Monday", aka the most depressing day of the year. It's cold outside, the excitement of Christmas and New Year's have long past, and what has settled in is a reminder of our outstanding credit card bills and faltering New Year's resolutions.
BUT! This is only a day created by algorithms and statistics. Let's learn how to make sure WE are not included in one of those stats, by preventing seasonal depression before it rears it's ugly head. Here are my top 5 tips:
1. Get Outside
I know, I know...As I look outside right now, all I see is grey sky and rain. Who feels like spending time outdoors?! This is the time of year we need to be:
- Dress for the weather by bringing that ugly but oh-so-warm winter parka out of the basement
- embrace the nice days when you can! If there's sun, then get out there! Go for a 30-minute walk around your neighbourhood
- We're Canadians, so let's live up to our roots and not be wimps about the weather. And since motivation can be lower this time of year, you may need to kick your own butt a little to get moving, but it will be worth it!
2. Take Your Vitamin D
Following on the coat-tails of the first point, we need our vitamin D aka "the sunshine vitamin". Those of us living more than 30 degrees north of the equator (that means ALL of Canada) are not able to make vitamin D in the winter months. That is a BIG DEAL considering it is responsible for
- boosting our immune systems
- preventing cancer
- maintaining healthy bones, and
- supporting our happy brain chemicals.
3. Feed Your Bugs
Your gut bugs, that is!
Our digestive tract is unquestionably linked to our mental and emotional health. Maintaining a happy and healthy environment in our gut translates to happy and healthy mental health. The best and cheapest way to do this is to become familiar with fermented foods.
My faves: kimchi (if you like spicy things), sauerkraut, yogurt, and any pickled vegetables. Incorporate these into your diet daily for a mind-body boost!
*Don't go too heavy on the kombucha...it's getting a lot of press these days, but anything that is fermented from sugar isn't all good. Drink it as a treat, now and then.
4. Sleep Like a Baby
I've been having a rough go with sleep lately, and as someone who is used to sleeping like a baby, it's not fun!! And so many of my patients struggle with sleep as well, which is why it's something that needs a lot more attention than we're willing to give it.
Our busy lives are "go go go" all day, and then as soon as we turn off netflix and brush our teeth, we expect our bodies to turn off, without nurturing the relaxation response in our brains.
Get your sleep on by maintaining a routine bedtime.1 hour prior to that, begin to wind down by dimming the lights, turning off your TV/computer/phone, picking up a book to read, having a bath or carving out time for meditation.
It sound like a lot to ask - I know! But nurturing sleep is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Make it a priority.
5. Resist the Temptation to Hibernate
A lot of us tend to hibernate in the winter months. It's natural - we are animals, after all! But fighting that urge to hibernate on the couch rather than go out now and then is super important.
While we're sitting at home, contemplating the work of getting dressed, going out in the cold, and having conversations with someone other than our cat, we most definitely forget how good it feels to see our friends.
It is rare that anyone ever comes home from a night with pals that they say "I wish I had stayed home alone instead".
So just do it. Not every day, or every weekend even. But make an effort - we all need community to get through the darker days of winter.
-Dr. Nicole Rush, ND