Here are 4 do-it-yourself ways to fight SAD this winter:
1. Watch Your Diet
Weight gain is a major side effect of SAD. This is closely linked to an increased craving for simple carbohydrates, both sweets and starches, in those with SAD. A study done at the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center showed that participants with SAD consumed larger or double servings of sweets during the winter months, while their cravings went back to normal in the spring and summer.
• Cut out refined sugars such as candy, cakes, cookies, white bread, rice, etc. These foods rapidly increase your blood sugar and in turn cause a quick drop, resulting in an energy crash. These foods also tend to be high in unhealthy fats and calories which ultimately result in weight gain. Instead choose complex carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains!
• Eat foods that contain tryptophan such as fish, turkey, chicken, bananas, milk, eggs, nuts, and avocados. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that affects our mood, and when it is low we have feelings of depression. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan, which is why consuming foods that contain it can help increase our serotonin levels and lift our mood!
• Make sure not to skip meals. Keeping a consistent eating schedule will help you refrain from mindless snacking throughout the day. Also, make these mealtimes enjoyable! Meet a friend for lunch or bring a sack lunch and eat it at your favorite coffee shop.
2. Stay Active
• Exercise can do wonders for your mood! Just 1 hour of exercise 3 times a week can significantly reduce symptoms of depression, and also keep you in great shape.
• Get some fresh air! Go for a 30-minute walk around the bock to get your blood flowing. The more you can get outside during the light of day the better.
3. Get Social
• Make sure to continue on with normal social activities. The less isolated you are the less you will have time to feel down and out.
4. Light Therapy
• If you are experiencing extreme symptoms of SAD please consult your healthcare provider about light therapy. This is a way to help treat SAD without the use of depression medication. It takes about 30 minutes out of your day, but has made a difference for a great deal of people.
Alison Wilson, Wellness Director & Nutritionist
Seattle Athletic Club Downtown