Banish the Winter Blues: Embark on a Lifestyle Change Journey

By Ashton Jackson, RD, LD/N

Embark on a new journey towards a healthy lifestyle.It’s January.  You survived the turkey, trimmed the tree, distributed gifts and rang in the New Year… now what? 

Changes in Mood

For many, the winter months of January and February come with a significant change in mood; often marked by negative feelings, apathy toward hobbies, and reduced energy.  Ironically, as the New Year and the opportunity for new beginnings rolls around, our desire to actually follow through with the resolutions we have set for ourselves is often foiled by this drastic change in feelings and motivation. Rather than hit the gym, many find they would prefer to sleep more, eat more and move less.

So why, you ask, do we all find ourselves feeling a bit low?

It’s Not Imaginary

First, it’s important to note that you aren’t just imagining this change.  Between 10% and 20% of Americans actually suffer from these symptoms of the “winter blues” and what’s more… many are diagnosed with an form of mild clinical depression unique to this time of year called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  A simple explanation is that the winter blues are thought to result from the shortened amount of  daylight that occurs during this time of year.

With decreased daylight hours, our bodies are robbed of sunlight which influences hormones like melatonin, serotonin, and Vitamin D, all of which are key players in our mood.  When you combine these physiological factors with the emotional let-down that follows the end of the holidays and the return to “business as usual” with work and home, it’s no surprise that we are all feeling a bit down.

Starting Fresh

As we enter this brand new year, don’t let all this talk of the blues get you down.  Instead, consider the following and enlist the support you need to get 2016 started off on a positive note.

See the light at the end of the tunnel… set new goals!

Set new goals for your healthy lifestyle.

Sometimes the best way to power through a downtrodden time is to set your sights on positive things ahead and develop goals accordingly.  Do you have a big life event coming up this year?  Have you been dying to start a new habit but just haven’t followed through?  Why not use this time to harness your motivation and inspiration and put it into action?

To ensure your efforts are fruitful, consider enlisting the help of a provider at Lifestyle Medical Center to help you develop S.M.A.R.T goals… Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.  Setting parameters for goals ensures that success will be within your reach and allows you to monitor your progress.

Get Moving

It’s no secret that exercise has a multitude of benefits.  Did you know, however, that in addition to assisting with weight control, exercise can actually boost your mood?  When you participate in physical activity, chemicals called endorphins, which work on the brain to reduce the perception of pain, are actually increased.  These endorphins also trigger positive feelings, or euphoria, within the body.  Despite knowing this information, many of us fail to act upon it… especially when the days are short and the weather is cold.

The good news?  We have a multitude of ideas on how to get you moving at Lifestyle Medical Center, and we can point you in the direction of an exercise routine that works in spite of your circumstances.  We even have a brand new crop of classes set to roll out in the coming year, which will allow you to explore your fitness routine with a group of fellow lifestyle-changers in a setting more comfortable than a traditional gym.

If group activities aren’t your thing, your provider will be more than happy to help you explore alternative ways to be more active at home utilizing everything from workout DVDs to YouTube videos.  We love to help you think outside the box!

“Let your food be your medicine…”

When we are feeling low, we often look to food to make ourselves feel better.  Unfortunately, more times than not, the foods we gravitate to may actually be doing the opposite of what we desire.  Reaching for foods high in refined carbohydrates like candy, cakes, or potato chips may give us a temporary boost, but their lack of nutrients actually lead to plummeting blood sugar levels that send our energy into a nose-dive.

These hyperglycemic episodes can really wreak havoc on your mood and your ability to concentrate, making them the worst possible treatment for a melancholy state.  Instead, it’s important to nourish your body with foods that are high in macronutrients like protein and healthy fat, as well as vitamins and minerals abundant in fruits and vegetables.

By working with a Registered Dietitian at Lifestyle Medical Center, you can expand your knowledge of the foods your body really needs and address any cravings or dietary habits that may be plaguing you.

Reach Out for Help

Of all the proven ways to address a bout of winter blues, having the support you need to power-through is by far, the most crucial.  Take an inventory of the people in your life (coworkers, friends, family) who are available to lift you up and keep you motivated during this difficult time of year.  And don’t forget our team of eager providers at Lifestyle Medical Center who are ready and willing to be your number one cheerleaders.

I can’t think of a better way to kick the winter blues to the curb than to make 2016 the year you embark on a total lifestyle change!

Make healthy lifestyle changes this new year.