Beat the Winter Blues!
For most people the winter season is a time for holiday cheer, but for some folks it can be a time of deep sadness. Statistically, more people become depressed during the winter months but it can certainly happen at any time of the year. Depression can affect the entire body, weaken the immune system and make us susceptible to many debilitating diseases. (1)
Emotional trauma can lead to depression, but it can also be caused by (2):
- Stress and tension
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Nutritional deficiencies (deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders)
- Food allergies
- Lack of exercise
- Prescription medications
- Lack of sunlight
According to the BBC News, eating a diet high in processed food and less whole foods increased the risk of depression by a whopping 58 percent! (3) Processed sugars and refined carbohydrates promote a rapid rise in insulin, create mood swings, and contribute to nutritional deficiencies. It’s imperative during times of depression to get the heck off the sugar, soda, white bread, cookies, cakes, Hostess Ho Ho’s, and other highly refined carbohydrates ASAP! On the other hand, whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grain breads, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.) give a slow steady release of glucose and contain a wide range of nutrients that can support health and well being.
For delicious complex carbohydrate recipes go to: http://www.andreabeaman.com/grains.html
In addition, scientific studies indicate low cholesterol levels linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. (4) (5) Low cholesterol levels lead to decreased serotonin levels. (6) Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that eases tension, promotes self confidence and motivation. This doesn’t mean we should run out to the nearest fast food joint and scarf down a double-cheeseburger, large fries and a milkshake to cure our woes. There are many more scrumptious ways to get the necessary fat and cholesterol that supports the nervous system.
Nutritional deficiencies associated with depression include lower levels of Vitamin B6, B9, B12, and amino acids like tryptophan. The amino acid Tryptophan increases production of serotonin. Sources of vitamins B6 and B9 can be found in whole grains, beans, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and liver. Vitamin B12, Tryptophan and cholesterol is found in salmon, shrimp, shellfish, turkey, chicken, beef, butter and other animal products.
Beyond food we need to exercise, exercise, exercise! Moving our beautiful body releases endorphins that lift the spirits. A simple daily walk outside in the sunshine and fresh air (30-35 minutes) can be more beneficial than taking prescription medications like Zoloft. (7) It’s time to ditch the meds, put on the hightop Keds, and start walking to help weather emotional storms.
One thing that irks me in our society- it is widely accepted for us to medicate, get high or drunk, overeat, space out on sugar, excessive television watching, and/or engage in other mind-numbing activities that can STOP us from feeling our feelings. I believe if we don’t allow ourselves to fully feel our emotions, we run the risk of staying stuck and depressed for long periods of time. If we are numb to an experience we may wind up repeating the same behaviors and/or patterns over and over again. It takes courage to feel our “crap” and make the necessary changes and/or diet and lifestyle improvements to help us gain the strength needed to get beyond the dark episodes. Depression can become manageable and/or alleviated if we allow our full range of emotions to move through us and not become us. Many of my clients eventually ditch their meds when they begin eating better, exercising, feeling their emotions, and staying present.
To help lift emotions, it is wise to find things to be grateful for right now in this present moment. For example: Right now I am alive. Holy Brussels Sprouts, Batman! I am alive. That, in itself, is amazing! My lungs expand and contract and I breathe air (even if it’s polluted). My eyes view the vibrant colors of food; rich green kale, bright orange squashes and carrots, shiny white onions, and deep purple cabbages. My taste buds savor the salty, sweet, bitter, sour and pungent flavors of many foods. My flat Fred Flintstone feet walk me anywhere I want to go. My fingers are functioning and able to type this information. Get the picture? If we focus on what we have right now, not what we had in the past (this can make us depressed), or what we may not yet have in the future (that can make us anxious as heck!), we can get present. It’s in the “present” that we receive life’s precious gifts.
There are many ways to get out of the past and into the present. I highly recommend books or tapes on meditation by Tich Nhat Hahn (Peace is Every Step), Pema Chodran (When Things Fall Apart), Jack Kornfield (A Path With Heart), and Anything by Wayne Dyer.
Have faith in your body and mind. You can do it! Now… get into the kitchen and cook up some savory recipes to help you cope: