Guest Post By: Stephanie Valentine
1. Take your vitamins - D that is:
Vitamin D has been referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Don’t we all crave a little sunshine right about now (in the depths of February) as we are bouncing from one Polar Vortex to the next? The New England Journal of Medicine and the Vitamin D Council indicate a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. The findings are that the lower the vitamin D levels, the greater chance of depression. The National Institute of Health cites several studies while researching SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) finding that sunlight markedly improves mood. An article in Science Daily published on March 8, 2010 states that ‘A daily dose of vitamin D may just be what people in northern climates need to get through the long winter. This nutrient lifts mood during cold weather months when days are short and more time is spent indoors. Those snow-birds have the right idea. Most of us aren’t afforded the luxury of multiple or prolonged trips down south to the sunshine. Taking a vitamin D supplement is going to have to suffice – evidence shows that it could have an effect on boosting mood and beating the blah’s!
2. Get moving – shake off that bad mood!
Exercise has been clinically shown to make you happier! Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, states that exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory and learning. Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain. Studies suggest the endorphins produced directly in the brain contribute to the general feeling of well-being come along with exercise. Exercise is so powerful to your mood as it regulates all of the neurotransmitters targeted by antidepressant drugs. Exercise immediately improves self-esteem, boosts dopamine, which improves mood, motivation, feeling of wellness and attention. Regular exercise increases the dopamine storage in the brain as well as triggering the production of enzymes that create dopamine receptors in the reward center of the brain. Dopamine is the molecule that acts in the brain to promote the feeling of pleasure and makes us look forward to enjoying things and activities. Without dopamine on board, we can not experience positive feelings. If that wasn’t enough, exercise also produces serotonin which is important for mood, impulse control and self-esteem and it counteracts cortisol which helps stave off stress. The science says it! Move your booty – it won’t improve the outside temperature or clear the snow for you, but it will definitely improve the way you feel about it – and possibly everything else.
3. Another reason to eat your favorite food but in moderation!
Chocolate! Dark pure chocolate – yes, it has been shown to have mood boosting effects! Yay – all you chocolate lovers. You can with a good conscience add an ounce of chocolate into your daily wellness routine! That's a prescription! Some of dark chocolate’s benefits come from a chemical called resveratrol – which in an antioxidant (immune booster) with mental health benefits that include the ability to boost brain levels of endorphins as well as serotonin. Chocolate also contains tryptophan; which is a precursor to serotonin. It contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is known among science circles as the ‘love chemical’. Almost every single antidepressant aims at either enhancing serotonin or keeping it in the brain longer – well, chocolate does that very well! So, these three easy steps can help get you through this treacherous winter! With some Vitamin D, exercise washed down with a bit of dark chocolate you could more than survive the next blast of winter - you can put that smile back on your face and rejoice. Spring is just a few weeks away (yes, that's the happy optimist in me) - enjoy the light fluffy stuff and beat the winter blah's from the inside out!