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12 Ways to Conquer the Winter Blahs

12 Ways to Conquer the Winter Blahs
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From Ron Hoffman, MD, ANH-USA Board President and Medical Director

By now many of you—particularly those of you who live in the Midwest and Northeast—may be suffering the effects of a grey, sunless, protracted winter. It’s been unremittingly damp and dreary here in New York City. The wan February light does little to dispel the gloom. Most of us have long succumbed to “cabin fever”.

Don’t get too bent out of shape. Like many of life’s rigors, this is temporary. And what’s to say that February should be ecstatic? Think of our hearty forebears before central heating, indoor plumbing, Netflix, and abundant fresh food! There’s a reason they used to call this “Hunger Season”!

Nonetheless, here are some tips on how to overcome late-winter torpor:

1) Light it up! You may be in the throes of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Common symptoms include torpor, depression, carb cravings and inordinate winter weight gain. Light deprivation impairs serotonin production in the brain, and disrupts circadian rhythms. Some people are genetically more predisposed to SAD. Light therapy with an SAD light box may help lift your mood. But the timing of exposure may be key to the efficacy of light therapy, according to SAD pioneer Dr. Michael Terman. Take this handy self-test to determine the proper timing of light therapy for you.

2) Anti-inflammatory diet: Especially in winter, there’s a natural tendency to binge on sugary or starch-laden comfort foods. A consensus is emerging that you can optimize mood via avoidance of ultra-processed junk and liberal consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids, polyphenols and fiber. An article entitled An anti-inflammatory diet as a potential intervention for depressive disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis appeared recently in the journal Clinical Nutrition. It concluded “. . . adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may be an effective intervention or preventative means of reducing depression risk and symptoms.”

3) Skip the Hot Toddy: Cold, oppressive winter weather may stoke your desire for a warming libation, but alcohol has a way of undermining mood. Excessive drinking depletes brain neurotransmitters and undermines sleep.

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