Beat the Blahs

“You must get good at one of two things: sowing in the spring or begging in the fall,” motivation champion Jim Rohn said. But how do you break the grip of winter malaise to get sowing? Try these tips:

• See the light by opening blinds, using strong artificial lighting and taking a walk in daylight. Fresh air, even in bad weather, acts as a tonic.

• Use a dawn simulation alarm clock, which emits a light that gradually brightens in your bedroom for a half-hour before your wake-up time. University of Washington School of Medicine researchers theorize that this technique tells the brain to stop producing melatonin, which induces sleepiness and may be a major cause of winter blues.

• Socialize with friends and family, suggest Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D., director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass., and Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Mark Frye, M.D.

• Exercise. Even modest activity such as gardening or walking for 20 to 30 minutes a day helps, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports.

• Attack insomnia. Depression and insomnia go hand in hand. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, is a breakthrough treatment with about 400 U.S. practitioners certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine. CBT-I nurtures sleep by, for instance, teaching patients that being in bed is for sleeping (not watching TV, answering email, etc.), and to keep a sleep diary, reduce caffeine and alcohol, and use talk therapy to help realize the world won’t end because of a bad night’s sleep.

• Eat a balanced diet that includes lean protein and complex carbohydrates (fruits, beans, whole grains), and limit alcohol, sugar and high-fat foods, which provide a temporary pick-me-up but then quickly make you feel tired, Rossman says.

• Eat expensive chocolate. People who have the winter blues often crave the amino acid tryptophan, says professor Annie Farmer, who runs a seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, a sometimes severe form of winter blues) clinic in London. “The amount of tryptophan chocolate contains is directly related to the amount of cocoa bean content,” Farmer says, and more cocoa beans increase the cost.

• Take a tropical vacation!

Now go, brighten your mood.


Foods That Fight the Blahs

To counteract the winter blahs, ditch the comforting starchy foods you’d normally reach for like bread, pasta and rice. That’s according to NYU senior clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller, who spoke to WebMD about fighting winter depression with foods. Heller says to eliminate all white, starchy foods—bread, rice, potatoes—for two weeks. “You will be amazed at how good you feel,” Heller says. “But you need to stick to it to see a [continuing] difference.”

Substitute fruit for other traditional comfort foods, like cookies and ice cream. The good carbs of veggies, fruit and beans help energy levels. The WebMD article also suggests you eat the following foods to boost your late-winter mood.

• Popcorn

• Oatmeal  (original, not desserty)

• Nuts

• Egg whites for omelets

• Peanut butter

• Prewashed veggies

• Fruit

• Whole grain crackers and bread

• Deli turkey

• Cottage cheese

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