Do you find that your mood is less upbeat during the winter? It actually could be the weather. About 10% of people living in the Northern hemisphere struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), aka “the winter blues”, and women are four times more likely to develop it than men.1
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The main cause of seasonal affective disorder is lack of vitamin D. We get vitamin D from sunshine, which during the shorter, darker days of winter, we get much less of Vitamin D is crucial in maintaining a healthy mood, energy and brain function, immunity, and many other areas of health.
According to experts, we need about 15 minutes per day of unblocked sun exposure to the skin in order to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. But this isn’t always available to us in the colder, dark months.
When vitamin D levels plummet, it can leave you feeling more anxious, tired, and depressed. On top of this, we tend to exercise less during the colder months, reducing th amount of mood-boosting endorphins we get from exercise. We also have the tendency tofill up on heavier, richer foods that can cause inflammation during this time of year. These additional factors can make mood imbalances even worse, causing inflammation that increases stress throughout the body.
Tips to Boost Your Mood and Beat Winter Blues
If you’re struggling and not feeling your best, these simple tips can help you defend yourself against the winter blues, and make the most out of the winter season.
1. Try Light Therapy
During the winter months, many people turn on light therapy as a way to substitute for less sunlight this time of year. Light therapy boxes emit bright light that mimics natural sunlight, but without high levels of UV radiation that come from other artificial lights, like tanning beds. Light therapy recommendations include 20-30 minutes of exposure per day, typically in the morning. Make sure to choose one that is designed specifically to help SAD. Results may be enhanced when used in combination with other remedies for SAD, such as vitamin D.2
2. Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because your body creates it when your skin is directly exposed to the sun. This essential vitamin plays key roles in mood and cognitive function, immunity, bone health, and much more. Supplementing with Vitamin D3, a highly absorbable form of Vitamin D, or eating foods high in this essential vitamin can help replenish your reserves and is shown to help reduce SAD.3
3. Eat Mood-Boosting Foods
Research shows that certain foods can enhance your mood and help relief anxiety, stress and depression. Specifically, brightly colored fruits and vegetables are high in phytonutrients that reduce inflammation—a significant factor in mood, stress response, and brain function. Consuming at least 5 servings per day of fruits and vegetables is shown to boost mood and help relieve depression.4
Other food-based nutrients such as omega-3 fats can help boost mood and relieve stress and depression. Omega-3s are found in cold water fish like salmon and sardines, as well as chia seeds, walnuts, and other sources.
4. Modify Your Exercise Routine
During the winter, it’s even more important to keep up your regular workout or exercise routine. Winter weight gain may be slight, but research shows it can stick around and accumulate year after year, contributing to obesity later in life. Regular exercise is a powerful mood booster, producing mood-enhancing endorphins that help us combat stress and depression. In addition, regular exercise can boost energy and immunity, and keep circulation moving during the colder months. If outdoor exercise isn’t an option, try yoga, Tai Chi, or rebounding on a mini trampoline to keep things moving.
5. Try Supplements for Mood and Stress Balance
Incorporating natural mood boosting ingredients into your supplement and wellness routine can help you build the foundation to fight off stress. Pure honokiol is a powerful extract purified from magnolia bark, and shown in research to support healthy mood, balance stress responses, promote relaxation, and defend cognitive health, among other benefits. HonoPure honokiol is made with a supercritical CO2 extraction method, to produce the highest purity and potency of honokiol available. Try HonoPure for healthy mood support, relaxation, and overall neurological wellness during the winter season, and beyond.
The effects of the winter blues can carry over to other seasons and impact your long-term health, so it’s important to give yourself support that can help lift your mood, relax your stress responses, and energize your brain and body. These simple tips can help you overcome seasonal mood imbalances, and stay healthy throughout the winter and beyond.
- Meesters Y, Gordijn MC. Seasonal affective disorder, winter type: current insights and treatment options. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2016;9:317–327.
- Mayo Clinic Website. Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light therapy box. Updated March 2016. Accessed December 6th, 2021.
- Sarkar, Sonali. Vitamin D for Depression with a Seasonal Pattern: an Effective Treatment Strategy. International Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Journal. 2017;1.10.15406.
- Głąbska D, Guzek D, Groele B, Gutkowska K. Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):115.