By: Heather Lillico, Holistic Nutritionist & Yoga Instructor
As the cold sets in and the months of blah ensue, it’s time to take stock of your mood. Check in with yourself, has the weather affected your attitude?
I notice a difference BIG TIME! Usually around mid February my mood starts to dip and I never want to leave my apartment. I’m an introvert during the best of times, but throw some inclement weather in there and I’m never leaving my couch. I suspect a lot of people feel this way so I’m throwing out my top tips for surviving Winter!
1. Focus on warming soups
Miso soup is a great bet this time of year as it’s a fermented food that will keep your gut in tip top shape. There’s a huge link between gut bacteria and mood. Did you know the majority of your body’s serotonin (your brain’s happy juice) is produced in your gut? Also, your body is likely craving warming broths during colder weather in an attempt to warm up, so give in and get toasty!
2. Up your Vitamin D intake
Ahhh Vitamin D, the vitamin that’s more like a hormone. Receptors for Vitamin D are found in your intestines, pancreas, kidneys, bones, and in parts of your immune system. It has a large role in how your immune system functions, hello flu season! Vitamin D also has a role in mood; people with depression have lower levels in their blood. Supplementing Vitamin D produces mood boosts similar to light therapy for people experiencing seasonal affective disorder.
Being bundled up in Canada all Winter means you’re less likely to get this sunshine vitamin. Now might good be a good time to supplement your intake, usually available in the form D3 as drops or pills.
3. Eat your leafy greens
You’ve no doubt heard about antioxidants and “superfoods” that contain them. Antioxidants are like police officers that arrest free radical punks before they damage your body. People with depression have lower levels of antioxidants in their blood and higher rates of oxidative stress (more free radicals that cause damage). A good way to get antioxidants (and folate, another key mood vitamin) is to increase your leafy green intake. Kale isn’t the only superhero here…have you tried watercress or mustard greens?
4. Limit refined sugar
Refined and processed sugars throw your blood sugar out of whack. This leads to changes in your mood including how jittery and irritable you are. To get through Winter you need a steady supply of slow-release complex carbs like sweet potato and squash or grains like oats and quinoa. Avoid the temptation of baked goods as overconsumption of these has been linked with depression.
5. Find an activity you love
This advice works for any time of year, but is especially relevant during the blah of Winter. Clients tell me all the time they hate going to the gym. My response? K…then don’t go to the gym. It really is that simple, don’t do an activity that you don’t enjoy because you’ll never keep up with it! Explore different activities like yoga, zumba, adult colouring, acting, knitting, making t-shirts, whatever appeals to you! Then actually schedule time to make it happen, just like you would a coffee date with a friend. Only this date is with yourself and it’s unbreakable 😉
If you need more support to get through Winter there’s loads to be done nutritionally. Reach out and set up a meet n’ greet to learn more.
Heather is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist trained by the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She also has a Masters of Science in Public Health and a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology both from the University of Waterloo.
Heather specializes in personalized nutrition using live, natural, and whole foods and looks at many factors surrounding food choices such as stress, sleep, mood, and lifestyle. She has a strong background in mental health and is passionate about promoting its connection to nutrition. Heather sees clients who are overworked, overstressed, and overtired and empowers them to bring their body back into balance. She also specializes in plant-based diets, being vegan herself since 2013. In her spare time, you can find her scouring dog parks for animals to pet, or searching for the city’s best smoothie!
Heather Lillico, MSc, RHN, RYT