Even if you’re not exactly a cold-weather fan, there are some pretty beautiful parts of the winter: an excuse to not change out of your PJs all day and drink endless coffee (or, cough, wine, cough), plenty of snuggling in bed (with or without a someone), leggings with every damn outfit and the freshness that comes with snowfall. But in addition to multiple layers required for every single outing and sleeping in heavy snow boots, the wintertime can actually wreak havoc on your moods. You’ve heard of seasonal depression disorder before, but do you know what’s actually happening to your body when you’re inflicted with those depressing feelings? Your serotonin levels are dropping like it’s not hot.
“Serotonin is a chemical that the body naturally produces that helps the body regulate mood,” psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC tells Bustle. “During the winter when there is a large lack of sunlight with naturally occurring vitamin D., your organic serotonin takes a hit.”
There are plenty of ways to boost up those levels without much work, Try these tips below:
1. Try A Light Machine
It may feel a little weird to purchase a natural light machine (yep, that’s right) to make you a happier person at the office or at home, but research conducted by the Mayo Clinic has concluded this simple, quick buy could make a large difference. “Using a light machine for 15 to 45 minutes a day is not just theory, it is scientifically proven and backed as a means of boosting serotonin and Vitamin D. Make it part of your morning routine, and you are off to a great day,” Martinez says.
2. Establish A Morning Routine
Consider what makes you simply happy: is it yoga? A happy note or a mantra? Some retrospective thought? Dr. Martinez tells Bustle that making a commitment to start your day with a positive attitude can combat those dropping serotonin juices. “Establish a morning routine that starts you off on the right foot,. Fill it with positive mantras, yoga, meditation, or something that makes you laugh. The way we start our day sets the tone for the day, and helps to maintain that mood,” she says.
3. Keep Moving
Staying active isn't just good for physical health, but your mental health too. “Exercise does truly help to produce endorphins and maintain serotonin, which in turn help to establish a positive mood,” Dr. Martinez explains to Bustle. “A little walk, yoga or cardio goes a long way to a great level of happiness.”
4. Add This To Your Diet
Clinical Nutritionist Tara Coleman has a word to the wise when it comes to seasonal depression: what you eat may be affecting your moods. The best step in maintaining serotonin levels? Stocking your daily diet full of foods that will produce the vitamins in your body that the winter has taken away from you. “Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine, which has been shown to increase the dopamine levels in the brain. Another study showed that participants who consumed theanine were less likely to experience increased heart rate and other stress related symptoms during a stressful task,” Coleman says.
If you’re more of a coffee-coffee-now-coffee woman then consider cashews instead, which Coleman calls ‘nature’s anti-depressant.’ “Cashews contain high levels of the amino acid Tryptophan. Tryptophan is also what is found in turkey and is responsible for that warm and fuzzy feeling after Thanksgiving dinner! It breaks down to form serotonin, which gives your body a feeling of well-being," she says.
5. Consider A Supplement
If you’re already in the habit of popping a daily multi-vitamin, a probiotic and maybe some biotin for strong hair and nails, add another one to your list: Vitamin D. Dr. Martinez says 500-1,000 MG daily can help to make up for a deficiency throughout the colder months. Just make sure to keep an eye out for the ingredients in your vitamin, as many have added sugar, which won’t give you that happy-go-lucky feeling you’re seeking, and instead, could cause a rise-and-fall of emotions.
If you’re not able to feel better with some simple adjustments to your lifestyle and maybe some impromptu Amazon Prime purchases, Dr. Martinez advises seeing a doctor for added help.
Images: Ashley Batz for Bustle; Giphy