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5 Smart Ways To Beat The Winter Blahs

We’re almost through February — the cruelest month — and you’re just about done with this winter business. After all, it’s hard to get up the energy to do anything — go out with friends, make it to the gym, take up a new hobby — when the days are short and the outdoor temps in most of the country are none too forgiving.

Maybe you’re one of the 14 million Americans suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD], or maybe you’re just lowercase sad. Either way, it’s understandable. “It’s very common to feel your mood dip when the cold weather rolls in,” says Susan Blum, MD, an integrative physician and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY.

Yes, the dark, shivery days are upon us, but you don’t have to succumb to yet another month of near-hibernation. These five expert-backed tips will make this the winter you feel like your summer self again.

Seek Out The Sun
Weirdly, scientists aren’t 100% clear on what causes SAD. However, research from the University of Copenhagen suggests it’s partially a matter of how well your brain regulates serotonin levels. Bright sunlight — something that’s lacking come winter — helps your body produce the feel-good chemical, and less of it leads to depressive symptoms. “For a lot of people, low mood is serotonin-related,” Dr Blum says. “That’s why SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors] work so well.”

So how can you give your serotonin levels a leg up? By getting more sunlight (or sunlight-like light), specifically in the morning. Drinking your a.m. coffee while standing in front of a window may help, but for many people with SAD, the answer is light therapy. Light therapy involves daily timed exposure to a light box, a medical device that emits light of specific wavelengths. (It sort of looks like a Lite-Brite and a space heater had a baby, and its only purpose is to shoot beams of sunlight-like light into your eyes. In other words, it’s not mood lighting.) Many doctors recommend using a 10,000-lux white fluorescent light box for 30 minutes or more as soon as you wake up, Dr. Blum notes, but you should talk to your physician about what’s best for you.

Get Plenty Of Vitamin D
People with low levels of the vitamin are at a higher risk for developing mood issues in winter, Dr. Blum points out. According to research conducted at the University of Georgia, this is because vitamin D helps the brain synthesize serotonin, which, as we’ve already learned, the body needs to avoid depression. The thing is, vitamin D is pretty hard to come by; it’s difficult to get enough from food on the regular, and if you live north of Atlanta, the November-to-February sun is too low and indirect to kick off D production (even if you were to go polar-bearing in your bikini every single day).

While the National Institutes of Health sets the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin D at 600 IU for those under 70, some experts say that’s too low. Dr. Blum recommends 1,000 or 2,000 IU supplements — and suggests seeing if your doctor feels the same. If you want to go the diet-only route, a serving of wild-caught fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, contains around 400 IU, and a glass of fortified milk packs around 100 IU,research shows.

Read the full article here: http://www.refinery29.uk/how-to-beat-winter-blues