Most of America is being gripped by the Polar Vortex, with the exception of Florida, perhaps. And while Arctic winds, snow and biting cold are making life challenging, many are suffering from a corresponding challenge.
In my column for the Tampa Tribune, I discuss the signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately named SAD. SAD occurs during the winter months when days are colder and shorter.
While many people may think they feel down due to winter, SAD has very specific symptoms. These include the desire to sleep more, loss of energy, and disinterest in being social, loss of libido, carbohydrate cravings, weight gain and general feelings of sadness.
Following are a few simple ways to battle the blues:
Eat Tryptophan-Rich Foods:
SAD occurs when there is a drop in serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter that regulates moods). To naturally raise serotonin levels in the body, eating a small amount of carbohydrates along with food containing the amino acid tryptophan can be effective. That’s because tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin, and carbohydrates enable the amino acid to be quickly taken up by our cells.
Tryptophan-rich foods include yogurt, milk and cheese, eggs, poultry and fish, whole grains, legumes, soy products and nuts.
Stay Away from Sugary Snacks:
Many people with SAD seek comfort in sweets, but raiding the cookie jar and snacking on sugary foods packs on pounds, which can lead to more unhappiness. Instead of cookies and cakes, make a small bowl of plain oatmeal with milk. Try a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich on whole wheat toast. Have a small piece of pita with hummus. Or make a banana and yogurt or soy milk smoothie.
Get Fresh Air and Exercise:
Outdoor exercise may combat SAD. Studies have shown that one hour of aerobic exercise daily can be as effective as 2½ hours of light therapy, even when the exercise is done under cloudy or pre-dawn skies. Bundle up, take a brisk walk or jog and get moving.
Eating right, fresh air and exercise may just be the key to sending the winter blues into hibernation!