December is supposed to be joyful right? The hot weather is completely gone and so is a sense of my happiness. I am always much more happier when the sun is out. I glow when the sun is out. I am much more optimistic, excited, and productive when the weather is nice. I love to be outside. I love to do outdoor activities. And I love the exciting energy summer and spring brings.
But when winter comes around, I tend to have uncontrollable sad, bitter moments. It get so much darker much quicker in the winter months and I find it to be very depressing. Many of us in NYC are vitamin D deficient. We are surrounded by skyscrapers that block the sun and the days feel colder, longer, and darker. Studies show that vitamin D increases our mood and we get the most vitamin D from the sun during the spring/summer months. Meanwhile in the winter, it’s so much easier to sleep longer, to stay in bed, to browse social media, to binge on netflix, to be lazy, to be unproductive. Thennnn I start to feel ashamed, guilty, and unworthy because I didn’t do shit all day. During these dark moments I start to see social media as the enemy. I feel guilty for not doing as good as the rest of the world. I feel guilty for not emotionally feeling up to do the things that I love. I feel guilty for feeling defeated. I’ve grown tired of feeling guilty and unworthy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD is a very real thing. SAD is recurring -- causing depressive mood swings during the fall/winter seasons and happier during the hotter seasons like spring/summer. You’re more than likely suffering from SAD if your energy feels drained, you’re sleeping in more than usual, losing interest in activities, increased appetite and difficulty concentrating. SAD is a very real biochemical imbalance where we experience a dip in serotonin which is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood, sleep, appetite, memory and sexual instinct.
I’ve came up with a few ways to maintain your sanity, increase your productivity, and elevate your mood -- putting you in higher spirits through these dark cold months.
Open your shades. Allow as much natural light into your space as possible. Brighten up your outside environment and your inner environment will brighten.
Wake up 20-30 minutes earlier than usual. Take that extra time to journal or meditate. I like to spend my extra minutes writing down 10 things I’m grateful for in my Karibu Journal, playing some meditation music and lotioning my feet. If I’m feeling really good I’ll extend my meditation an extra 5 minutes. It makes all the difference. I leave my meditation feeling like I gave myself the time I needed before I got up for work and gave my energy out to the rest of the world. If you’re starting to feel like you don’t have much time for yourself, read this to find new, quick, practical ways to make more time for yourself.
Spend more time with your loved ones. Call that friend that you’ve been meaning to catch up with for a while. If your family and friends are really far, facetime them. Surround yourself around people who make you laugh. They are your support system. They will remind you of the things you love about yourself.
Maintain your daily activities. This shit is hard when it’s too cold to leave the crib. Many times I find myself not in the mood to get out of bed and hit the gym or yoga. Fight through this initial feeling. This is one of the battles to win the war against depression. Getting out the bed fights depression. Fresh air fights depression. Working out fights depression. Working out releases endorphins that make you feel a lot happier. After you fight through you’ll feel euphoric and grateful that you pushed thru.
There are so many fun outdoor activities to do in the winter. You can go running, hiking, skiing or snowboarding. Find something fun to do outdoors that will get your blood bumping outside.
Sleep but don’t oversleep. Anytime I oversleep I feel like I robbed myself. Like I just stole the opportunity to workout, to meal prep, to make my own breakfast, to journal, to meditate, to prepare my own day, etc. I hate feeling like I cheated time from my damn self.
Do something you’ve never done before. And this doesn’t have to be expensive. Try a new workout class you’ve never tried. Maybe a soca sweat class or hot yoga or kickboxing. Ride your bike to a new part of your neighborhood. Walk a different route home. Draw something you’ve never drawn before. Read a blog you’ve never read before on a subject you love. Try a new recipe out with some of your favorite ingredients. Make a new smoothie. I don’t really like cold food or drinks in the winter so I like to try new soup recipes. I love cooking a new soup or chili from one of my favorite recipe books: Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck. I highly recommend this gangsta, fun, practical recipe book. It will curse you the fck out in hopes to inspire you to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Try at least 3 steps from this and practice it on a daily basis. Create a routine. If you can afford it, take a trip to another country. Take yourself somewhere hot and tropical and just relax.
You are what you eat so eat happier foods during these sad months. We gotta stay away from foods that cause inflammation to your brain. We must eliminate foods that send your limbic system (your emotional center) into panic mode. Instead we have to consume foods that help fight off depression and promote healthy thinking patterns.
These foods will help put you a light, fresh, vibrant mood. Here are some foods that help with your sanity, productivity level and happiness. They will help fight off depression.
Super leafy greens win every battle against inflammation. They are also nutrient dense foods
Kale, swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, green beans, broccoli, beans, onions, mushrooms, and seeds.
Complex carbs. Carbs are linked to serotonin which is a mood-boosting chemical. Choose your carbs wisely. Limit sugary foods and opt for whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, or whole wheat. It’s so easy to emotionally grab the cake and cookies but instead opt for fruit, vegetables, legumes, and sweet potatoes.
Beans are great carbs for the heart. They are perfect for stabilizing your blood sugar levels. Beans help also curb the craving for bread and other bad carbs.
Berries are the perfect antioxidants. It will help repair your brain cells working as your DNA’s handyman. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. Like berries, apples are high in antioxidants, which can help to prevent inflammation on the cellular level. They are also full of soluble fiber balancing your blood sugar swings. Add some almond butter to your apples and there’s a snack with fiber and omega-3s.
Vitamin B. Especially B12 and B6.
Fish, bananas, avocados, and again: dark green leafy vegetables. Foods like legumes, nuts, fruits, lean and low-fat animal products.
Try to eat foods packed with protein several times a day, especially when you need to clear your mind and boost your energy.
Healthy Proteins: beans, peas, low-fat cheese, fish, milk, soy products, yogurt, and lean meats (if you must, lol). Foods like turkey, tuna, and chicken have an amino acid called tryptophan which helps your body make serotonin.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for supporting brain function and reducing depression symptoms. Fatty fish (anchovy, mackerel, salmon -- my all time favorite food ever, sardines, shad, and tuna) flaxseed, dark leafy greens and nuts.
Avocados. A powerfood that contains a healthy fat for your brain to run smoothly. Avocados gives your brain power. Packed with 4 grams of protein, vitamin K, vitamin B (B5, B6 and B9), vitamin E-12, and vitamin C. They are super low in sugar and high in fiber.
Mushrooms are probiotic. It helps promote healthy gut bacteria. Our nervous system is right in our gut and takes up to 80-90% of our body’s serotonin. We need a healthy gut in order to have a healthy mind, healthy thoughts, and healthy energy. Mushrooms are also great for lowering your blood sugar which also get rids of sugar cravings.
Onions helps your gut. Your digestive tract has a direct relationship with your brain. Onions and garlic contain high levels of anti-inflammatory antioxidants that contribute to anti-cancer properties keeping your gut damaged and disease free.
Tomatoes helps maintain serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine which all play a role in stabilizing your mood.
Stop being so damn hard on yourself. Don’t say shit to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. The winter is temporary and you will get through it. Yeah, it’s cold outside but our heart doesn’t have to be. Yeah, it’s dark outside but our thoughts doesn’t have to be. Changing up your daily activities and eating foods designed to boost your mood is my solution to getting rid of seasonal depression. I’ve noticed a major difference in my mood when I woke up earlier and pushed thru my initial dark moment of laziness. It’s all about doing the uncomfortable then finding the comfort in it. Try out a few of my suggestions and let me know how they work out for you.
With love and compassion,