Cherish your mood
Winter is coming and yes, you need to start cherishing your mood, as we’ll be having less light exposure and many of us will be at risk of feeling down. Let’s see together how you can avoid the winter blues!
Being in a good mood is a blast for ourselves and those around us! Although it is perfectly normal to have a “bad day”, let’s look closer what can be the causes (and eventual solutions) for feeling gloomy more than twice a week over a period of several months.
1. Poor sleep
If you’ve been sleeping poorly for a while, your positive energy, your joy for live, your clear mind will progressively fade. Even after just a few days of poor sleep, our brain suffers from not getting enough recovery. The whole body’s biochemistry can be affected if the problem persists even longer.
Even when it’s not due to a bad night’s sleep, when you’re feeling constantly tired (especially if you’re usually a dynamic and energetic person), it’s hard to accept. I’ve often heard my patients say, “I feel depressed, since I see that I can’t count on my strong body anymore. It had never let me down before.” What’s more, the causes of fatigue are numerous, but some of them (like simply lacking iron or having low thyroid functioning) can dramatically influence your mood.
3. Hormone deficiencies
From the thyroid to sex hormones and adrenals, our mood is dependent on our hormones, too. The inconveniences that some women have with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) one week before their menstruation is well known. And men in their 40s and 50s can also be more moody because their sex hormones begin to decline. But hormone imbalances are found at all ages, so it’s better to keep the eye on them if you feel that your mood is quite fragile.
4. Prolonged stress
Not surprisingly, stress will affect our mood along with other cognitive functions (like memory, attention, etc). In several studies, high morning cortisol is associated with low mood/high depressive symptoms, especially when the stress is due to a overload of work.
5. Lack of light exposure
The sunny days are almost gone; there is a strong relationship between bright light and serotonin production (the “happiness”, “calming molecule”), although we don’t all have equal reactions to light (some people with some genetics polymorphisms are more at risk than others)
Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding friends because you’re not in “the best mood ever”. Of course, choose the friends with whom you feel comfortable and talk openly with carefully, without feeling that you always need to smile and emit sparks of joy.
What you can do about it
- Pamper yourself- take a break for a regular spa, massage, beauty time, anything pleasant you might like. And don’t leave this as an idea, an “I’ll do it next week” — put it your agenda right away for the next 2 months.
- Sport: you might not be in a good mood and you might be less consistent with exercising. This is a vicious circle you need to break- the less we exercise, the more we are moody; the more we are moody, the less willing we are to exercise. Break this and exercise no matter how grumpy you are — exercise for at least 45 minutes, at least 3x/week.
- Sauna: besides other benefits, the sauna has a real effect on our mood, so put it on your agenda and enjoy this relaxing time, your brain will be pleased!
- Food: of course, what else? Be sure to have enough proteins in your food (especially L-Tryptophan rich food- eggs, poultry, beef, fish, bananas, cheese if you’re not intolerant, chia, seeds, soy). And don’t forget the dark chocolate and plenty of fresh vegetables.
- Check your stress and get help to manage it better, using whatever method you choose. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help.
- Get the light, go out, no matter the weather, at least 20 minutes per day! Even on a cloudy day, we still get benefits from this light exposure (even when it’s grey). Additionally, investing in a luminotherapy lamp can be of help (i.e. from Philips or Circadian Optics, but many other options are available on the market).
- Go out- hang out with good friends and have fun, even if you doubt you’ll be able to. Tips- chose the funniest friends you have, humour is contagious and has a real positive effect on your brain (again, the science validates this bit of common sense we all know).
- See your doctor- If you’ve already tried all these and are still living a really ‘dark time’ in terms of mood, don’t hesitate — see your doctor ASAP for an in-depth assessment.