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Beat the Winter Blues

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With daylight savings time comes shorter days, colder temperatures, and darker mornings.

Winter can be a challenging time for many people. How do you feel as the days get shorter and colder? Do you gain weight or slack on your workout routine? What is your script about winter that you tell yourself and others?

If you honestly answer these questions, you will begin to see a pattern of behavior that may keep you stuck in a negative winter experience. Let's start with some reality testing, which is to say, recognizing that you have the power to "flip your script" about winter. There is no problem with modifying your routine because of the change in weather, but it does not have to be depressing or limiting. How you experience the colder months is totally up to you.

If you are debilitated in the winter months in a way that seriously impacts the quality of your life, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Winter depression, as it is also called, is biochemical in nature, brought on by the lack of sunshine.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Winter-onset seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially craving foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating

The Vitamin D Link

Numerous studies indicate that vitamin D may be helpful for people suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Vitamin D is not found in vast quantities in most foods. Mainly, our bodies produce vitamin D from the sun's rays hitting our skin. So, when there's not as much sun and you're indoors more, there's less vitamin D being produced. A simple blood test can determine your vitamin D level. If you do have a deficiency, your doctor will recommend a daily vitamin D supplement and the appropriate dosing. Vitamin D pills are inexpensive, and can be purchased at most grocery stores and pharmacies. There are also specially-designed lamps whose rays mimic sunlight to help with the body's vitamin D production. Studies have indicated that sitting in front of these lamps for as little as 30 minutes a day can also affect brain chemicals linked to mood, thereby easing SAD symptoms. As with any medical condition, consult with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and discuss treatment options.

Keep Radiating!

Once seasonal affective disorder is ruled out or remedied, you can focus on actions and attitudes within your control. Decide how you want to feel and make choices in line with that goal.

Some ways to stay inspired this season include:

1. Exercise

Commit to at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. If you live in an area with harsh winters, exercising outdoors might require extra planning or may not be an option. Try a yoga DVD and turn your living room into your own mini-studio. Thanks to Sandy and now the nor'easter, I'm digging Tara Stiles' four-DVD set -- variety is the spice of life and thwarts boredom! Lots of DVDs, YouTube videos, and magazines offer at-home workouts that require little or no equipment. Dancing around to inspiring music is free, easy, and fun -- and not to mention, can burn some serious calories! Find what you enjoy, and you're more likely to stick to it. Exercise gets your endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing, which is one of the best cures for the winter blues.

2. Meditation

Every summer sunset, day at the beach, and lazy outdoor afternoon is just a visualization away. Since you have internalized all of these experiences, a dedicated meditation practice can help you consciously access them. Create a sacred space in your home that reminds you of all of the summer experiences you love and get your butt on the pillow for a few minutes a day. You may be amazed at how this lifts your mood.

3. Intention

You are the same person in July as in November. You can actively choose to flip your script about the winter months and create a joyful and inspired fall/winter season this year. The past need not dictate your future. The power of your intention is mind-blowing. So set your intention on creating and maintaining your radiance from the inside out and see what magic your new attitude brings.

If you have struggled during the winter months in the past, remember now is not then. On autopilot, your mind and body can slip into familiar patterns of behavior that have not served you, but you have the power to choose. Practice extreme self-care this season and enjoy feeling and looking good all year round!

Are you the type of person who notices a shift in mood once the clocks turn back? How do you manage to shine like the sun even when it hasn't been making much of an appearance? What tips can you offer to beat the winter blues? Do you struggle with SAD or a less severe version of the winter blues and need advice?

Love Love Love

Terri

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