1. Get some sunlight early in the morning. This helps to set the body clock and studies have shown that 20-30 minutes of sunlight in the morning supports the neurotransmitters (dopamine and serotonin) that regulate our mood. This works best if you can get out within an hour of waking, but any time of the day is better than none.
2. If daylight is difficult to obtain, try a daylight lamp. This should be 5000 - 10,000 lux brightness rating. Verilux makes several models that have full spectrum light. You can use it for 30 minutes while enjoying that first cup of coffee in the morning.
3. Vitamin D supplement. This is the sunshine vitamin and it really does help to lift your mood, as well as decrease aches and pains. Not to mention the wonderful effects for your immune system! (This is one of my top 3 supplements.) It’s best to get a level done since most people really do need a significant amount, but a reasonable starting point is 2000 units daily.
4. Get some exercise. I know for a lot of people ‘exercise’ is a four-letter word, but even 2 walks during the day, for 15 minutes each can make a big difference. There was an interesting study that took 2 groups of people with mild to moderate depression symptoms and compared prescription medications with daily walking of 30 minutes and the benefits were exactly the same – but no drug side effects for the walking group!
5. Eat protein 2-3 times a day. Meat, fish, chicken, eggs, or plant-based are all good sources. This is not a huge amount; just the size of your palm is plenty. This helps decrease the carb-craving we can get in the winter and avoids the ‘winter weight’ that is so common – which can give you the blues when your jeans don’t fit!
6. Plan to do some activities that you enjoy, especially helpful if you get together with people you enjoy. Just spending time in pleasurable activities can do wonders for your mood. (Maybe that’s why we see so many babies born in Sept and Oct!) Any type of activity helps increase endorphins – the ‘I feel good’ brain chemicals.
7. Please also watch for signs of your mood worsening. Score yourself on these 2 questions over the past 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of these symptoms:
1) Little interest or pleasure in doing things
2) Feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
Not at all=0, Several days=1, More than half the days=2, Nearly every day=3. If you score 3 points or more, you may want to discuss your situation with your provider for other strategies.