KUTV Fresh Living Featuring Brittini Gehring
(Article points featured on KUTV's channel 2 "Fresh Living" program, January 2014)

written by Brittini Gehring

Before we jump into some good ways to overcome the winter blues, it is important to be aware that feeling a bit down during the winter months, is not uncommon! We have all just experienced the exciting rush of holiday fun such as shopping, parties, family and friends, and yummy holiday treats! Then suddenly, its time to buckle down and set those rigid New Years resolutions. We enforce strict diets that can make us feel tired or cranky. Our finances might be lower than usual. We abandon all the fun and return to our daily routines. No wonder we feel a little blue!!! Not to mention, there are other physiological aspects that come in to play during the winter months. If you are feeling a little down this winter season, you are not alone! Below are some tips to help you overcome seasonal sadness and feel normal again:

  1. Cope naturally and in a healthy way! When we feel down, we sometimes resort to unhealthy habits in hopes of temporarily feeling better. Some of these habits may include drugs, alcohol, treats (chocolate, ice cream, chips, etc.), dwelling on negative thoughts, sitting on the couch watching tv, or indulging in other activities for extensive periods of time such as video games, media sites and other time consuming habits that will keep you from facing your feelings. These activities will not make you feel better! They will make you feel worse. Feeling worse will often cause us to continue repeating these harmful behaviors over and over again until we have convinced ourselves that we are stuck! We aren't stuck! We just need to create better habits.

  2. Allow yourself a hobby. Find something to look forward to during the winter months. In our home, we snowboard. So when others are complaining about the cold, we get excited and anxiously await the snowfall so we can get up on the mountain! There are other hobbies and activities that you are less likely to do in the summer time and only you can decide which ones fit you best. Do something out of the ordinary, something you have always wanted to do, and don't feel guilty for making time to do it! You deserve it! There are ideas and lists online to help identify some good winter hobbies if needed. Pintrest is full of fun ideas (but don't get stuck there just looking, follow through with some of the fun ideas you find!) Some ideas off the top of my head are: Hit up a Hobby Lobby or other craft shop! There are millions of ideas there from making jewelery to painting to flower arranging! There is something for everyone there! If you can combine your hobby with exercise such as snow shoeing, cross country skiing, swimming, indoor soccer, church basketball, weight lifting at a local gym, a yoga class, etc., even better! That is next on the list!

  3. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise! Yes, I said it 3 times because no matter how many times people hear it, they still do not put it on the top of their list of priorities where it belongs! Exercise not only improves health physically, it also plays a major role in the production and release of the chemicals and hormones in our bodies responsible for helping us to feel good! There are no drawbacks to exercise! And there are so many different forms of exercise that again, there is something for everyone. If you hate running, don't do it! Find what you love to do. If you don't have time, make time! Exercise is one of those things that if you make time for it, it will make time for you! You will find yourself happier, healthier, and with more energy and time than you had before you figured out how to make time for it!!! What ever sacrifice you feel you need to make to get started will be worth it!

  4. Eat Healthier and use herbs and supplements to help your body overcome nutritional deficiencies that are common during the winter months. Eating healthy isn't always easy for everyone. No one is asking you to make drastic changes to your diet. In fact, most people don't have that “cold turkey” type personality where they can instantly give up poor diet habits. Start gradually. As you start to add healthier foods to your diet, your body will naturally start to crave healthier foods. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and lean protein options. I like to emphasize eating more foods that are considered “alkaline” foods in order to keep your cells healthy. Supplements can also be very useful during the winter months to make sure we are getting proper nutrients that are not as easy to get in the winter. Below is a list of important Vitamins, nutrients, and herbs to help support the system nutritional and improve mood.

Nutritional Supplements:

  • EFA (or Essential Fatty Acids) or Healthy Fats: I can not express enough how important healthy fats are for our bodies and staying healthy! They play a role in almost every function the body performs. During the winter months they are especially important for brain function, improving mood, and keeping joints and muscles healthy during less active months. Healthy fats can be found in a number of different good foods such as nuts and nut butters, seeds, avocados, fish, and healthy vegetable oils like olive oil, nut oils, grapeseed oil, and sunflower oil. Fish oil is one of the best supplements to take because it contains two Omega 3 fats (EFA and DHA) that are critical for wellness. I have a few favorite high quality brands that are free of mercury or other toxins and guaranteed fresh (so you aren't burping up fishy tastes, ew). These include: Carlson, Nordic Natural, and Barlene's. If you have trouble with fishy tastes, Barlenes is the way to go! It is actually delicious.

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D occurs in our system as a result of a process that takes place between the sunshine and our skin. In the winter months, we are robbed of most of our precious sunshine time. Vitamin D is directly linked to good mood and natural anti-depressant chemicals in our brains and bodies. It is also responsible for helping to process calcium, known for bone health but also responsible for aspects related to mental stability. Many people become deficient in Vitamin D in the winter time, making a good vitamin D supplement an important part of our diets. Vitamin D supplements combined with Vitamin K are a good option because the vitamin K helps to better process the Vitamin D. Vitamin D is also added into most dairy products, although I don't recommend dairy often. Mushrooms containing a wholefood source of vitamin D are now common in any grocery store.

  • Vitamin B complex: B vitamins (Especially B12 and B6) directly support and nourish the nervous system. They help fight stress and are essential for good mood and emotional/mental health.

  • L-Theanine: L-Theanine is an amino acid naturally occurring in tea leaves. It is extremely beneficial in balancing hormones in the brain related to stress and anxiety. It helps to enhance positive mood, improve sleep patterns and quality, and balance weight gain related to stress.

Herbs:

  • St. John's Wort: Helps to elevate chemicals in the brain responsible for positive feelings, having similar effects as prescription pharmaceuticals.
  • Ashwaghanda: This is a traditional Ayruvedic herb considered to be an adaptogen. Adaptogens, help the body naturally cope with stress and balance natural stress responses. For more info on adaptogens see related article http://www.rcherbals.com/whole-foods-magazine-tonics-102-the-role-of-adaptogens-in-stress-relief/
  • Eleuthro: This herb is also commonly known as “Siberian Ginseng” and has bee used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It is known for its ability to help the body cope with stress and improve mood by supporting and nourishing the adrenal glands. Healthy adrenal glands result in natural energy and healthy stress responses. Eleuthro also helps to improve mental clarity and overall feelings of well being.

A few of my favorite products that fight the winter blues and contain some or all of the above ingredients are: Adrenal Fatigue Fighter and Anxiety Free by RidgeCrest Herbals (these include a 100% satisfaction guarantee), and 10 days of Sunshine by 10 day Results. All of these have awesome reviews and are proven to have great results!

Note: This is only a small list, there are actually many, many other nutrients and herbs that help naturally improve mood and fight depression. I encourage individuals to take matters into their own hands and research other supplements in books or online.  Feel free to leave a reply below with any ideas or questions you come up with on your own.

5.  Positive thinking. This is undoubtedly the most important thing on my list. (I saved it for last so it would be the last thing on your mind!) It is also one of the hardest to employ. Being in control of our own thoughts is often a difficult thing to do. Thoughts of all kind enter our minds every second, good and bad. However, if you are dealing with sadness or depression on any level, the bad thoughts can be the most dominant. Often, it's the other way around. First, the negative thoughts take over and then the sadness sets in. As long as negative thoughts are occupying our minds, being happy can not be achieved. For some reason, people don't like to recognize that this one technique can alter every aspect of health; mentally, emotionally, and physically. Just remember, you are what you think! I have included a list of some of my favorite books that will set you on a path to thinking happy thoughts and will alter your life for the better!

  • The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

  • Before Happiness by Shawn Achor

  • The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

For further information on this topic, check out another recent RidgeCrest article: 10 Natural Ways to Beat the Blues this WinterIf you have any questions concerning this article please feel free to comment/reply below, join RidgeCrest Herbals facebook page, or join me on facebook at Brittini Gehring, MH-Maximizing Natural Wellness to post questions and comments.