It's common to feel a little blue during the winter, and holiday-related stress and being stuck indoors because of winter weather can often worsen the problem. Some people also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mental health condition that occurs in the winter due to shorter daylight hours.
If you or a loved one are suffering from the winter blues, there are several effective and scientifically proven ways to improve your mood. Below, you can find out how to tackle the winter doldrums in your assisted living community.
Our bodies make vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin, so it's hardly surprising that vitamin D levels can plummet when sunshine is in short supply during the winter months. Vitamin D deficiency is thought to increase the risk of SAD and other mental health problems and affects up to 50% of the global population. Therefore, boosting your levels could be an effective way to tackle the winter blues.
There are relatively few foods naturally high in vitamin D. The best dietary sources include oily fish, egg yolks and some fortified cereals, and you could give your vitamin D levels a moderate boost by adding these foods to your diet.
Various studies also suggest that taking a daily vitamin D3 supplement could help improve your mood during the winter. Consuming too much vitamin D can have adverse health effects, so it's best to consult your health care provider before adding supplements to your routine.
The safest and most straightforward way to get enough vitamin D is to spend around 15 to 20 minutes in natural sunlight every day. If this isn't possible, you can purchase ultraviolet lamps designed to simulate sunlight and allow you to get your daily vitamin D boost from the comfort of your assisted living apartment.
When the temperature drops, it's tempting to hunker down and indulge in comfort foods and sweet treats. Although these foods can initially give you a mood boost, this is generally short-lived and could be bad for your health. However, eating a healthy, balanced diet has been shown to improve low mood in the winter.
So, how does your diet impact your mood in winter? Some foods can affect the neurotransmitters produced in the brain that control our moods. Serotonin, a hormone that gives a sense of calm and helps reduce depression symptoms, is synthesized from an amino acid called tryptophan from foods such as salmon, leafy green vegetables and milk. Meanwhile, foods like legumes, lean meat and poultry can help increase dopamine levels to make us feel more alert.
If you want to change your diet to help beat the winter blues, aim to eat high-fiber carbohydrates and lean protein for every meal and snack. Try to eat whole-grain carbohydrates such as brown bread and pasta, and don't forget to include as many colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet as possible. Eating a varied diet helps provide a full range of nutrients, which could help improve immunity and allow your body to fight off winter germs.
Exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing if you've got the winter blues, but it could be an effective tool to help you beat the winter doldrums. According to the Harvard Medical School, regular exercise can help reduce low mood and depression, but it won't tackle more severe depression.
You don't need to engage in tough workouts to experience the mood-boosting benefits of exercise. Regular, low-intensity exercise like walking can help stimulate nerve cell growth and boost brain function, improving your mood. Even better, remaining as active as possible can help boost your overall health and manage chronic health conditions.
So, how do you get enough exercise if it's too cold to go outside? Fortunately, there are plenty of online workouts available on streaming sites such as YouTube that are specially designed for seniors and can be done from the comfort of your assisted living apartment. Members of the Park Regency Thornton assisted living community in Thornton, CO, can also benefit from on-site exercise programs from the dedicated well-being team.
There's a wealth of research showing that regular social interaction can help reduce the risk of depression and low mood in seniors. Furthermore, remaining socially active can help guard against dementia and improve overall physical health.
Therefore, it's an excellent idea to plan some social activities into your winter calendar if you're trying to combat low mood. Chatting to other members of your assisted living community, attending onsite worship or enjoying visits from family and friends can all help improve your mood when it's too cold to travel further afield.
Park Regency Thornton residents can enjoy a wide range of enriching activities and sociable dining in their assisted living community, and the on-site chaplain and dedicated staff are always available to provide company and support. If you're worried about a loved one's mental health in the winter or your own, speaking to your health care provider can help you access support and treatment.