How to Beat the Winter Blues

As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, sometimes we find ourselves feeling out of sorts or a little "blue." I've heard it described as the long, dark night of the soul. It isn't just outlook that may be affected. We may even find a change in our energy level or sleeping pattern.

If you can relate, you're not alone. Millions of us struggle during the darker months. This mood and energy change has an organic explanation, and there are foods, supplements, and habits that can bring you back to the light.

Winter blues are caused by lack of adequate exposure to sunlight. It might be dark when you leave for work or school and dark again when you head home. The good news is, we northern hemisphere dwellers are nearing the winter solstice. And once we get passed it, each day will be a little longer heading toward spring.

In the meantime, you can invest in a full spectrum light for your desk to make up for the lack of sunlight in winter. Our pineal gland, located deep in our brain, needs light to stimulate melatonin production, which controls our circadian rhythm. This allows us to get the sleep we need, so we can feel more energized during the day. Melatonin supports better levels of serotonin - the good hormone our brain needs for mood health. I take a Carlson Melatonin gummy at bedtime to give my brain a boost and to drift off to sleep (no matter how busy my mind is).

Getting outdoors midday can help too. A brisk walk at lunch time can help boost your metabolism, and physical activity also has a positive effect on our mood. Aside from exercise, if the sun's out you can get some extra vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 itself is a mood boosting supplement. For some, taking a dose of 4,000 to 6,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily during the winter months is more effective for our mood than sitting in bright light.

Certain foods can help too, especially protein at each meal. The building blocks of protein are important for all of the hormones in our brain that support a brighter mood and a sense of peace. Tryptophan, famously abundant in turkey, is a building block of serotonin. We can get it through certain foods or a supplement like 5-HTP. 5-HTP is a highly bioavailable form of tryptophan. And here's a secret: vitamin D3 and the omega-3s EPA and DHA help the brain turn tryptophan into serotonin.

Another one of my favorite mood supplements is Carlson Totally Zen. The name says it all. Totally Zen has nutrient co-factors for balanced brain chemistry. (You can even use Totally Zen together with 5-HTP.) GABA, a Totally Zen component, is a brain hormone, or neurotransmitter, that bestows a sense of calm. Carlson Pharma GABA is a fast-acting supplement that promotes calmness.

Another great food is salmon (or tuna or mackerel) because of their high omega-3 content. The omega-3s are food for the brain. EPA, the most important omega-3 for mood is abundant in cold-water fish and fish oil supplements. DHA is especially important for expecting moms. If you opt for omega-3s in supplement form, be sure it has been tested for potency and purity. Look for an IFOS logo on the label, and be sure they are tested and free from harmful levels of heavy metals or other toxic elements. IFOS is the gold standard for fish oil testing.

Don’t fall prey to the winter blues. Use these tips to stay merry and bright all winter long.