​Maintaining A Healthy Mood During Winter Months

Across many areas of the country, the days are darker and the weather is colder. Many begin prepping for the impending weather changes and holiday frenzy, which can bring stress, anxiety, and seasonal depression. These emotions can affect our memory, concentration, sleep, weight, hormonal balance, and immunity. We can address these with healthy lifestyle habits, such as a healthy diet, ample activity, quality sleep, self-care, and supplementation.
This time of year is filled with parties and gatherings, and moderation is key. Eating a healthy snack before a party can take the edge off of wanting to eat the entire pie. For those on-the-go moments, prepping foods ahead with batch cooking and having healthy snack options on hand helps tremendously. A 2010 study found that a healthy diet of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and whole grains was associated with better mental health. A typical "Western" diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, and sugary products was associated with poor mental health.

When individuals are experiencing mood issues, they typically do not choose healthy foods to replenish what the body truly needs. Usually, we reach for “comfort foods”, like caffeine, sugar, fast food, and salty food for temporary relief. Protein, fiber, and healthy fats in our diet aid to stabilize blood sugar and to help maintain stable blood-sugar levels throughout the day, which can reduce mood swings. Supplements like Ceylon cinnamonomega-3s, and fiber can help us maintain healthy blood sugar levels and control cravings for sweets. 
Balanced nutrition and ample amounts of activity are well-documented in research to support a health mood, stress levels, immunity, weight, and more. Exercise increases blood flow and decreases stress hormones like cortisol. It's also proven that being outside in nature decreases stress levels and balances the hormones that help regulate our mood. Heading outside for exercise gives us the benefits from both.
Try going out for a hike in the serene snowy hills. Yoga is another wonderful activity that has tremendous benefits, and research has seen that it not only enhances mood but also assists with increasing GABA levels, which is an important amino acid for anxiety, sleep, and muscle relaxation. Sleep can become altered with increased darkness and mood changes. Energy levels can also be diminished this time of year. Supplement options for healthy sleep include melatonin and magnesium. Supplements for healthy energy levels are CoQ10 and B vitamins.
To keep stressors at a minimum and stay balanced through holidays, we should take time out for self-care. Spending time with good friends, getting a massage, cooking, painting, journaling, meditating, listening to music, or taking a class are important for our well-being. Meditation and breathing exercises can help with clarity and focus, and can also decrease cortisol levels and create an uplifted feeling. Start out meditating 5 minutes a day and work your way up to more.

Some supplements that assist with balancing mood and stress include omega-3s (higher DHA)GABA5-HTPL-theanineB-vitaminsmagnesium, and vitamin D3. Typically, vitamin D levels dip throughout the winter months. Check your levels with an at-home Vitamin D Test Kit and adjust D3 intake as needed. Routine check-ups (heart, vision, physical, D3 levels) are a must to fully understand our health status and to determine if we need to increase nutrient-intake, change a stressor, up activity levels, or alter a habit. 
We all have days that can throw off our mind-body balance. Help reset your mindset, promote calmness, add mental clarity, and support a healthier mood using various lifestyle changes.