Do you find yourself feeling fatigued or withdrawn during the winter months? Do you feel sad, sluggish, or prone to over-indulge in sugary foods? For people living in this region of the country, it is common to experience mental and physical health issues during the dark and cold months. Many seasonal struggles are rooted in a chemical need that our bodies have for one very simple thing: sunshine.
Sunlight plays an integral role in the body’s production of Vitamin D, serotonin, and melatonin. Vitamin D contributes to the production of serotonin, which regulates mood and appetite. Serotonin converts to melatonin, which controls sleep cycles. The reduction of sun exposure during the winter months leads to a deficiency in these chemicals. When we don’t receive adequate Vitamin D, we’re opening the door to sleep disruption, health issues, and symptoms of depression. Let’s take a look at 5 tips for maintaining a healthy level of Vitamin D:
- Natural Light
It may be absolutely frigid outside, but spending daily time outdoors is good for us. Studies have shown that consistent exposure to sunlight, even if brief, can help increase your Vitamin D levels and boost your mood. While you’re indoors, remember to let as much daylight into the room as you can; open the blinds, choose seats by the window whenever possible. A little bit of casual sunlight goes a long way.
If you feel you have a significant deficiency of Vitamin D, or are not able to spend adequate time in natural sunlight, speak with your primary care physician about a Vitamin D supplement. Supplements are an easy way to give yourself a boost during these cold months – don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor to learn more!
Consistent, moderate exercise has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression that are associated with the winter blues. Committing to 30 minutes of activity 2-3 times per week will help keep serotonin levels in a healthy place. If sunlight is available and temperatures allow, try to exercise outdoors!
- Eat Well
The holidays are full of indulgent meals and sugar. Come January, most of our bodies are crying out for a bit of balance! Listen to what your body needs, and try to consume whole foods that are high in nutrients. Reduce or eliminate sugar intake and resist processed foods. Try to incorporate some healthy foods that are high in Vitamin D: salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms, milk, and orange juice are all great options.
- Prioritize Sleep
Keep a regular sleep schedule, and focus on getting 7-9 hours of slumber every night. If you’re struggling with sleep disruptions or feel that your sleep is not restorative, the issue could link back to a deficiency in Vitamin D.
Living in the northern part of our country makes us more susceptible to Vitamin D deficiencies and the risks that come along with it. Remaining vigilant in how we care for our bodies, our minds, and our loved ones is incredibly important. As your partners on your health journey, we’re always here to discuss your Vitamin D intake, seasonal depression, or other winter-related health issues!