Nutritionist Amanda Callenberg, an ambassador for vitamin supplement company YourZooki, reveals how we can naturally boost levels of our happy to combat SAD and boost our mood.
Did you know you can naturally boost your levels of happy hormones (serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline) to boost your mood? Amanda says: ‘Staying positive during the cold months of winter isn’t always easy but shifting your mindset and thinking of it as an opportunity to re-energise, restore and indulge in some self-care can make it feel a lot more enjoyable and comforting.’
Here are some key ways to boost your mood during the winter months…
1. Increase Your Protein Intake
Serotonin production depends on the precursor tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks for hormones. Tyrosine is another important amino acid which is needed for producing dopamine. Foods high in tryptophan and tyrosine are meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts as well as oats, chickpeas, bananas and chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa or above).
2. Increase Your Vitamin And Fatty Acid Intake
Vitamin D plays a role in serotonin and dopamine production. While the best source of vitamin D is sunshine, there are some food sources of vitamin D such as oily fish, liver eggs, mushrooms and raw dairy (milk, cheese). Omega 3 fatty acids are also essential for serotonin production. Foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids are eggs, nuts, raw milk, leafy green vegetables and oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod. In times of chronic stress or illness, taking vitamin C can help to support immunity and recovery. Citrus fruits are also great food sources of vitamin C.
3. Nurture Your Gut Health
The majority of serotonin and about half of your dopamine is made in your gut. This means that the health of your microbiome influences the levels of your serotonin and dopamine production. Include gut-friendly foods that are high in pre and probiotics as well as fibre which include live yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, legumes, onions, garlic, and a variety of fruit and vegetables.
4. Exercise To Release Natural Endorphins
Exercise has so many benefits and one of them is improved mood. This is because when we exercise, we release natural endorphins which leave us feeling great. Working out with a friend motivates us to work harder and longer than compared with exercising alone so find a friend to enjoy outdoor exercise with (added bonus is that this also gives you a chance to see someone outside your household, get natural sunlight and be with nature). You can also book in for some online workouts such as yoga, dance, HIIT etc., as there are plenty to choose from. At least 20 minutes of any-intensity exercise daily will give you the endorphins needed to help support your mood and motivation.
5. Get Outside
Getting some fresh air and being with nature is a great way to boost your mood. Make the most of the lightest part of the day and take a stroll in your local park. Take a flask of warm tea to sip on to keep you warm and hydrated and invest in some warm clothes and waterproofs to help you to brave the weather and make it feel less daunting to get outside.
6. Maintain Good Quality Sleep And Sleep Patterns
When our serotonin levels decrease, this can impact our sleep quality. When we aren’t sleeping well and we have disrupted circadian rhythms, it is more likely that we won’t feel great and our moods will be affected. Keeping in natural rhythm with daylight hours will help to boost our serotonin levels, so try to stick to a consistent sleep and wake pattern and expose yourself to natural daylight in the morning and during the day. Also, set yourself a nourishing bedtime routine to support good sleep quality including switching off devices at least one hour before bed, do some journaling, reading, meditation or run a bath.
7. Practice Gratitude, Set Goals And Stimulate Your Brain
When you achieve a goal, accomplish a task or hit a target, you receive a pleasurable hit of dopamine in your brain, telling you that you’ve done a good job. Set yourself some daily goals and targets and engage your brain in some intellectually stimulating activities like puzzles, crosswords or quizzes. You can also get a natural dose of dopamine when you perform acts of compassion toward others.
8. Adopt A Positive Winter Mindset
Adopting a positive winter mindset could help us cope with the stresses of Winter and lockdown at this time of year. Firstly, accept that it’s winter and it will sometimes be cold, wet, and grey, and we likely feel more lethargic at times. Secondly, instead of feeling down about not being able to meet up in big groups, be grateful that we can wrap up warm and go on a winter walk with one person from another household. Find fun activities that you can do indoors and outdoors to fill your days, like tackling some of those personal projects that you have always wanted to, read more, study, write, call friends and family, bake etc.
Amanda says: ‘Don’t let the prospect of winter and lockdowns fill you with dread, discomfort and something to be endured, rather embrace winter for what it’s worth, do what makes you happy and enjoy the season.’