Do you feel a little bummed out in the winter? The two of us definitely favor the warm, sunny summer months and Tammy even named her daughter Summer, since we love the season so much. And in the winter we tend to feel less happy. It turns out, there’s actually a reason why! When we’re exposed to sunlight our brains produce endorphins, our body’s feel good chemicals. In the winter time, with less sun, we make fewer endorphins and were less content. Plus, let’s face it, it’s cold outside, there’s less daylight and we feel cooped up and bummed out. So, are there really foods that will pick you up from that winter slump? Yes, there are! It’s all about being strategic. Here are our five mood boosting tricks that will keep you happy even in the frigid winter days!
Mood Boosting Trick #1: Include mood-boosting carbohydrates throughout your day.
This will naturally change your brain chemistry:
• Have oatmeal at breakfast, whole wheat bread or a baked potato at lunch or dinner…Baked Potatoes are one of the best foods for creating your body’s feel good chemical, serotonin. It will kick serotonin into high gear. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that combats pain, decreases appetite, and produces calm or sleep. A baked Potato is actually a triple bonus food since it’s also a good source of vitamin C, a vitamin that helps with serotonin production. (Bonus: it may also ward off winter colds since it has 45% of the Daily Value of vitamin C.) Plus, it’s a good source of potassium which may help to fight anxiety and also lowers blood pressure.
Note: Keep your portions in check. One slice of whole wheat bread, ½ cup of cooked oatmeal or a 5.3 ounce potato all are roughly 100 calories.
Mood Boosting Trick #2: Be sure to get Vitamin D in your day
Research has shown that people who are low in vitamin D have higher rates of depression. In the summer you can simply take a walk in the morning sun. The sun’s rays are converted to Vitamin D in the body. But if you live anywhere North of Atlanta, this won’t work in the winter. Good options to get Vitamin D:
• Mushrooms! All mushrooms contain vitamin D and they’re the only plant food that contains Vitamin D and one of the few non-fortified sources. Some of the light-exposed mushrooms can provide 100% of the DV for vitamin D. So add them to your salads, your omelets, your soups, stirfrys and casseroles. (We have a love affair with mushrooms and add them to everything that we eat, or we eat them on their own!)
• Eggs– The yolk contains Vitamin D.
• Vitamin D fortified string cheese or yogurt makes a great snack.
• Glass of skim milk with breakfast or for afternoon snack. Milk is fortified with Vitamin D
BONUS COMBINATION: Have mood- boosting oatmeal and eggs with mushrooms for breakfast. The protein from the eggs will cause slower digestion and extend the uplifting benefits of the feel good chemicals from oatmeal. You’ll get the Vitamin D from the mushrooms and from the eggs and the serotonin boost!
Mood Boosting Trick #3: Be sure to get enough Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is needed to make serotonin from foods that contain tryptophan. Think of fruits like pomegranates, oranges, lemons, limes and kiwis. These fruits are rich in vitamin C, which in addition, research has shown may help lower blood pressure and other physiological reactions during stressful situations.
• For a mood boosting meal have oatmeal (for serotonin), with skim milk (for vitamin D) with pomegranate arils in it (for vitamin C). This is the ultimate “Happy Meal!”
Mood Boosting Trick #4: Drink tea throughout the day.
Green, black, white and oolong teas have half the caffeine (so they lack the jittery, anxiety side-effects) of coffee but offer the same comforting warmth. Additionally, aside from being packed with disease fighting antioxidants, tea contains the amino acid theanine which creates a mental alertness, yet calmness which helps to beat stress and relax you, boosting mood.
Mood Boosting Trick #5: Aim to get probiotics.
Research shows that aside from keeping your digestive tract on track, probiotics can help to boost mood too. You can get some probiotics from yogurt, but you have to make sure you buy one that has live and active cultures in it (it will say on the label). You can also take a supplement.
These tricks work for us and keep us sane! Please leave a comment to let us know if they work for you too!