People dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD); the medical version of the winter blues aren’t the only ones that struggle with the short, gray days, grim weather, and the overall gloom of the winter season.
Reduced exposure to sunlight can significantly affect your circadian rhythm (the body’s biological clock regulating hormone production and even brain wave activity). For older people and for individuals with conditions like Raynaud’s (a condition that causes extreme sensitivity to the cold), the winter blues can be much worse.
Few of us are big fans of the cold weather season, but for those of you that spend much of the winter in the dumps, here are some ways you can improve your mood to maintain your mental health until spring returns.
What are the Signs that You Have the Winter Blues?
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are nine symptoms associated with SAD that we should look out for. If you’re experiencing any one of these – then you might have a serious case of the winter blues and should take steps to restore a positive outlook and improve your mood.
The symptoms of SAD are:
- Changes in either appetite (particularly a craving for foods high in
carbohydrates) or weight
- Persistent sluggishness or agitation
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Your limbs feel heavy or tired
- Unusual thoughts of suicide
- Remaining depressed most of the day for two weeks or longer
- A sensation of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Insomnia or other sleep problems
- Lack of interest in activities that you enjoyed before
Simply exposing yourself to sunlight will stimulate the brain to release of serotonin – one of the most important hormones to improve your mood. The dark days of winter can cause your serotonin levels to dive; by getting outside as much as possible when the sun is out, you can raise your serotonin levels to fight the blues. Even half an hour per day can make a huge difference. Try eating lunch or getting your exercise outdoors to get as much daylight as possible to help reset your body’s circadian rhythm and balance your mood.
Change Your Diet
Winter frequently leaves many of us craving starchy foods and sweets and, while these items can be an enjoyable part of our diet, to maintain health, we need to strike a balance.
Rather than run to the snack machine when you need a quick pick-me-up; choose foods like walnuts, boiled eggs, and cheese; they can all help the body to secrete more serotonin, which will lift your mood.
Our diet can also play a significant role in sleep quality. Poor sleep can exacerbate the winter blues – so it’s best to avoid eating a heavy meal within an hour or two before bedtime. If you’re the type who often wakes up in the night feeling peckish; then try eating a small, protein-rich snack before bed.
Wind Down Before Bed
Worry about work or family life and being constantly connected to email and social media can have a negative impact your sleep quality – ruining your mood in the morning. Although it’s tempting to take your mobile device or laptop to bed with you, make sure you give the brain an opportunity to switch off as you prepare for bed for the best possible night’s sleep.
A good idea is to stay away from your social media accounts and email for at least an hour and a half before turning in. Try reading a book (catching up on the news may not be very relaxing), listening to soothing music or just have a warm bath. By establishing a regular wind-down routine, you can reduce any feelings of anxiety and relax your mind; ensuring that you get the best possible night’s sleep to be re-energized for the next day.
Try Napping to Beat Fatigue and Improve Your Mood
Lethargy during the day is a typical symptom of SAD. Starting a napping routine over the winter is a fantastic way to combat this. Ideally, your naps should last between 10 and 20 minutes and be scheduled for when you feel most sleepy during the day or merely find yourself losing your concentration. Many of us feel a natural decline in energy levels around mid-afternoon – but whenever you start to feel tired or unfocused is the best time.
Find or Create Something You Can Look Forward to
The depths of winter are a perfect time to plan something you can look forward to.
Studies have shown that people who travel can get a much greater boost in their mood from anticipating the trip than from the journey itself. Even if you must wait until spring or summer arrives to take your trip, you can still get a mood boost that lasts through the winter just from the anticipation.
But, do you have to travel to create this mood-elevating anticipation?
No! Use the cold months to plan any experience you can look forward to. Whether it’s working on the garden, a first picnic or beach trip, or taking a hike on your favorite path. It’s the anticipation that has the effect, not what you’re anticipating.
Make the Most of Indoor Time
Inclement weather and frigid temperatures will inevitably keep you stuck indoors – sometimes for days at a time. Make the most of it!
Are there any home improvements or repairs that you’ve meant to get to? Get the materials you’ll need together in advance so when the winter weather keeps you stuck inside; you can avoid going stir crazy. Instead of retreating to the couch, you’ll have a productive and engaging activity to occupy the day.
If you share your home with friends or family – why not keep a collection of board games and share some quality time interacting with each other rather than an electronic device.
Learn Something New
Use the time you’re stuck indoors to new a new skill!
Have you always intended to learn a musical instrument? Maybe you’ve always wished to learn how to write software applications? Take advantage of the slower-paced winter months to pick up a new skill you can show off come spring and summer. The feeling of accomplishment doing so can offer, will go far to improve your mood and your self-image.
Nutrisystem states that “All of the programs meet, and are often below, the USDA’s recommended daily intake of 2300 mg sodium or less for the general population”. This varies depending on which diet plan you are on, and what foods you add to your diet along with Nutrsystem. The average amount of sodium in the American diet is around 4,000 mg and sometimes much higher.
However, if an individual would like to limit their intake to 1500 mg, they can contact the Nutrisystem Support on their website.
Ergonomics is the science of adapting the workstation to fit within the capabilities and limitations of the worker. In other words, changing things in an environment to make a worker more comfortable.
The purpose of workplace ergonomics is to create an environment that fits you, to allow maximum comfort for increased productivity and efficiency.
An ergonomically correct workstation can greatly reduce the amount of fatigue and discomfort felt from sitting in an office all day. Continued exposure to discomfort and poor mechanics can result in debilitating conditions. Some of the more common ones are carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis. Here a few guidelines to things that you can do to increase your comfort in an office setting.
5 Office Ergonomic Tips
Arms rests? Yeah that’s what I said. Armrests allow you to rest the weight of your arms on them instead of resting the weight on your shoulders and neck. This can help you not hunch over, as well as not strain your Trapezius Muscles. If your arms are not supported, your neck will feel very tight after work from being stretched out all day.
So this one is obvious but one of the main complaints of sitting in an office is lower back pain. Having a chair that does not support good posture can lead to:
- Hunching– Hanging your head out over your lap instead of your shoulders
- Slouching – Having your hips forward on the chair more so your shoulders rest on the back of the chair
- Sl-unching – So I made this one up, but it’s when you are leaning forward and also sitting forward on your chair. Almost hanging over you keyboard.
To properly sit, you will need to have your feet on the floor, not dangling. This prevents the weight of your body resting on your buttocks or back of legs fully. Weight distribution is key here. Hips should be pushed back against the back of the chair, and with your arms bent about 90 degrees while resting on the arm rests. Body angle should be slighting reclined. Not straight up and down.
If you are not used to sitting correctly, your body may have to adjust. The first few times you sit up straight, your body will act like it wants to slouch. This will pass and soon you will be comfortably typing and leaving work less sore.
Monitor Should Be Eye Level
Part of the reason you are slouching and feeling uncomfortable is because you are looking down on your monitor. Okay so that’s an assumption, but are you? You should be looked straight ahead at the top of your monitor. With the keyboard directly in line, so you don’t have to turn your head. Make sure the monitor is at least an arm’s length away too. Having it too close will cause strain on the eyes.
If your job requires you to be on the phone for a majority of the day, make sure you aren’t holding the phone with your shoulder. This can cause unnecessary cramping due to being in a weird position for an extended period of time. A headset can normally be set up by your IT department if you ask nicely enough.
So this one isn’t really, ergonomic, but you can avoid fatigue by taking good care of your body. Drink plenty of water, get plenty of exercise, take stretch breaks and avoid prolonged periods of sitting. Snacking all day is a great way to put on weight, and drinking 5 cups of coffee is a fantastic way to get addicted to caffeine.
Your desk should be a comfortable place in order to produce good work. If your office has the ability, consider having an ergonomics professional come and assess each individual’s needs. If your office can’t justify that, then these things above will help. Hopefully you can find a comfortable way to sit all day. Keep looking to find what works for you.
BistroMD does deliver.
They ship via FedEx and should arrive 6 business days after the order is placed. They ship to all 50 states. If you live in Alaska, delivery is only available to Anchorage, Fairbanks and Eagle River.
Nothing can ruin your day like stepping on the scale and finding that you’ve seemingly gained weight overnight! You were trying so hard to stick to your diet, and were so careful about what you ate… But, it may not be as bad as you think.
Not all weight gain is the same – and fat isn’t always the culprit. Frequently, that extra 2 or 3 pounds you see is just water weight.
Your body is roughly 60% to 70% water, and that water plays a critical role in every aspect of your metabolism. Many different factors can influence how much water is held in every part of your body, and it will affect how much your scale says you weigh.
What is Water Weight?
Water weight is just a symptom of water retention and while it isn’t a serious health issue for most people – it can still negatively impact your appearance and emotional state. Retaining water will make your clothes feel tighter, your face puffy, and can even swell your joints.
Causes of Water Weight Gain
Myriad factors will influence how much water your body retains; from changes in your electrolyte balance, fluctuating hormone levels, the amount of carbs you’ve been (or not been) eating, and any OTC or prescription medications you take – to among literally dozens of other factors.
Let’s take a look at the most common causes of water weight gain and some effective ways to correct the problem so you can squeeze into your favorite pair of jeans again!
Too Much Salt
Excess salt intake is the quickest route to packing on pounds of unwanted water weight.
Do you remember the last time you had a roadside meal and later started to feel like a stuffed sausage in your outfit?
That’s likely because all the salt in what you ate caused a massive increase in water retention. Salt loves water, and sodium plays a huge role in your body’s fluid balance. Worse, if you regularly consume too much sodium in your diet, your fluid retention problems could become long-lasting.
Higher sodium levels in your blood will demand more water volume to maintain homeostasis (balance of nutrients) in your system.
This is also the way that high sodium can cause an increase in blood pressure. Don’t think it’s just table that can get you in trouble — processed foods of all kinds also tend to contain lots of sodium.
Too Much Sugar
Sugar and all other carbohydrates are also triggers of water retention.
When you eat carbs, they’re ultimately converted into glycogen, which is stored in your muscle as a quick energy source.
Each gram of glycogen your body stores can cause your body to hold onto approximately three times that amount in water. So 1205 grams of glycogen could result in over a pound of water weight gain.
Research shows that unless you use up all of your stored carbs, you’re probably retaining some excess water. Whenever you overindulge on sugar or binge on carbohydrate-rich foods; your body will store a lot of the excess as water retaining glycogen.
Not Enough Potassium
What you eat is just as important as what you shouldn’t eat when it comes to fluid retention.
If you eat more foods that contain a lot of potassium, like:
It could help you control water weight problems.
The potassium in your diet helps regulate your fluid balance by working in concert with sodium. A study from Northwestern University demonstrated how dietary potassium can balance out the negative effects of sodium.
So if you don’t already – try increasing your potassium intake by including potassium-rich foods to help your body shed excess water due to an electrolyte imbalance.
You Don’t Drink Enough Water
As odd as it sounds; drinking lots of water can help prevent water retention! Even when you’re just slightly dehydrated – the body will begin holding onto fluid rather than eliminating it to protect against the danger of dehydration. Additionally, drinking more water will help to ensure the proper flow of blood and other bodily fluids.
Research shows that drinking more water will also assist to prevent constipation, another source of that mysterious overnight weight gain. If you find it difficult to drink enough water, you can also accomplish the same thing by increasing your consumption of water-rich foods, like:
- Citrus fruits
Your Monthly Cycle
Women know intuitively that they’ll retain water at certain times in their monthly cycle.
A whopping majority of women will suffer some water weight gain in the week before their period begins. While the water weight gained will vary according to the individual; it’s generally between 5 to10lbs.
Fortunately, once menstrual bleeding begins, the water weight will reduce again.
The use of birth control pills and being pregnant will strongly affect water retention.
Sadly, there really is no solution for this source of water weight fluctuation.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels due to stress will have an immediate impact on water retention. If you’re stressed and feeling bloated or puffy, you can safely blame an increase in cortisol.
Any stress, from insomnia to crash dieting, can elevate your cortisol levels and cause weight gain due to water retention. The best solution is, of course, to eliminate (or try to reduce the effects of) whatever is stressing you to bring your cortisol levels back to normal.
Quickly Get Rid of Water Weight
Here are several sure-fire ways to eliminate excess water weight to feel and look better:
You can lose anywhere from 2 to 8 cups of water after just an hour of exercise, depending on how hard you train and under what conditions.
When you exercise, your body will move lots of water into the working muscles, which can help decrease water levels under your skin and reduce puffiness from water retention.
Get enough sleep:
Adequate sleep can help the body to regulate water levels to minimize excess fluid retention. Sleep might also influence the kidney’s nerves that control both sodium and your fluid levels.
Use a Magnesium Supplement:
There is substantial evidence that increasing dietary magnesium intake will reduce both water weight and premenstrual symptoms.
Drink more coffee:
We’re all familiar with the diuretic effects of caffeine – especially when consumed as coffee. Caffeine will increase your urine output resulting in a mild decrease in water weight.
In extreme cases of water retention, it may be necessary to ask your doctor about prescription strength solutions to your problem.
Diuretic pills will stimulate your kidneys and increase your urine output – causing a significant reduction in water weight.
But, remember that this isn’t something you want to buy online or from some shady ‘health’ store. Like any serious drug, you should only use them under a doctor’s supervision or after asking your doctor’s advice.
Keep This in Mind
The best way to minimize or prevent excess water weight gain is by following healthy daily habits that include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Reduced salt intake
- Lower carb and sugar intake
- Regular exercise
- Enough sleep
If you do the right things for your body – your body will always look and perform at its very best. Living a pure, healthy lifestyle will keep your appearance, you weight, and your attitude on the right track!