Beat the Winter Blahs

This has been a long, cold winter for much of the country.  For those people who live where they are getting lots of cold weather, snow, and ice,  I know many people are getting “cabin fever”.  It’s really hard to be focused on your goals, especially those of weight loss and healthier living when you’re just trying to get through another day.  I thought this was a good time to review some suggestions that might just help you get through this winter with your resolutions still intact.

Identify and Avoid Triggers. What triggers your old patterns?  Look at these common triggers and see which ones you have.  Try some of the suggestions and see if they help.

1. Sensory triggers can be anything you see, smell, taste, hear, and touch. Have you always resorted to eating lots of sweets to boost your energy level and mood?  Seeing food ads on TV or going to Super Bowl parties with lots of high fat foods and sugary drinks are just some of the sensory triggers that are happening at this time of year.  Eating smaller meals and a combination of healthy protein/complex carbohydrates/fat before you head to a party really does help control those triggers.

2. Emotional triggers relate to your emotional state. When the days are short and the sky is cloudy, many people have a severe dip in serotonin.  A lack of this neurotransmitter is related to a variety of symptoms; including moodiness, sleep problems, carbohydrate cravings, memory, etc.  To help with these symptoms, get outside for a little while on days when the sun is out, exercise a little every day, (as listed above) eat smaller meals and a combination of healthy protein/carbohydrates/fat, listen to music that makes you happy, make yourself get out of the house and socialize, and so on.  Have a fun “Beat the Winter Blahs” party.  Turn up the thermostat, make your guests wear summer clothing, fix some summer foods like grilled chicken and fruit plates, and for one night forget what time of year it is.

3. Other triggers, such as being tired, can derail your healthy goals. You may be a night owl and be dragging when morning comes.  Try to get to bed at the same time every night.  Attach a light switch timer to your bedside lamp and set it just as you would your alarm.  If you don’t want to awaken to a bright light, you can use a 3 way bulb and set it at a low setting.  For those willing to spend a little money, try a dusk/dawn simulator.  This is intended to awaken you gradually just as the rising sun would.  If you’re interested in light therapy, you should talk with your doctor about the use of a light box, especially if you have severe depression, bipolar disorder, and so on.  Light therapy is a medically approved treatment for some forms of depression, but it isn’t appropriate for everyone.  I checked out the Sunbox Company’s website and they are having a wintertime blues special, so it’s a good time if you’re looking to buy a lightbox.  Besides cutting back on sugar, consider cutting back on caffeine as well.   Frequent use of caffeine can lead to tolerance of it’s many effects.  At high doses, caffeine can cause nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, and other symptoms.

Don’t forget that the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, didn’t see his shadow on Groundhog Day, so that’s supposed to mean an early spring.  In the meantime, go watch “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray.  It’s a funny movie and that should lift your spirits a little.

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