The Mind-Body Connection: Avoid Winter Depression by Taking Care of Your Body
by Duane DiFranco, MD
| 2 min read
Research shows there is a strong connection between one’s physical and mental well-being. How you treat your body can influence things like self-esteem, stress levels and mood. While this is important all year long, it’s especially crucial in the middle of winter, when short days and frigid temperatures can lead to more serious mental health issues like Seasonal Affective Disorder. Fortunately, you can channel this mind-body connection to improve your mental health this season. Here are some ways to do that:
- Move your body every day. Regular physical activity has a significant impact on mental health. Not only does exercise release mood-boosting endorphins, but it also boosts confidence and provides a healthy outlet for negative energy. Over time, these factors can reduce your stress and anxiety while also decreasing the risk for depression. Though getting motivated to keep up with fitness in the winter is no easy task, knowing how to properly prepare for cold-weather exercise and exploring new indoor activities can help.
- Eat good-mood foods. Nutritional psychiatry is emerging as a serious component of mental health treatment, re-affirming the importance of having a nutritious, balanced diet. So, what is it all about? In a nutshell, the chemical reactions created by the foods you eat play a major role in your mood and emotional well-being. Staying away from processed foods and eating a balance of produce, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats increases the production of “happy chemicals” in your brain and helping to regulate your hormones. If you’re still craving high-fat, high-calorie comfort foods, try alternatives like using cauliflower in pizza crust or snacking on roasted chickpeas instead of chips.
- Reduce stress with quality rest. A lack of consistent, quality sleep has been tied to depression, among other health issues. With the decreased daylight this time of year, it’s even more important to establish a consistent sleep schedule. By going to bed and waking up around the same time every day, you’ll help maintain your body’s circadian rhythm, reducing the lethargy and irritability that a lack of sleep may cause. Getting at least seven hours of sleep per night can also help improve focus and alertness, reduce stress and support your ability to regulate emotions.
If your feelings of depression or anxiety persist, consider reaching out to a licensed medical professional for additional support. For more information on taking care of your mental health, check out these other blogs:
- One Health: Human Wellness Tied to Animals, Environment
- Recognizing Mental Health Stigmas
- Combatting a Hidden Health Crisis: Chronic Stress