Exercise and good diet can blow winter blues away

The Hindu

Berlin, November 29, 2010

When winter draws in and the days grow shorter, many people tend to become tired and listless. One cause of this is the hormone melatonin, which plays a role in sleeping patterns and is released during hours of darkness.

“You should make use of daylight to keep yourself fit and alert,” advises Korinna Ruthemann from the German High School for Prevention and Health Management in Saarbruecken. “Go for a walk in the fresh air during lunch break.” Physical exercise and daylight also promote the release of the hormone serotonin which helps feelings of well-being. “The best thing is to take someone along with you as positive social contacts can give a big boost to your happiness,” says Ruthemann.

There are also a few simple nutritional tricks that can help.

Omega-3 fatty acids and the amino acid Tryptophan have a positive affect on our moods. “It’s a good idea to eat a well balanced diet with fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and nuts,” says Ruthemann.

“Pay attention to your thoughts because negative attitudes can quickly drag you down into a vicious circle.” Ruthemann recommends questioning negative thoughts with something along the lines of “Is that really the case or is there another way of looking at things?” That can help put you back in the right mood again. “Don’t try to fight the natural cycle of the seasons but just consciously enjoy the winter months as a time of rest and when you can really relax.” Winter depression can also affect children and young adults. Edgy moods and weak performance in school are the first signs.

Concentration loss, low motivation and irregular sleep patterns are also symptoms, according to the German Society for Child and Young Adult Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy (DGKJP).

If the symptoms are not especially acute the DGKJHP recommends getting plenty of exercise in the fresh air. Even the most overcast rainy day can supply more light than a light bulb.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.