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There are four seasons and winter is often the toughest on your mind and mood. The connotations are usually negative: bitter cold, dry skin, back pain from show shoveling, multiple layers of clothing, colds and flu, trudging to work or around town. Winter is also associated with darkness and some people are susceptible to this in terms of a darker mood. However, there are many ways to shift your mood and to look at and experience winter in a more positive light. As a naturopathic doctor, I have found the following tips below to really help turn your mind and mood around.

Shift Your Mindset.

Life is change, life is balance. Just as there is light, there is dark and Mother Nature has built in seasons or what I call natural rhythms to keep the planet in balance. Try to look at winter in a different way. For instance, see it as a period to promote inner balance, contemplation and reflection (on your home and family life, personal health and development). Perhaps use it as a time to write a diary, or to take a course, learn to relax or meditate, or to strengthen family bonds. Nature uses winter as a time for slowing down and conserving energy. Likewise, consider it as a time to conserve your energies, in preparation for a productive Spring and summer.

Create Interesting Activities.

There are many outdoor and indoor activities that go well with winter. Since there are longer nights, use that to your advantage and plan star-gazing evenings with the family, or a trip to the local observatory. Organize parties around the fireplace or bonfire: marshmallow roasting and story-telling night with the kids/grandkids. Make new family rituals like charades night, games night – indoor activities that the whole family can enjoy. Individual activities can include re-focusing on your hobbies or developing new ones: painting, writing, singing, crafts.

Bright Light.

It has been found and you may know it intuitively that bright light makes you feel good. You may experience an annual drop in your mood in the fall and winter months, often called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Bright light therapy has been shown to help reduce depressive moods in people with SAD. However, new research has shown that people with other types of mood disorders can also benefit. Researchers from the Netherlands published a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2013 examining the effects of bright light on those with multiple types of major depression. They found that daily exposure to bright light units for 30 minutes led to significant improvements in mood for participants with each type of major depression under study.

Vitamin D.

Your blood level of vitamin D is associated with low mood, low cognitive function and low immune function. Get tested at your doctor’s office to know your level. Since most vitamin D is obtained through sun exposure on your skin, which is lacking in much of North America in the winter months, make sure you get enough vitamin D by supplementation and through your food: salmon, white fish, cod liver oil, eggs and vitamin D-fortified milks. There are also ‘vitamin D lights’ that use a controlled amount of ultraviolet-B waves to stimulate vitamin D production on your skin… of course, you can also go on a sunny vacation for some actual sun exposure.

Herbal Help.

Many herbs have positive effects on mood. Common ones include St. John’s Wort, Passionflower and Rhodiola.  They may also help in other areas such as with your level of nervousness, sleep and energy overall.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

A psychologist can train you to have better mental and emotional control to keep you more positive and feeling better. A particular approach is called cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that for those people with seasonal affective disorder who did not improve with bright light therapy alone, actually improved when combined with CBT. The combination was found to improve the duration of improvement and lower relapse rates.

Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.