Feeling down? Try these 3 natural remedies for the winter blues

pouring tea
CC BY 2.0 sfllaw

November tends to be a dreary month. This time of year can be depressing for many people, whether it's the onset of cold weather, the change from daylight savings time, earlier evenings, or pre-holiday stress. Try these three simple ways to uplift your spirits and improve your mood.

1. Walk 20 minutes a day

Whether it’s walking or gardening, 20 minutes daily of mild exercise can go a long way toward banishing stress and decreasing depression. Many of us know that exercise has great physical benefits, but a new study from the University of Toronto is the first to look exclusively at the mental benefits. This comes at a time when health care facilities are filled to maximum capacity and doctors are finally turning toward more preventive solutions, rather than prescription drugs.

Greg Mammen, coauthor of the study, believes that everyone can benefit from exercise: “It’s definitely worth taking note that if you’re currently active, you should sustain it. If you’re not physically active, you should initiate the habit. This review shows promising evidence that the impact of being active goes far beyond the physical.”

2. Drink black or green tea

You probably have some in the cupboard right now, so go ahead and make a cup. Tea has a marvelous way of making us more alert, relaxed, and healthy over time. Sound contradictory? Like coffee, the caffeine in black and green tea provides energy by blocking signals to the brain that your body is tired, but it also contains an amino acid called “L-theanine,” which has a relaxing effect on the body. It reduces anxiety, calms you, and regulates dopamine and serotonin, which makes us feel good.

Naturopathic doctor Natasha Turner describes how it works: “If you’re wondering how something with caffeine can relax you, the L-theanine balances the stimulatory effects of caffeine so you stay alert without feeling jittery.”

Tea is also full of antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals, and, by extension, blood clots, hardened arteries, and cancer. Long-term tea drinkers boast lower cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke.

3. Get enough sleep

Sleep is necessary for your body and brain to recharge, but if you’re too busy or have too much on your mind, it can be hard to wind down. To make matters worse, people with insomnia produce more stress hormones, which leads to increased insomnia. It’s a vicious cycle that can lead to depression. Some tips for creating a relaxing nighttime environment:

  • Ban screen time before bed, since a light-emitting device is a message to your brain to stay alert. People who use electronic devices before bed report not feeling rested in the morning. Read a paper book instead.
  • Exercise earlier in the day to enhance your quality of sleep, but not in the evenings, since that revs your body.
  • Eat “sleepy” foods, such as chamomile, warm milk, bananas, potatoes, oatmeal, and whole-wheat bread.

  • Tags: Health