As we move through winter and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to make your mental and physical well-being one of your most important priorities. Dr. Lila Z. Hakim, C. Psych. (Registered Psychologist and Centre Director at CFIR Toronto), offers a few helpful tips below to start feeling good:
Nourish Your Body
Many of us experience cravings for certain foods throughout the winter season, and our bodies develop a yen for carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are directly linked to the neurotransmitter serotonin production, an emotion regulator that helps you feel emotionally stable, less anxious, calmer, more focused, and energetic.
When that 3 p.m. craving for a savoury or sweet snack hits, it’s your body’s way of self-medicating, seeking to improve your mood by boosting your serotonin levels. Listen to your body and give yourself that much-needed serotonin lift.
Instead of calorie-dense, sugary pieces of bread and sweets that offer a quick mood-boost and then a crash, consider healthier alternatives such as fruits, nuts, and yogurt.
Physical activity increases the calming neurotransmitter serotonin and increases dopamine, the emotion and pleasure neurotransmitter, and endorphins, your pain-relief, and pleasure neurotransmitters. Incorporating movement into your day (climbing stairs, going for a walk, etc.) gives your body the activity it needs to keep your mood up throughout the day.
Make Sleep a Priority
Sleeping excessively (or hibernating) is customary in the winter and is often a reaction to the cold. Still, for some, ongoing insomnia or difficulties falling or staying asleep create challenges that can lead to the blues. Provide yourself with a space at home that includes comforting objects (such as a warm blanket, beautiful items, etc.) to calm your stress hormones. Aim to get precisely the amount of sleep you need to feel fully rested and ask a professional if you are unsure about how much rest is the ideal amount.
Do Things that Light You Up
Find activities in your life that give you a sense of pleasure and meaning, involving curiosity, exploration, and interest¬–this could be collecting or building things, researching something you love like travelling, or discovering creative ways to connect other people. Artistic endeavours, like making and listening to great music, are also great options. Pleasure, curiosity, exploration, and interest all stimulate dopamine, making you feel exhilarated and alive!
(**Note: If you are experiencing continual depression symptoms, it is important to seek attention from a physician or mental health professional.)