Q: How can I beat back a blue mood this winter?
A: "The holidays are a perfect storm for mild depression," says Evangeline Lausier, MD, of Durham, North Carolina. Thanks to too many obligations, and cold and dark days, it's common to feel a dip in serotonin levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish (such as salmon and sardines), have been shown to enhance mood and improve cognitive function. Lentils, meanwhile, are a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, so try our Wild Salmon with Lentils and Arugula. Complex carbs, like those in whole grains, also trigger serotonin production.
A daily dose of 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D could ward off winter melancholy, Lausier says. In recent studies, omega-3 supplements have also alleviated such depression symptoms as fatigue, especially in perimenopausal and menopausal women.
Light therapy is a proven antidote to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Sitting close to a light box that mimics the bright outdoors promotes the production of mood-modulating brain chemicals.
Exercise, too, is a scientifically proven mood booster. According to a new study, just a five-minute walk in a park or other green space leads to improved mental health and self-esteem.
Read more from our Winter Wellness Guide.