Cold Weather and Mental Health Problems

Karishma Chawla

Karishma Chawla
18 December 2020

This article is authored by Karishma Chawla. She is a practising nutritionist and a weight loss expert. She advises people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or to achieve a specific health-related goal.

Eat Breakfast

Seasonal affective disorder is a term used to describe depressive order that occurs with seasonal pattern. The exact cause of this phenomenon is unknown, but it is psychological condition that results in depression. Symptoms of winter seasonal effective disorder include daytime fatigue, feeling of hopelessness, difficulty in focusing and concentrating, mood swings with increased irritability, lethargy, social withdrawal, reduced sexual interest and weight gain.

Studies show that cold weather can negatively affect the mental health. As much as winter comes with its perks it can also cause discomfort for many. In winter, it tends to get darker faster in the day, people tend to stay in due to extreme cold weather, often one is kicked out of their daily routines, feeling of lethargy can take over and the bodies produce less of serotonin during winter which is the happy hormone. All these factors can cause mental health problems such as depression.

A healthy lifestyle with a balance diet can help minimize seasonal affective disorder.

Here are some guidelines on maintaining a healthy diet during the winter months:

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• Eat a balanced diet with high quality and adequate quantity of carbohydrates, lean protein, good fat, fibre, herbs and spices.

• Consume complex carbohydrates help release sustained blood sugar, energy levels and also help prevent or minimize mood dips. Sources are jowar, bajra, and rajgira to name a few.

• Ensure 3 servings of protein in a day can help with mood swings and prevent cravings. Sources are eggs, chicken, fish, dals, pulses, milk and milk products.

• Include good quality fats such as ghee, coconut oil and olive oil for cooking with an addition of omega 3 fats such as fatty fish, walnuts and flax. Good fats help to prevent inflammation and help with the optimal function of hormones in the body.

• Include high-fibre fruits such as apple. Pear, orange, sweetlime, papaya and high-fibre vegetables such as leafy greens, all kinds of mushrooms, and other vegetables such as pumpkin, turnip, tomato and others. These help to prevent the insulin spike and blood sugar rush and avoid mood swings.

• Add mood boosting foods such as:

o B6 vitamin also known as pyridoxine helps in improving the moods. Sources are spinach, oats, avocado, walnuts and salmon.

o B-12 is again an important feel good vitamin. Healthy B-12 levels help you feel good. It helps combating depression. Sources are salmon, yoghurt and eggs.

o High-quality protein like eggs, lean chicken and fish and skim milk and skim milk foods are building blocks for a mood boosting diet.

o Serotonin is also known as a mood regulator promotes positive happy thoughts. Sources are walnuts, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, plums and tomato.

o Foods rich in tryptophan are also beneficial as it can be converted to serotonin. Sources are milk, curd, paneer, fish, chicken, oilseeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, soybean, oats and whole eggs.

• Work on a healthy gut, 90% of the feel-good hormone is produced in the gut. Hence, taking care of the gut with right quality foods such as fermented foods, whole grains rich in fibre, herbs and spices are beneficial.

• Indulge in foods that can help boost brain health. These foods help to maintain and protect the ability to reason and think. Sources are whole grains, eggs, broccoli, tomato, turmeric, walnuts, fatty fish, sage, beans and pumpkin seeds.

Along with a healthy diet, adopt lifestyle measures such as regular physical activity, adequate sleep of 7-8 hours a days, meditation, deep breathing, yoga, chanting, prayers, acupuncture, light therapy and counselling therapy. These can help greatly if you are feeling low during winter.


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