Getting a little motion sick from the spring weather roller coaster? You may not if you live in some of the US southern states, but here in the Northwest this time of year is often the hardest. Yes we have very wet winters. But ask anyone who has lived here long enough to understand our season cycle and they will tell you March and April are the worst. December is pretty wet out here, but we usually see a good break of cold dry weather around January and February. But by the end of February honing in on the first day of spring you can expect weeks of non-stop rain. And given that our ground doesn’t freeze out here for long periods of time, watching all our beautiful flowers bloom through squalls of rain can be a little hard to swallow from time to time. Our prolonged winter or very miserable spring (however you chose to look at it) has some unpleasant results on some of our population. The Pacific Northwest is known for its high rate of suicide and large number of resident serial killers, while these are the extremes many studies have shown we have record low Vitamin D levels in our blood. Translation, all this gray can make us a little crazy.
The good news is there is a lot you can do to improve your serotonin and Vitamin D levels which will in turn help your general mood. The first and most important is perhaps the hardest given our traditional two months of rain in the spring, but you have to get outside and exercise. Rigorous exercise is the best, such as running or bike riding. Exercise that raises your heart rate causes some lovely chemical reactions in your body, including increasing your endorphin levels, and boosting your body’s own natural ability to produce D. There are also a few things you can eat that will help increase serotonin. It should be no surprise they are plant based, the happy news is most of them are higher in fat since slow release complex foods help maintain your body’s blood sugar levels which in turn helps maintain mood. Such foods include, avocado, nuts, fiber fruits and veggies, and peanut butter. There is of course a connection between animal proteins elevated moods due to the presence of fats. But these products should be approached with caution. Not sneak up and surprise them caution. But don’t go overboard with them. I have found when suggesting animal products to people (and there are tons of long winded studies that show the same) people read the advice wrong. It’s not eat more animal products, its do away with bad animal products and replace them with smarter choices. So while eating turkey, eggs , tuna, yogurt and cottage cheese can help elevate moods, you shouldn’t rush home and gorge yourself on steak with a side of turkey leg. That’s not really the point. Instead try a small portion of high quality organic turkey, or eggs with a couple cups of mixed veggies and a small bit of very seedy whole grain bread. Perhaps the hardest news to swallow is to cut out caffeine and sugar which often go hand in hand in our favorite drinks such as coffee, energy drinks and soda. Caffeine, like sugar causes a cycle of highs and lows, you drink it and feel great and then you crash craving more caffeine which perpetuates the cycle. Drinking eight glasses of water a day with actually do more to keep you alert than consuming caffeine will, and it cuts out the highs and lows.
When I am feeling at my worst the best thing to do is drink a ton of water, force myself outside for a run or into my yoga routine, take a hot relaxing shower and cook up a veggie heavy dinner. As hard as it is to get my grumpy a** off the couch I always feel better in the end. Its hard this time of year, being a lifelong resident of our beautiful (in the summer) region I know firsthand how hard it can be to break the seasonal affective disorder (aptly acronymed SAD) cycle. But I promise you I always feel better when I do.