'Tis the season to be jolly. Or at least it should be. But rather than comfort and joy, for many people holidays just means a trigger for feelings of sadness and depression.
You would like to think everyone would be happy during this special time of the year, but the fact is that many suffer from holiday-related anxiety and stress. Plus, the lack of sunshine and cold weather induced in-door hibernation doesn't help. Fortunately, there are effective ways to boost our mood so we can enjoy everything the holidays and this time of year have to offer.
One of the best blues-busting remedies is physical fitness, which, as research has shown, can be as effective in treating depression as certain medications.
There is plenty of evidence showing that regular exercise improves not only the physical health, but also the sense of emotional well-being.
It is well known that physical activity produces and pumps up the body's levels of natural "feel-good" chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, seratonin and norepinephrine. It also helps release emotional tension and pent-up frustrations, increases energy, lowers the stress level and distracts from worries and negative thoughts that tend to feed anxiety.
To get the maximum benefits, I recommend a routine that includes strength training exercises, as well as interval training followed by breathing exercises while stretching. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but to fully relax, you need to fully exert.
The improvement of your mood can be truly amazing. Just remember to make sure that you exercise regularly — you should certainly not be skipping your workout during the holidays.
Another key to a better mood is nutrition, since certain foods are known to lessen the depression. It is a good idea to add the following ingredients to your daily diet:
Omega-3 fatty acids: Present in certain fish, nuts, seeds and dark-green leafy vegetables, omega-3 has been shown in studies to be a great mood booster.
Vitamin B-12: Research indicates that people who eat diets high in vitamin B-12, which is found in fish and low-fat dairy products, may be at a lower risk of depression.
Selenium: Studies suggest this may also help improve mild depression. So make sure to consume selenium-rich seafood, nuts, whole grains, beans, lean meat and low-fat dairy.
What it all comes down to is that exercise and well-chosen nutrition are powerful weapons in a fight against stress and depression. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your holidays this year are truly happy — and healthy as well!
James Cipriani started his personal training career in 1994 and when on to launch his own company, Brookfield's own Cutting Edge Personal Training, in 1997. Information on his programs, fitness tips and client testimonials are available at www.JamesCipriani.com. Cipriani, a certified personal trainer with over 17 years of experience in the fitness industry, can be reached at Jim@JamesCipriani.com or 203-775-5128.