Surviving the Winter Blues
by Phil Cameron | Wednesday Feb. 1st, 2017
The northwest Rocky Mountains can be a challenge to endure if you are not overly excited about winter, the snow and cold, and dark gray days. In the mountains, we tend to see more like 6 seasons as opposed to 4. We add falter between fall and winter, and sprinter between spring and winter. Many who like the snow and enjoy spring skiing or elk hunter before full on winter appreciate the early and late snow, but for those who do not, it adds to the long months of winter. If the cold and snow is not your favorite thing but you are living here in Bozeman anyway, there are a few things that you can do to help survive the winter and not get depressed.
The cold and snow is challenging to deal when you are not a fan of being outside in those conditions. As much as there is to do here, if you are miserable doing it chances are you are going to stay home while others are out in the mountains in the winter. There is only one way I know of to deal with cold and that is with good gear! Sorry no magic tricks here; plan on making the investment to get the gear you need to keep you warm and dry when outside makes a huge difference. If you can stay comfortable you are much more likely to stay out and enjoy what you are doing. There are great stores in Bozeman to get you hooked up with all that you need, but there are also great options throughout the year to find sales and swaps to get you ready. Plan on getting multiple layers and things that dry quickly, which will make your time outside in the cold much more enjoyable.
You also want to make sure your metabolism is kicking out energy to keep you warm. As much as we want to eat sweets and carbohydrates during the winter months, because they taste good and give us quick energy, it is the wrong energy to keep you warm. Your physiology is designed to burn fat. If you consume a high good fat diet with plenty of Omega 3s, fat from grass-fed animals, fish, and high fat vegetables like avocados, your body will stay warmer.
During the winter as the days are shorter and we make the push towards March to the spring equinox when the days begin to get longer again, we can really miss the natural light of the sun which has a great effect on our moods. Keeping your shades open and trying to get some sun exposure outside makes a big difference. When you are inside, using full spectrum light bulbs is a big help, and if you can’t afford to have them in every room of your house, you can purchase a light box with a full spectrum bulb and set it close to where you work, which will also help you feel better.
When you have tried everything and the winter just seems to have its claws gripped tight around you and you feel some depression holding you down, there are some dietary tricks that help also. I already mentioned eating more fat and less sugar, but sugar also weakens your immune system and short circuits your brain. If you are constantly going through spikes and lows in your blood sugar, your brain becomes very fatigued as the brain cells create too many waste products from the over excitement of the cells caused by excess glucose; then they need time to recover and clean up the waste products. That’s when you get brain fog. Sugar also weakens your immune system making it easy to catch a virus, which is why so many people get sick in the winter with the flu or a cold.
To keep your immune system healthy and your brain working better, make sure you keep your vitamin D levels up. The sun’s rays are not strong enough above 45 degrees north for humans to make vitamin D between the fall and spring equinox, even if you stand outside in your underwear at noon during the winter. Therefore, everyone in Montana should be supplementing with Vitamin D3 through the winter, 2,000 IU’s– 10,000 IU’s depending on your vitamin D levels is recommended as a daily dose. If you don’t know your Vitamin D3 levels, betting on 5,000 IU’s/day is probably best.
If the grips of depression still won’t let go, and you’re not using any other medications, St. Johns Wort is a wonderful and gentle herb to help with easing the depression. St. Johns Wort works to help increase serotonin in the brain, and also with liver detoxification. Because of this it can have interactions with other medications, so consult your physician if are using other medications before starting it.
The best way to make winter go quickly, however, is to stay busy. If you are not going to get outside and enjoy the winter activities, then get busy inside doing something you enjoy. If it’s tying flies for next fishing season, or working on a house project, keeping your mind busy and your body active helps to pass the time. Purpose always gives us something to look forward to and gets us motivated in the morning to do a good day’s work! Knowing your purpose and being excited about it is the best way to cure any depression. Don’t let winter hold you captive; take charge of your health and your mental well being and live a Healthy, Natural, and Optimal Life.