Fighting The Holiday Blues? Eat Seaweed and Volunteer

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‘Tis the season to be jolly? Not necessarily. For many people the holiday season, which kicks off with Thanksgiving and spans through New Year’s Day, is anything but blissful. In fact, this time of year may trigger a bout of the blues or perhaps ignite a depression that has been smoldering under the surface for months.

Lonely people – without family or friends – and those who grew up in dysfunctional families and have unpleasant memories of the holidays, simply can’t achieve the ideal that many commercial images of the holidays portray.  That was me.  I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and lost both my parents between Thanksgiving and Christmas as a teen. My association with holidays was always depressing. Then I learned that there were some things I could do to help boost my mood.

What we eat and drink directly affects the structure of the brain that, in turn, influences the brain’s function. This includes both the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters as well as the presence or absence of inflammation. Most psychiatrists fail to appreciate the role of nutrition in mental health. Medication alone cannot help you make up for a crappy diet.

9 Nutrients Important For Mental Health

1. Omega-3 Fats-Food sources of omega-3 fats are fatty fish, omega-3 fortified eggs, and supplements.

2. Iodine-Good food sources include seaweed, cod, and iodized salt.
Moderate food sources include milk, yogurt, and eggs.

3. Zinc-Good food sources include oysters, crab, beef, lamb, pork, dark meat, chicken, legumes, cashews, and a good-quality multivitamin with minerals.

4. Magnesium -Good food sources include nuts and seeds, dark green vegetables, whole grains, bran, and dark chocolate.

5. Vitamin D-The few natural food sources available include oil/fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and trout and eggs to a lesser extent.  Vitamin D deficiency has not only been linked to depression but anxiety, SAD, and dementia as well. Supplementation is the only viable option to raise vitamin D levels enough to lower the risk of depression.

6. Selenium -Good food sources include Brazil nuts, fish, ham, shrimp, liver, and chicken.

7. Iron -Good food sources are beef, pork, lamb, dark meat chicken, eggs, liver, oysters, and white beans.

8. B Complex -B vitamins are found in whole grains, nuts and seeds, dark green vegetables, and meat.

9. Vitamin C -Good food sources include citrus, kiwi, bell peppers, and strawberries.

Now that you’re feeding your brain let’s try some action steps.
1. Redefine the holidays as a joyful time for you, and pursue what is involves in making them so. Specifically, don’t feel obligated to pursue holiday activities that are unpleasant or overwhelming simply because they have always been the thing to do. For example, if cooking for the whole family feels like too much, consider a pot luck dinner or eating out.
2. If Christmas shopping and writing cards are more than you can handle, use the wonders of the Internet to help out. Shop and send greetings online and save time and effort and perhaps even a tree or two.
3. Don’t bother fighting the crowds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Evidence suggests that you may find better bargains later in the season.
4. If you are feeling lonely or disadvantaged, volunteering can be a good way to restore a sense of proportion to your situation – and help others at the same time. Counting one’s blessings and helping those who are less fortunate are two time-honored ways of bringing happiness.
5. Finally, enjoy those aspects of the season and your own mind and body that cost absolutely nothing – walk outside on a bright winter day and enjoy the special beauty of nature in the winter; exercise and meditate. How wonderful to think that our own bodies and minds can provide us with remedies for the holiday blues – and so many other afflictions of the spirit.

Stay connected with friends and family.  Be careful not to isolate yourself. Despite how you may associate with the holidays, there are many blessings around you. Just open your eyes and be present to them.

Love, Allison 💛

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