Why People Get Depressed During The Holidays

People get depressed during the holidays, and there’s plenty of research to back this up.

The more interesting questions are how and why that’s the case. We also want to know what (if anything) can be done about it.

As it turns out, there’s research on that topic too, and the answers may surprise you. It turns out to be more than just cold weather and less sunlight.

Depression is a broad term and can mean different things to different people, so let’s break it down into specifics. The most common feelings that those who wrestle with depression suffer from during the holiday season include sorrow, anxiety, and feeling lonely. However, these feelings aren’t constant. They are intermingled with periods of genuine happiness and holiday joy, which in some ways makes the negative feelings even worse.

Experts tell us that one of the biggest root causes of the holiday blues is unrealistic expectations. Interviews with people suffering from holiday depression reveal that most depressed people are comparing the current holiday season with one they remember from their childhood.

Unfortunately, time has distorted those memories and the depressed individual usually winds up mentally exaggerating their former holiday seasons. This is to such a degree that the actual, day to day experience can’t hold a candle to the myth the person holds in their mind.

That, combined with the fact that depressed people tend to believe that everyone else is having more fun and a much better time than they are. It sets the stage a perfect storm of negativity we shorthand to “The Holiday Blues.”

If you’re feeling depression encroaching on your mood this holiday season, don’t wait to do something about it. Call your doctor and talk about it openly to get a good recommendation and a referral to an appropriate expert.

Your Mood May Be Affected By What You Eat

It’s common knowledge that changing what you eat can impact your weight, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol. Can changing what you eat impact your mood as well?  As it turns out, the answer to that question is yes, and new research underscores that conclusion.

Granted, research in the area is relatively new, but already, some interesting trends have begun to emerge.

The first intriguing discovery is that people who eat more fresh vegetables tend to have markedly fewer depressive symptoms than people who eat a traditional western diet which is heavy on meat, dairy and contains a lot of processed foods.

Science is also beginning to connect the dots between improved mental health and certain specific vitamins, minerals and other compounds.  For instance, there are now documented connections between improved mood/mental health and Selenium, Vitamin D, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, E, B9, B12, and Zinc.

Again, the research is still in its infancy regarding diet and mood/mental health. However, the early indications point to a diet that heavily emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, the virtual elimination of processed foods from your diet, and a touch of whole grains.

In addition to that, researchers recommend increasing your intake of probiotic foods which improve the health of your gut flora. It is so important because gut health has also been shown to have an impact on your mood. Serotonin is made in the gut, so a healthy gut will help you produce more happy hormones. Here, you’ll be gravitating toward foods like Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt.

There are a number of research projects currently underway that will be wrapped up and reported on in the next 2-3 years that will dramatically increase our understanding of the connection between diet and mood. Until the data is in, researchers encourage individual experimentation.  Eat up and take notes about how different foods make you feel!


How To Avoid These Common Winter Injuries

The snow and ice that accompany the winter season in most of the country can complicate your life in a few ways. Unfortunately, one of those is an increased risk of wintertime slips and falls.   Emergency Rooms around the country confirm what most of us know intuitively.

You’re more likely to get hurt during the long, cold winter months. The good news is that there are a few simple things you can do to minimize your risk.

Here they are:

  • Dress appropriately– This is about much more than simply bundling up (which you should absolutely do) when it’s cold outside. What we’re really talking about here is the need to pay special attention to your footwear, selecting shoes or boots that will provide better traction on slippery surfaces, minimizing your risk of a fall.
  • Stretching – The cold weather makes our muscles protest when we start using them. To counter that, be sure you perform some light warm ups and thorough stretching before you undertake any physical activity in cold weather.
  • Increased Mindfulness – This, more than anything else, will minimize your risk of injury, no matter the time of year. Increased mindfulness really comes down to tactical and situational awareness which has the effect of drastically reducing the chances that you’ll find yourself in a situation where physics is likely to get the better of you. Watch where you’re stepping, look for ice, and don’t take risks.

There’s no such thing as a magic bullet, so none of these tips will reduce your risk to absolute zero. However, if you adopt them all, you’ll be miles ahead of the game. It’s quite likely you’ll get through the holiday season this year without an incident. That will give you more time to focus on enjoying the festivities that come with this time of year, and that’s good stuff indeed.

How Holiday Traveling Can Be Dangerous

If you’re like many people, your holiday plans this year include traveling to be with family and friends.

As wonderful as that is, the unfortunate reality is that it puts you in unfamiliar territory during a busy, hectic time of year.

The chaos that is woven into the fabric of the season could easily lead to an accident if you’re not careful.

According to holiday statistics, here are the types of things you’re most likely to suffer from while traveling:

Car Accidents – These can range from simple fender benders where nobody gets hurt to big multi-car pile ups on the highway that result in extended stays in the hospitals. They sometimes, unfortunately, result in the deaths of one or more holiday travelers.

Trips, Slips and Falls – This one probably comes as no great surprise.  Combine the hectic pace of the holiday season with high amounts of foot traffic, add in icy conditions, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  Every year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, ERs find themselves dealing with higher than normal numbers of patients who find themselves at the hospital after a trip, slip or fall.

Fatigue or Dehydration – While this one isn’t as common as trips, slips and falls, it’s still common enough to earn a special mention here.  While dehydration is more often associated with the hot summer months, it’s easier than you might think to become dehydrated in the wintertime too. In cold temperatures, all available moisture in the air gets frozen. This includes some moisture of the human body. You may feel very dry. So, invest in a humidifier and drink plenty of fluids.

In all three of these cases, you can minimize your risk of holiday injury simply by being more mindful of your surroundings and moving with deliberation and purpose.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and chaos of the season. By slowing your pace slightly and being more aware, you can help to ensure that your holiday season will be filled with good memories this year and not painful ones.

How Daylight Savings Time Affects Our Bodies

Spring forward and fall back!

It’s a mantra that has been repeated by millions of Americans for decades. It’s a ritual we go through every year to squeeze a bit more daylight out of the end of the year. All so we don’t wind up driving to work in the dark.

The question though, is does it have a notable impact on our health and on our bodies? Interestingly, scientists have researched this topic and they have found that it does have real, tangible, notable short-term impacts in a few different ways.

Here are the basics:

  • The change temporarily disrupts sleep patterns – While it might be convenient not to have to drive to work in the dark, it does take your body a few days to get with the program. Most American adults don’t get enough sleep as it is, and when we spring forward or fall back, we’re bound to get even less sleep because our bodies have to adjust to the new routine.
  • More ER Traffic – Research into the matter revealed that in the days immediately following a time change (forward or back) Emergency Rooms around the country see more traffic flowing through them. It turns out that blood tends to clot more quickly in the morning and chronic sleep deprivation increases both stress and blood pressure. The disruption in your sleep patterns immediately following a time change makes heart issues more likely until your body adjusts.
  • Car Accidents Are More Likely – Here’s another surprise in the data. For a few days after the time change, there’s a temporary spike in the number of car crashes reported.  Again, this is almost certainly tied to the disruption in sleep patterns and the spike vanishes after a few days as everybody adjusts to the new schedule.

It’s interesting just how big an effect something as simple as a one-hour time shift can have on our bodies.  Something to be mindful of when you spring forward and fall back in the months ahead.