You can thrive in February, not just survive

Article by Abigail Guevara

February is a short month, but it can seem endless during a long, dark winter. By this time of year many winter-fatigued Canadians feel they need to get away to a sunny destination, but unfortunately heading south is not an option for all. However, there are some healthy ideas you can add to your day-to-day routine that will help you beat the last few weeks of old man winter.

“Blustery weather and lack of sunlight can take a toll on us mentally and physically,” says Helen Sherrard, president of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA). “It’s important to consider all the options that can give us that much needed boost of health and happiness at this time of year.”

Here are CHFA’s top three ways to help you thrive:

Shine your light – Craving carbs, feeling fatigued, sleeping too much, irritability and anxiety are just a few symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the major depressive episode that follows seasonal patterns. Research shows that three per cent of Canadians suffer from cases of SAD that affect their ability to cope. Depending on the severity, there are many treatment options available.  One option is light therapy which involves sitting in front of an approved device with a 10,000 lux bright light for 30 minutes every morning.  Lux refers to the intensity of light. By comparison a sunny day is 50,000 lux, regular indoor light is 100 lux.  Light therapy is effective because it can reset the internal body clock, improving sleep patterns and mental wellbeing.

“D”-light yourself – Statistics Canada finds that two-thirds of the population has vitamin D levels below the amounts associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer; and one in 10 people have such low readings that they don’t have enough for good bone health. Vitamin D, an essential mineral, contributes to many health benefits and promotes mood enhancement. While it has very few natural sources, it is a readily accessible, safe and effective and available at any natural health food store. You can choose between drops or tablets. The Canadian Health Food Association has a valuable tool online at that will direct you to your local health food store for more information.

Be a lightweight – The mind-body connection is a strong one. It may not be obvious, but many people gradually become less active, and possibly heavier, as winter lumbers on. When it is  warm and sunny we don’t mind walking to the store or going to the gym 3-4 times per week. But this time of year it seems easier to come up with excuses and reasons for hibernating inside.  Starting may be hard, but exercise of any kind is beneficial, helping to lower blood pressure and maintain a healthy body weight. It also lessens anxiety and depression symptoms while encouraging a sense of wellbeing—making you “feel lighter” in body and spirit.

“While some may be counting down the days until February is over, consider using this time as a great opportunity to observe how you’re feeling physically and mentally, and then take action to do what’s necessary to function at your best, ”says Sherrard.

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