Winter pick-me-up is in your hands

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The long dark days of winter have arrived.

If you’re like me, you wake up before the sun and don’t get home until after the sun goes down, if we’ve been lucky enough to see the sun that day.

Add to that the mysterious Walla Walla fog and rain that rolls in for days on end and it’s enough to turn the brightest smiles upside down.

Statistically, 20 percent of Americans suffer from some degree of seasonal affective disorder, appropriately nicknamed SAD.

Differing degrees of depression, lack of energy, lower sex drive and an increase in the desire for starchy sugary carbohydrates are all symptoms that may accompany SAD. The long dark days don’t offer much Vitamin D, which is one of the major things we need to boost serotonin levels in the brain.

According to Alex Korb, Ph.D., the four ways to boost serotonin activity are sunlight, massage, exercise and remembering happy events. So let’s consider some practical ways to do this.

Open the blinds: Let the sunshine in and allow the natural light to fill your home or office. Even on cloudy days the occasional glance outside can take your mind off of everyday life and allow you to take a little mental vacation, preferably somewhere sunny.

Turn on music that gets you moving: Tasks get cut in half when they’re done to good music and the extra movement may even burn some extra calories.

Take a walk; better yet, take your dog for a walk, especially on the sunny days: It’s easy to allow ourselves to get lazy in the wintertime and our pets suffer for it as much as we do. So, bundle up and take a walk with your four-legged companions. They will love you for it.

Find an exercise buddy: We’re all more likely to hit the gym when we know someone is waiting for us.

Try a new class, hit the pool or enjoy some yoga: Trying something new can add a level of confidence that helps us feel better about ourselves and in turn, boosts our mood.

Take that walk down memory lane: Pull out pictures from past vacations, laugh at some funny home videos and share these memories with family and friends.

If you need to, seek out professional help: This does not mean you are a failure. In fact, when you recognize that a problem is beyond what you can handle on your own, you take the first successful step in self-care.

So, what are you waiting for? Lace up those sneakers, grab a coat and head outside for a walk.

Beginning Dec. 22, each day provides a few more minutes of daylight and the next thing you know, you’ll be pulling the blinds as the sun begins it’s 4 a.m. arrival.

Until then, stay faithful to your exercise routine, turn up the music, grab someone you love and dance around the kitchen laughing and making new memories of happy events.

Leslie Snyder is group exercise director and personal trainer at the Walla Walla YMCA.

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