Beat the Winter Blues

Ways to keep your family healthy and happy during the winter
( [email protected] ) Nov 07, 2003 09:03 AM EST

As the days shorten, clouds form, and winter season approaches, so comes the blues many people experience. Termed S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the condition may cause many people to feel depressed and lethargic, have difficulty concentrating, have trouble sleeping, crave more sugar, and act more grouchy. The short winter days result in diminished sunlight which causes the brain to produce less seratonin and melatonin, two attitude-boosting chemicals that also affect performance, digestion, the immune system, blood clotting and blood pressure. In addition, winter weather can increase the chances of coming down with the flu or the cold. All this adds up to give many people and families the blues. But we don’t have to be entirely susceptible to changes in the season and weather dictating our moods. There are ways to beat the blues.

1. Leave the House: Although many parents are concerned about their children falling ill from outdoor chills, the truth is communiable diseases are more effective as family members spend more time in close contact indoors. To avoid the chills or drafts that can bring on colds, dress warmly and go somewhere such as a nearby park or mall where kids have room to expend energy which will prevent the whining and complaining that results from the boredom at home.

2. Lighten things up: For those with S.A.D., exposure to light helps to alleviate the depression. If you normally are energy conservationalists, then try to turn on most of the lights available at home to create a more bright and cheery environment. There are also special lighting developed for those with S.A.D. If the weather is sunny, then open your curtains and blinds so light can enter your house.

3. Screen your visitors: There is nothing that can get you down more than getting sick or having a family getting sick. To control this situation at home, you can limit the number of visitors to your home. If there are to be visitors, make sure appropriate distances are to be made between them and your children to prevent your children from catching something in the air.

4. Alter your diet: For the common cold, studies have shown that vitamins C and A and zinc can reduce a cold's intensity and duration. Eating more carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, which all contain beta-carotene, will help strengthen the immune system.. Plus, drink lots of water to help thin mucus, prevent secondary infections and aid the immune system in killing off invaders.

5. Outsmart a virus: Use disposable paper cups can help reduce the chances of getting sick from drinking out of the same cup. Disinfect your kitchen by using bleach and cleaners and also run dishes through a hot dishwashing cycle. In the bathroom, remember to keep toothbrushes an appropriate distance apart to keep from spreading colds to other members of the family and if someone has come down with a cold, remember to change the toothbrush and bedsheets. Since hand-to-hand contact is the most common method of spreading colds and flus, frequently wash your hands with soap.

6. Feed your soul: Proverbs reminds us that "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (17:22). The gloomy winter conditions mentioned above coupled with stress can have negative tolls on your immune’s system ability to function properly. Relax. Face the winter season with an optimistic and cheery attitude. Find time to read the Bible to receive wisdom and comfort from the Lord. Renting a fun movie to spend time as a family or inviting friends over for dinner will also do the trick to chasing away those blues.