When Taffy Activewear reached out to introduce me to their line of fun, performance-enhanced workout gear, I knew it was right up my alley. Though I don't write about my non-fashion life often, maintaining an active life is something that I seriously value because of its enormous impact on my mood. I work really long hours, and if not for making a point to either go outside or head to the gym, my life can start looking and feeling a little sedentary. I've written about this in Marie Claire in the past, but I really believe that having the right clothes for getting sweaty can be a huge motivator for actually heading to the gym, and it's no secret that there's a dearth of cute, plus-size activewear either, (cue Taffy, available in sizes 14-24, and at a super-affordable $14.99 and up).
Heading into winter, prioritizing my physical activity becomes all the more important. I didn't realize how much I was affected by the changes in the seasons - the colder weather, the short days, the complete lack of sunlight - until I had graduated from college and landed myself my first "9-to-5" (more like 8-to-Midnight) office job. When I got up to go to work, it was dark - and I'd have barely made it to the Subway by the time the sun would start rising. Once I was out of the office, it was dark again - and the whole day would have escaped me without having ever caught a glimpse of the sun. Damn you, Vitamin-D deficiency and totally-outdated-concept-of-daylight-savings! Over the years, I've learned a trick or ten to help me beat the darkness, overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder, and remain mostly happy throughout the cold, dark winter.
1.) Remind yourself that it's not just you.
When I wake up and it's still dark out, the first thing I want to do is crawl back into bed and hide away. Still in bed, one-eye closed with my phone in my hand, I'll text my friends to commiserate and realize we literally ALL feel the same way. It can be hard to find the motivation to get up when the weather literally makes you feel like a sleepy sack of potatoes. There's nothing wrong with you; I promise. Seasonal depression is so real.
2.) Move Your Body, Gurl Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with weight-loss and everything to do with me not-falling-into-a-deep-depression. I really value my physical activity, whether it's riding my bike across New York City or taking long, aimless walk, or taking the occasional hike when I leave the five-boroughs. Even taking Frankie out for a quick walk around the neighborhood can be a huge mood lifter. Physical activity doesn't have to mean "go to the gym for an hour," but it certainly helps me - especially when the cold weather is a solid excuse for not being active outdoors. I've really disliked gym-environments in the past, but over the last 6-months I've been working out with a personal trainer who helps me stay motivated and reminds me of the progress I've made in my strength and endurance. Getting dressed for the gym is also a great motivator: it's amazing how much feeling good about your work-out attire can help you get in the mood to kick some major gluteus-maximous - and with a line that bursts with leopard print and hints-of-pink, Taffy Activewear really delivers. Psst: you can get 25% off your entire order at Taffy with the promo code "NICOLETTEMASON."
(Bonus points if you caught my reference to Nina Sky)
3.) Eat Fresh!
I'm like most people - and when it's freezing and dark, I yearn to cuddle up inside and indulge in some "comfort food" - a bowl of mac&cheese, freshly baked brownies... Unfortunately for me, these foods also make me feel super lethargic. While you don't necessarily want to avoid carbs completely (in fact, grains like brown rice and wheat germ are packed with vitamin B), getting full on fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and proteins that trigger a release in serotonin will keep you feeling good (and happy!). They might not sound like go-to wintertime foods, but avocado, salmon, quinoa, and almonds are all filled with nutrients our brains crave in order to stay perked up. I know that for me, even more than coffee, a great, fresh green juice (like Dr. Green Juice from Juice Press) can be the perfect way to start my day.
You can find an expanded list of serotonin-rich foods here.
4.) Identify Your Happy Scents
You probably have a good idea of what scents you like, but certain fragrances can also be triggers for feeling more alert, awake, and happy. Citrus scents (especially lemon) and peppermint are a good place to start on the aromatherapy train, and can make you feel alert and reduce anxiety, while floral scents like jasmine or rose are positive mood enhancers. A dab of essential oil, scented body wash, or a potent candle can increase your mood immeasurably! Scents like lavender or chamomile, while calming, can make you super sleepy.
5.) Mix Up Your Environments
I was going to call this "force yourself to go outside even if it's freezing," but actually - sometimes you just need a change of scenery. When I worked in an office, this sometimes meant going to get a coffee in the downstairs coffee shop and taking a 5-minute breather, or doing my brainstorms and sketches at one of the communal workspaces throughout my office. Now, it means going on a quick walk around the block or taking my laptop to a nearby cafe for a couple of hours.
6.) Load Up on Vitamin D Wherever You Can
Vitamin-D is also known as the "sunshine vitamin" - so it's no surprise that come winter, we're kind of really lacking it. If you have time to step outside for your lunch break, do. If your weekend isn't full of errands, devote extra time to being outside. When you're home, open your blinds and curtains whenever possible to allow as much light in as you can. Taking a Vitamin-D supplement can also help a ton. Because of our desk-oriented lives, most Americans are Vitamin-D deficient as well, but the good news is, it's easy to get: just 10-minutes of midday sun exposure can give you the dose-of-D that you need. If you suffer from a serious case of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), light therapy lamps might be a good thing to consider.
Learn more about Vitamin D deficiency here.
7.) Keep Track of Your Sleeping Patterns
You want to get just the right amount of sleep for your body: not too much, not too little. Keeping your sleep schedule consistent can also eliminate a lot of the changes in your energy level from day-to-day. For help regulating your sleep patterns, I recommend checking out the "SleepCycle" app - which can help determine the ideal amount of sleep for your body.
8.) Sharing is Caring
Feeling like crap? Talk about it. Chances are, your friends can relate to your seasonal woes. It can be really nice to have a place to vent about your energy levels, moods, and so on being affected by the weather and short number of daylight hours. Plus, it can be hugely validating to hear that your friends are experiencing the same.
9. ) Make Yourself a Killer, Upbeat Playlist
I'm the type of person who always has music playing. I mean, always. Even though I love sappy music, too, having a go-to playlist filled with poppy, dance-inducing jams is a really good way into psyching myself into a perky mood. I find that Songs That Were Played at My Middle School Dances is a really good genre, here. Hey Hey, Bye Bye Bye bad mood.
10.) Plan an Escape
Taking a short break from your routine, even for a few days, can help rejuvenate your spirit. If you can find the time or means to hop on a plane-or-train and head somewhere warm, even better. Sometimes, just knowing there's something on my calendar for me to look forward to, is all that I need to make it through days that feel like they're dragging along.
On top of the 25%-off promo code ("NICOLETTEMASON"), Taffy will be donating 10% of all sales through 12/31/13 to UNICEF to aid victims of the Philippines Typhoon.
This post was sponsored by Taffy Activewear.All opinions and content are my own.Also: I am not a mental health care professional. These are tips based on my own experiences with supported research. If you are seriously depressed, please seek help from a professional.