This Thanksgiving has been a more challenging one for everyone. So many people are worried for their loved ones and missing out on some of the larger gatherings we’ve come to associate with this season. Winter can be a hard time to maintain a good mood even in a better year, but there are still a few healthy lifestyle tricks that can help boost your mood this season. Here are our top five ways to use lifestyle to boost your mood over the Thanksgiving holiday:
1. Eat tryptophan-rich foods with carbs
Most people know that turkey contains a lot of tryptophan, but other foods that contain even more tryptophan than turkey include eggs, cheese, pumpkin seeds, fish, peanuts, and milk. Carbohydrates also bind to tryptophan and help get it past the blood brain barrier where it can help with the production of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter for your mood. This means eating one of these tryptophan-rich foods with some carrbs—such as a turkey on whole wheat sandwich—can help you boost your mood naturally.
2. Take a short walk after a heavy meal
We all like to treat ourselves to a feast on Thanksgiving, and most people end up eating a bit bigger of a portion than normal. This can cause the infamous food coma, which happens because blood gets shunted to the digestive tract to absorb all the extra food. Additionally, a lot of the glucose released from the large meal enters the bloodstream all at once causing a rush and then later a crash, which can crash your mood, too. However, there’s one simple tip that can avert this sugar rush and crash, and aid with digestion. Take a walk at least ten minutes long shortly after eating your big meal, and the sugar in your blood will get used as energy to fuel your walk. Instead of a food coma, you’ll end up with a pickup in energy from your activity.
3. Getting some sunlight
Winter can be a challenging time for many people because of less direct exposure to sunlight. This can result in imbalanced circadian rhythm, lower mood due to fewer photons entering the brain, and vitamin D deficiency. However, the good news is this loss in direct sunlight can sometimes be avoided by taking conscious steps to go outside even if it’s cold. When you see the sun out, take a walk or sit outside for a bit to soak up some sun rays. Just a few minutes a day can make a huge difference to your mood and sleep quality.
4. Foods rich in vitamin D
In areas where there’s very little direct sunlight, sometimes it’s just not feasible to get enough vitamin D from the light alone. If that applies to you, you might need to get a little extra vitamin D from your food, since low levels can cause depression and be hard on muscles and bones. Some foods that contain high levels of vitamin D include oily fish like salmon and herring, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and mushrooms. Consider finding a way to add some of these foods into your feast—such as a baked salmon or a vegetarian mushroom gravy option—to make sure those levels don’t dip too low and tank your mood.
5. Keep up some exercise
It can be tempting to take a break from your workout routine over Thanksgiving, and while you might want to go a little easier in the spirit of the holiday, skipping your workout entirely can give you a mood crash if your brain is used to a regular workout. Finding some online at-home workout routines, trying out some body weight strength training or yoga from inside the home, or going on a jog or cycling ride outdoors are all some ways you can squeeze in some exercise even if you’re not in your normal routine. As always, working out is one of the best way to manage stress. We could all use a little less stress this year, it’s never been more important to get that exercise where we can. Studies continue to show that a 15-min jog or hour-long walk here and there can go a long way to keeping your holiday spirits higher this Thanksgiving, so boost your mood with an easygoing turkey trot.