Rejuvenative Travel & Nutrition for Winter Blues

The three key ingredients in my recipe for mitigating the winter blues: travel, nutrition, and physical activity. Each of these elements can be rejuvenative in their own way, and what you might need to recharge and get over that mid-winter slump.
Woman with winter blues looking at the window.

The winter months pose unique challenges with reduced daylight, holiday stress, and plummeting temperatures, making it a trying period for many individuals. When you are in the deep of it and cabin fever is giving you the itch, it is not all that uncommon for people to evaluate where they are in the health and wellness department, and to set goals or make plans to improve their overall well-being.

The three key ingredients in my recipe for mitigating the winter blues: travel, nutrition, and physical activity. Each of these elements can be rejuvenative in their own way, and what you might need to recharge and get over that mid-winter slump. Consider employing this recipe, adjusting ratios to taste and mixing for a good 1-3 weeks (or, however long you like) to harness the synergy of this trio. 

For a bit of inspiration, let’s explore some more nutrition-related approaches from around the globe to help boost your mood. 

Fishing for Happiness

Omega 3’s found in foods such as fish, particularly the fatty ones (think herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, bluefin tuna), some marine algaes, nuts like, walnuts and brazil nuts, flaxseeds, and plant oils have an positive impact on mood and depression. Iceland may have the highest fish consumption per person, but if you are looking for somewhere warm to go while you get your Omega 3’s, consider a warmer location such as the Maldives. 

Cambodia is another great destination if you are looking for new ways to up your fresh water fish game. For a fish-centric day, start by canoeing around the floating villages of lake Tonle Sap (the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia), followed by a cooking class where you make and enjoy a Khmer fish amok dish and likely a banana flower salad. Then head over to any of the many fish spas to end the day with a fish pedicure if you are up for the adventure. 

Sunny Side Up!

The well known “sunshine” Vitamin, Vitamin D, has long been studied for its positive impacts on mood, depression, and the immune system.  Sources include food, supplements and, of course, the sun. However, remember to bring sunscreen while planning your sunny island getaway and consider trying to incorporate more sources in your diet such as fatty fish, mushrooms, and eggs. Many milk substitutes and milk itself are often fortified with the vitamin as well. If you are concerned your levels may be on the low side, get your 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D levels checked. It is worth noting our bodies can store Vitamin D for months, so there’s no need to stress if you don’t have daily access to sources. 

Tangy Tranquility

Packed with antioxidants such as Vitamin C, berries can play a role in inflammation and regulation of our stress hormones, such as cortisol. Sumac berries (NOT to be confused with the poisonous sumac berries) also rich in Vitamin C, have been used in traditional medicine for various ailments. Sumac spice is great for dishes that need a bit of acidity, and is used in many Middle Eastern dishes. The dried berries make a delicious beverage similar to a lemonade with a hint of fruitiness. Note that they come from the cashew family, so if you have a cashew allergy, you will want to get your antioxidants from other berries instead. 

During my time in Akre, Kurdistan, a region known for its sumac harvesting, a local shopkeeper prepared a simple drink to go using dried sumac berries. By pouring water over the berries, he created a tangy, subtly sweet/fruity drink and offered he uses sumac for headaches. 

Sip to Serenity

Enjoying a warm beverage, be it a comforting tea or nourishing broth, can be a great way to lift your mood. The soothing habit provides a bit of respite in the midst of a busy day and some warmth in the cold weather. Some herbal teas are known for relaxing and calming effects, such as Chamomile. Tulsi is also a great anti-inflammatory, and can be enjoyed daily for building up the immune system, and protecting organs from chemical stress and other toxins.  Embracing such rituals can serve as a valuable tool in promoting mental well-being, fostering moments of tranquility and comfort in the midst of life’s daily demands. Pairing these rituals with time outside can also be just what you need to activate those serotonin levels.

Another interesting beverage is Kava, made from the root of a pepper plant native to the South Pacific. I’ve tried it in a few places such as Hawaii, and did find it had a calming effect, but unfortunately, it also came with a bit of an upset stomach.  There is mixed research on the use of Kava for stress and anxiety and should be used cautiously or avoided altogether by some, especially those with a history of liver or kidney issues

Magnificent Magnesium 

Bananas and plantains contain nutrients that contribute to serotonin production, which can be beneficial for our mental well-being. Additionally, these fruits contain magnesium, a nutrient studied for its relationship with depression. Another magnesium rich food, dark chocolate with a high cacao content, not only indulges the taste buds but also offers polyphenols. Leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains all contain magnesium. Incorporating these mood-boosting and nutrient-rich foods into your diet can contribute to a holistic approach to mental and physical well-being. Maybe spending some time at a cacao farm in Ecuador for a hands-on learning experience is in the cards. 

Greek Gastronomy

We have previously covered how connecting through shared meals with friends and family can serve as a universal mood boost, but what about meal timing?  The timing of meals may also play a role in influencing mood and can serve as a useful strategy in managing jet lag. Embracing a healthy eating pattern, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been linked to reduced risk for depression. What better opportunity to adopt this nourishing approach than during a journey to the Mediterranean? Consider spending time in the south of Greece this year for a culinary and well-being immersion. 

Amidst the pursuit of combating winter blues, we often overlook the significance of ensuring our fundamental needs are met. While it may seem obvious, it is crucial to pause and reflect on daily routines, including sleep, adequate protein intake, quality of carbohydrates, hydration, physical activity, and emotional support. 

Reach out to Create Joy if you would like guidance on a customized winter blues recipe.

*If you are concerned you may be experiencing depression, consult a clinician.

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