Emotional Health

3 Easy Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

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As winter wears on, gray skies and cold winds can really do a number on your mood. Wouldn’t it be great to keep your summer cheer all year long? Believe it or not, bacteria in your gut may hold the key! If you’re feeling tired, anxious, or down this season, here’s how to rig things in your favor — and say so long to those winter blues.

Tired? Nosh on a tangerine.

Scientists at Canada’s McMaster University have found that increasing beneficial bacteria in the gut ended tiredness for 64 percent of folks. One of the best ways to boost the power of the good bugs that will deliver calm energy? Eat an orange or a tangerine — including the pith (those white strings between segments). The vitamin C and the fiber in the pith and the fruit nourish the trillions of beneficial bacteria in the gut that impact mood and energy, say researchers in New Zealand.

Anxious? Heat your feet.

When folks keep their feet warm as they sleep, using an extra blanket or fuzzy socks, it turns out they sleep 32 percent longer! And that’s key to keeping anxiety levels low during the day, because a good night’s sleep increases the population of soothing bacteria. “More than 95 percent of the body’s calming chemical serotonin is found in the gut,” explains gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, M.D. And serotonin is key to keeping anxiety in check. Luckily, just 12 minutes of extra snooze-time is all the average woman needs to reach the seven hours a night that keeps these good bugs in balance.

Depressed? Cut a rug.

While waiting for the teakettle to sing, do a little dance. Italian scientists say it ups the mood-regulating good bacteria in the gut while reducing the bad — perhaps explaining why folks who move a bit each day are 50 percent less likely to feel depressed. Notes Dr. Sonpal, “Exercise has been proven to enhance the ratio of good to bad gut bacteria while also stimulating the growth of other beneficial bacteria.”

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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