The Well-Being Journal

Well Living: 10 Tips for Defeating the Winter Blues and SAD

Jennifer Rudloff

Yaaaaawwwnn. The cold temperatures and lack of sunshine that occur during winter have a considerable impact on our well-being, particularly since Jack Frost can bring an unwanted present with him: a dampened mood.

With 15 millions people (75% of them women) suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s not uncommon to feel less-than-stellar during dreary days with scant light.

SAD symptoms include low energy, carb cravings, and weight gain. And it’s a potentially threatening condition not many people feel comfortable talking about, because first you have to admit you feel “down in the dumps” for what appears to be no reason at all. Well, think again; the weather plays a huge role in our health and happiness.

According to MSN Health, researchers have, since the early 1970’s, sought to to confirm a relationship between weather and temperament. Yet just how much weather affects our mood remains to be determined. With that said, researches do agree that some people are more sensitive to dark, cold days. What’s more, there is research on Seasonal Affective Disorder that confirms that our brains respond to darkness and light, as SAD has been linked to the shortened daylight hours of winter -- and your body’s natural production of melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone).

No wonder some of us feel like snoozing at our desk when the sun sets at 4 p.m. With the early arrival of nightfall, our bodies switch into get-ready-for-sleep mode. Yet, all is not lost. Professor of psychology at Fordham University in New York, Ani Kalayjian, Ed.D., R.N., advises us to be proactive when strengthening the brain’s system against weather-driven mood changes. We agree.

Here are 10 simple ways to take care of your well-being during the winter months:

  1. Listen to upbeat music. Whether it’s Mozart or Maroon 5, you can boost your mood and energy level by plugging into your favorite tunes.
  2. Look at past photos from a fun event. Reliving moments from a past vacation or family gathering can make you feel happy and put a smile on your face.
  3. Do a mini-meditation. Not only is is good for stress relief, closing your eyes for a few minutes will put you in a more relaxed and restorative state of mind. Closing your eyes for just two minutes could give you a mid-afternoon boost and allow you to push through the rest of the day.
  4. Limit alcohol intake and refined sugar. The feel-good effects are temporary. Both alcohol and refined sugar can have you feeling even more tired. So limit them. Instead, reach for seltzer water or peppermint tea, and swap sugary treats for fresh fruit.
  5. Move more. Easier said than done when bundled under the blankets, but incorporating more movement into your day -- like a 10-minute yoga session or jog -- can work wonders on keeping your energy levels balanced. Bonus tip: always take the stairs!
  6. Get more Vitamin D. Getting more of the “sunshine vitamin” can help bolster mood. During the winter months, eat seafood like salmon, shrimp, and sardines, and add more eggs and Vitamin D fortified cereals and milk to your daily menu. You can also take a Vitamin D supplement.
  7. Call a friend. Hearing a friend’s voice can boost your mood and socializing helps you feel connected to the people who matter most to you.
  8. Get outside. Bundle up and step outside, for nothing replaces the benefits of sunlight. Go for a brisk walk in the afternoon or try something new like snow shoeing!
  9. Change your perspective. Help relieve the dreary feelings winter brings by talking or writing your way to a happier place. Start a daily gratitude journal, or schedule weekly pick-me-ups (like me-time pampering or coffee with a friend).
  10. Invest in a light box. When the above tips fail to lighten your mood, try turning (literally) to a light box that can elevate serotonin levels in 30 minutes day. (Consult your physician for a light box recommendation.)
QUESTION: Have you ever suffered from SAD? How do you boost your energy and spirits during winter?

Reposted from the MeYouHealth.com/blog
Topics: Healthy Living Well-being In Action Prevention well-being tips winter blues Seasonal Affective Disorder

The single best thing you can do for your health in 2012

Jennifer Rudloff

For many of us, along with the new year comes resolutions aimed at creating happier and healthier lives. So now, how do you go about doing that? Well, we know that there are a number of factors that contribute to our health and well-being -- good diets, good friends, and healthy behaviors go a long way towards achieving health.

But there's one thing that trumps the rest - Exercise! Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your health. Among other things, just a little bit of movin' and shakin' each day has the ability improve our quality of life and reduce fatigue, anxiety, depression, pain, dementia.

Topics: Healthy Living Exercise Healthcare 23 & 1/2 hours Health Prevention Design Lab New Years Resolution Dr. Mike Evans Healthier You

Healthy Business Radio: What's Working With Worksite Wellness

Jennifer Rudloff

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking with the hosts of Healthy Business Radio. During my interview I revealed the secret sauce behind successful workplace wellness programs and the importance of focusing more on a person's overall well-being rather than narrowing in only on health. Through understanding their population and adopting a well-being approach to workplace programs, organizations can reduce costs, and positively impact productivity, presenteeism, and engagement.

To hear the full interview and learn more, press play below.

[audio: http://www.healthways.com/uploadedfiles/JohnHarris_HealthyBizRadio.mp3]

Want to learn more about the study conducted on the Well-Being Assessment for productivity? Click here.

Topics: Well-Being Reduce Costs Healthy Business Radio Workplace Well-Being Engagement Well-Being Index Prevention Employee Performance Improvement Wellness Program Well-being Assessment

Is Your Boss Making You Fat?

Jennifer Rudloff

Are you overweight or obese? How about the person sitting next to you? What about the other side? Chances are your answer to two out of three of these questions is “yes.” The reason is, two out of three (67%) Americans are overweight or obese. I don’t know how that makes you feel but it makes me disappointed for two reasons. 1.) I am a 35 year veteran of health promotion; some days stats like this make me feel like the cancer researcher who studied the disease for 35 years and retired never finding a cure. 2.) It’s something within people’s control, yet, we’ve failed to motivate individuals to control it. To me that’s a sad commentary on America, a country that made itself great by our work ethic, motivation, and fortitude.

Add obesity to chronic illness (many of the same behaviors that cause obesity also cause chronic illness) and things get worse for corporate America. 86% of America’s full-time workforce is overweight or has a chronic health condition. This causes an estimated 450 million lost work days each year resulting in a cost of more than $153 billion annually in lost productivity, according to findings released yesterday and included in EBN . To contrast, this is four times higher than our friends across the pond in the UK. If you include part time workers and other measures of presenteeism, the picture gets much worse. "Other research that has examined a broader array of factors using a somewhat different list of chronic conditions places the economic effect of lost productivity at $1.1 trillion per year," the study said.

It’s interesting to look at the evolution of knowledge over the years: In graduate school I was taught that weight was all about metabolism; balance the calories taken in with the calories burned and the problem of maintaining a healthy weight is solved. Later I learned it wasn’t that easy. Things like stress cause hormonal changes that influence our propensity to gain weight. OK, that made sense. However, recent findings from the Well-Being Index and Well-Being Assessment are a little more intriguing. We can show that the financial resources a person has available or the amount of recognition you get at work have as high a correlation to Body Mass Index, as does your eating and physical activity behaviors. So, perhaps a bad boss can make you fat, even if indirectly.

While we don’t yet understand exactly how this works, it it seems to go something like this. People who have emotional or social burdens, such as a frustrating work environment, lack of time to spend with their friends, care-giving responsibilities for a close relative, financial problems, or marital strife simply have less time, energy, interest, and propensity to follow the behaviors that result in a healthy weight. So, a less than supportive boss may not make you fat directly, but it is a factor in an employee’s ability, or lack of ability, to take good care of him or herself. So, an organization with a lot of bad bosses can experience significant negative impact from having an overweight or obese population that manifests itself in poor physical health, as well as the poor business performance of the organization.

We have implemented a number of strategies with our own people that appear to be producing results. Things like providing our colleagues the option of walking workstations, and having healthy food options in our cafe (and no fryers). We have workout Wednesdays where people can dress for fitness all day, and attend one of our many fitness classes at work. While some of these ideas may not be practical in your company, many things are. Humans make thousands of mini-decisions all day and helping people be mindful of how to make the healthy choice the easy choice can pay big dividends. For instance, if you can help your people be mindful of making the high calorie burn choice their action of choice, sustainable weight loss can be achieved. Using the stairs rather than the elevators and escalators 10 times a day burns 60 more calories. 60 more calories burned for every workday, minus vacation time, results in about 5 pounds of weight loss per year. To make it even easier for people, dress up the stairwells. Hang paintings, play music, and paint the walls bright colors – use your creativity.

Obesity is a huge issue in the US and I don’t want to trivialize what it takes to improve it. However, it isn’t rocket science either. Do you have a creative idea? If so, share it with us.

Topics: Healthy Living Obesity Weight Loss Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Health Promotion Prevention Chronic Disease Boss Making you fat? Overweight Lost Productivity