Health Hacks: Fight the winter blues with these tips

Welcome to Health Hacks with Doctor Mike, a weekly video series to learn the latest tips and tricks to ensure you're as healthy as can be. 

As the temperature drops, the days get shorter and sunlight disappears, a lot of people may realize they are struggling with what has been deemed the winter blues. Although it's not officially recognized as a medical term, this gloomy state of being is fairly common, according to the National Institute of Health. However, there are many ways to ensure your energy and overall happiness are not compromised by the changing of the seasons.

Read on to discover more of Doctor Mike's hacks on fighting those winter blues. 

1. Vitamin D: Low levels actually go hand-in-hand with winter blues and exacerbate those symptoms. While foods such as salmon, eggs and mushrooms naturally have higher levels of vitamin D, supplements are also a good source of the vitamin -- make sure to talk to your primary care physician first! 

2. Get moving: Beat those winter blues by moving and getting those endorphins circulating. Whether it's yoga or cycling, there are plenty of indoor exercises you can do to make sure you stay active. 

3. Sunlight: Try to spend at least 30 minutes outside. Sunlight can help boost your mood, but it will also reset your circadian rhythm, so you can fall asleep faster at night. 

4. Avoid random snacking: Especially with holidays right around the corner, make sure mindless snacking and social grazing are done at a minimum to benefit both your mind and body.

5. Disconnect to connect: While it may be called social media, social media is actually not the best social activity. In-person social interaction, whether it be over meals or sports, is great for our minds. 

RELATED: Boost your energy with these tips

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19 natural ways to boost energy
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19 natural ways to boost energy

Take a walk.

When people think of exercise they often envision high-intensity, calorie-busting, sweat-pouring workouts. But to boost energy you don't need to go to that extreme. A brisk 10-minute walk will zap the flat feeling, especially if you aim for three 10-minute walks a day.

Ride a bike.

Like walking, riding a bike for a short 10 minutes can really get the heart pumping and energy levels up. Again, as little as three 10-minute sessions can do the trick. Biking (or walking) is also a great way to soak up some sunlight and increase the body's level of vitamin D, which can also boost energy levels.

Exercise at the right time of day.

While many people squeeze in a workout first thing in the morning, a better time to boost energy is in the early afternoon, when fatigue really sinks in. A lunchtime trip to the gym could be just the thing to get back on track.

Sit up straight or stand up.

Holding a hunched-over pose in front of the computer can cause blood vessels to close off and blood flow to slow. Stand up or even sit up straight to loosen the neck and shoulders, and bring circulation into those narrowed blood vessels.

Practice deep breathing.

Breathing patterns used in yoga relax the mind and boost energy. This one can be done seated at your desk: When fatigue strikes, sit up straight, close your eyes, and take a deep breath in. Place your hand on your belly and, as you exhale, push on your belly nine or 10 times to help release all the air from your chest. Repeat several times to get oxygen flowing.

Cut back on sugar and white flour.

Sugar and white flour are deceiving. When consumed, they give a quick energy burst, followed by a lower low. The spike and drop of blood sugar levels does nothing but zap more energy. Avoid snacks and meals loaded with these energy saboteurs.

Eat the right foods.

Instead of sugar and white flour, eat meals and snacks consisting of various plant-based antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, iron, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc, which can do wonders to boost your energy levels and keep blood sugar spikes to a minimum.

Blink often.

It sounds silly, but instead of staring at a screen without blinking for hours on end, try blinking 10 to 20 times a minute while getting your screen time. It allows the brain to take mini breaks and stay engaged.

Drink plenty of water.

Dehydration is a huge culprit of fatigue. Even if you don't realize it, your flagging may be due to a lack of water. Aim to drink enough that your urine is pale yellow.

Eat breakfast daily.

Start the day off right with breakfast, and not just a small meal. Make sure it contains a complex carbohydrate, a protein, and a little healthy fat.

Have regular snacks.

Protein helps keep blood sugar level, so adding in a protein snack a few times a day is a good way to combat fatigue before it even starts.

Sip on green tea.

While coffee is the main go-to for many, green tea can have the same or even better benefits, especially when sipped in the afternoon. Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, found in green tea is associated with weight loss, while the small amounts of caffeine in green tea provide an energy boost without interrupting sleep patterns at night.

Snack on fruit.

Pair that green tea with an apple to get lots of energy. Apples are a great source of plant-based antioxidants, vitamin C, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. All work together to keep blood sugar in check. Berries are a good choice too. They pack a big dose of anthocyanins, which naturally boost energy.

Monitor your blood pressure.

This is especially important for men. A University of Wisconsin study found that 60 percent of Americans 18 to 39 have high blood pressure and don't know how to control it. High blood pressure is a major source of fatigue, and a health condition that needs attention and treatment.

Get your sinuses in check.

Suffer from allergies? It could be stealing your energy. Sinus issues can contribute to a lower level of oxygen and less circulating through your body, plus greater effort with every breath. Try an over-the-counter sinus pill to combat sinus allergies and improve energy levels. Savings tip: Generic allergy pills are just as effective as brand name and a fraction of the cost.

Hang out with energetic people.

Have friends who are always full of energy and motivation? Hang out with them more often; their enthusiasm will rub off, improving your mood and energy levels.

Laugh.

Laughter is good for the soul -- and, as it turns out, the body, too. Laughing boosts your heart rate and blood pressure enough to add some energy when you're dragging.

Lose the extra pounds.

Being overweight by even 5 pounds takes a toll on your energy. The closer you are to your ideal weight, the more energy you'll have.

Tap your chest.

A practitioner of emotional freedom techniques, a form of acupressure therapy commonly known as tapping, tells Shape that the thymus can play a role in energy levels. This gland is located on the chest below the collarbone. Tapping this area for 20 seconds while taking some deep breaths stimulates T-cell production, relieves stress, and boosts energy.

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