Suffering a bout of winter blues? Don’t despair. Here’s how to bring some sunshine back into your life
“Regular exercise, preferably outdoors in daylight, improves mood, happiness and self-esteem,” says Ragdale Hall Health Hydro’s resident fitness expert Dean Hodgkin. “There’s no one size fits all so choose an activity that’s challenging but non-competitive,” says Dean.
Brisk walking, running, swimming and dancing (or anything that pushes up your heart rate) are all good choices. Activities that involve social interaction are good too. If you’re an exercise newbie pick activities that offer a sympathetic nurturing approach rather than boot camp tactics
Boost your diet
“Preference for stodgy, sugary foods, including cakes and sweets, are typical of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and can cause blood sugar imbalances, combined with lack of energy, which may lead to seasonal weight gain,” says Healthspan Head of Nutrition Rob Hobson. A healthy eating pattern full of nutritious foods will ensure you get essential nutrients as well as keep you a healthy weight.
‘Interestingly, Icelandics whose diet includes lots of brain-friendly omega 3s don’t report seasonal depression,’ he observes. “So put omega 3 rich oily fish on the menu (lacking in UK diets). Foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan, magnesium and vitamin B may help banish the blues too – think cottage cheese, bananas, nuts, sees, spinach, shellfish, and dark chocolate (a couple of squares max),” he adds.
Express your feelings
Talking things through with a friend or family member can help to lessen the burden of negative thoughts and can sometimes help you to find a solution.
Dr Chidi, Director of the European Society of Lifestyle Medicine suggests: “Find a way to express your deepest feelings. Find someone with whom you can be honest about your fears, hopes & desires. If you cannot find someone, write them down. This helps to lower our stress levels, it’s also a great antidote for depression.”
Supplement in winter
In the winter when sunlight is in short supply, vitamin D supplements may improve or prevent unhappiness,’ says Dr Sarah Brewer. Another effective natural treatment is 5-HTP, which provides building blocks for making brain messenger chemicals, including the happiness hormone, serotonin.
St John’s Wort is traditionally used to treat mild-to-moderate depression. Visit nutritionexpert.healthspan.co.uk to find out more about what supplements may help but supplements, however, are not a long-term solution. “If you feel continuously unhappy seek medical advice,’ says Sarah. If you are already on antidepressants check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking mood-lifting supplements, as interactions can occur.”
Crack a smile
If you’re someone who feels low when it’s cold and grey, try cracking a smile. Dr Uchenna Okoye, www.londonsmiling.com says: “ Research has shown that consciously activating your smile muscles lowers the stress response and releases happy chemicals in the brain just as effectively as a spontaneous smile.” Keep smiling, it really will make you feel better.
Get some sleep
Make sure you prioritise quality sleep – we sleep for two hours less than we did in 1960, and it can take its toll on your mood, energy levels and general health. The average amount of sleep needed is seven hours, but everyone is different, with women sleeping about 15 minutes longer, on average, than men.
“Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, including weekends,” suggests GP Dr Roger Henderson. “Avoid eating and drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks late in the evening and don’t exercise just before going to bed.”
Financial worries impact the moods of as many as 30 per cent of people, according to a survey by vitamin and supplement supplier, Healthspan. “Remind yourself that it’s relationships with friends and family, not possessions that bring lasting happiness,” says psychotherapist Sally Brown.
“Try doing a gratitude exercise and pinpoint three things you’re grateful for every day for a week. It can shift your focus to what you’ve got rather than what you can’t afford.”
Further tips to happier living also include:
- Try and notice the world around you – the fabulous colours of autumn are here
- Set goals – big or small we all need to focus no matter how big or small
- Keep learning news things-we are all busy whether it’s learning a new hobby or just learning to meditate keep learning.
- Connect with people – our happiness affects the people around us and they affect influence our happiness – research shows that the happiness of a close contact increases the chance of being happy by 8%
- Be comfortable with who you are – stop comparing what we have who we are to others and accept oneself for who one is.
- Finally, giving and doing things for others – Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help so giving is good for you and that doesn’t have to be material it can be an action or kind word
Visit www.actionforhappiness.org to celebrate happiness.