With the long, dark nights and colder days, the winter can leave many of us feeling lethargic and yearning for the spring. And the lack of daylight can have a real impact on our mood, with around one in 33 people in the UK suffering from the effects of SAD – seasonal affective disorder.
But with a few simple tricks, you can weather the winter and keep a spring in your step. Here’s how to beat those winter blues.
A healthy, balanced diet is important at any time of the year but being particularly mindful of what you eat during the winter can help to boost your mood. And that means managing the types of carbs you put on your plate. Processed, refined, or fatty carbs such as pizza, biscuits, or fast foods may satisfy your cravings but ultimately, they can leave you and your digestion feeling sluggish and under-par. And this can directly affect your mood.
Instead, reach for plenty of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains as well as fresh fruit and vegetables to whip up delicious and warming winter meals that nourish both your mind and your body. And adding daily multivitamin tablets can help to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need.
Spend time outside
Getting out and about in nature is a known mood booster, and during the colder months, spending time outside is a good way to stave off those winter blues. The fresh air and exercise involved in getting outdoors, even if it’s a walk around the block – can also help to reduce stress levels and counter the effects of a low mood.
Stock up on vitamin D
The winter is a good time to take a vitamin D supplement, especially if you are unable to spend sufficient time outside as sunlight is one of its main natural sources. Vitamin D plays a key role in a healthy immune system and studies have shown that a daily vitamin D supplement can help to boost your mood. Other natural sources of vitamin D include fatty fish or fortified foods such as milk and breakfast cereal.
Bring more light into your life
Many people suffering from the winter blues can benefit from adding a little extra light into their daily routine, including the use of light therapy. In addition to spending time outside, it’s important to increase light levels in your home, as natural light is thought to not only boost your mood through increased melatonin production but also works to balance serotonin activity and regulate your sleep patterns.
As well as sitting and working near a window during the day, and using LED light bulbs, SAD sufferers can also find relief using a lightbox, which emits wavelengths that are similar to natural light.
While those dark, cold mornings may make you simply stay indoors, keeping active during the winter whatever the weather is going to keep those blues at bay. Regular exercise is not only good for your physical health, but it also boosts your mood by releasing feel-good hormones. Regular exercise, especially if it is outdoors, can also leave you feeling energised as well as helping to regulate your sleep, leaving you feeling calmer and more rested. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week to help you take the winter in your stride.
And finally, being mindful of your own self-care during the winter can support your physical as well as mental health. But if you are struggling with the winter blues or suspect you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, do speak to your GP, so you can get all the additional support you need.