Although, thankfully, this winter has not been as cold as the last, the nights are still long and and days dreary. Many of us are prone to reduced energy levels, lower mood and increased depression and anxiety during the winter months. If a 2 week holiday in the Bahamas is off the cards, I've put together a selection of top mood boosting tips to see you through until spring.
- Let there be light! Sunlight increases levels of serotonin, oft' dubbed the happy hormone, in the brain. Think of sunlight as natures antidepressant with none of the nasty side effects. What with January '14 being the wettest month for 250 years, it's likely that many of us are photon deprived, down in the dumps or more anxious than usual. If you're a home or office worker it's essential that you get out into the daylight, even if just for a quick walk. You might like to sitting next to a 'lightbox'; a powerful source of sunshine mimicking light, but choose one that is approved for seasonal affective disorder. The light triggers serotonin release and, if you get really close and shut your eyes, you can imagine you're sunbathing on a beach, while the sun gently warms your face, ahhh...
The benefits of exercise cannot be overstated. The NHS says that 150 mins (that's just over 20 mins a day) of exercise a week is enough to boost mood and reduce depression by 30%. And guess what? Fast walking counts! So no excuses there.
- To boost mood and reduce stress you can't get much better than by putting good old fashioned pen to paper. Try this 'journalling' process; get a big ol' pad of paper and firstly, write a stream of consciousness. As worries, frustrations or musings come to mind, get them written down. Next, practise some gratitude and write down things you're thankful for. I like to write down things like the fact we live in a safe and affluent country, big things, or little things like the cup of tea I'm drinking. Gratitude has been shown scientifically to boost mood. The final step is to focus your mind on all the things that you want. Subconsciously we take things on board that we state as happening right now, for example, "I am enjoying working in my dream job" or "I am my ideal weight". As the saying goes, 'where focus goes, energy flows' so focusing on positive things that we want for our lives helps to bring that closer to reality.
- Chow down on foods containing the amino acid tryptophan, as the body converts this to serotonin in the brain. Tryptophan rich foods include poultry, nuts, cottage cheese, yoghurt, eggs and chickpeas, so include plenty in your diet.
- There is evidence to suggest that a lack of vitamin D in the dark winter months could result in low mood or anxiety for some. Although oily fish contain some vitamin D, you'd have to eat buckets to make up for a lack of sun, so consider taking a supplement.
- Of course always consult your doctor about severe low mood or anxiety and go and talk to someone. Whether that means going to see a counsellor or even hypnotherapist like myself, help is available and you don't have to suffer alone.