Beat SAD syndrome this winter
It’s that time of year again, January may be just about behind us, but we still have a way to go before spring is here. The cold weather, dark days and failing New Year’s resolutions can all contribute to us feeling low at this time. Rather than hiding under the duvet, why not engage in some positive activities that will encourage a better mood. For example, exercising and sharing a healthy meal with loved ones have both been scientifically proven to improve our mental wellbeing. Here are some other suggestions to improve your SAD syndrome this winter.
This is a simple, yet very effective tip to start your day off the right way. As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, laugh out loud for a minute or so. You will probably have to fake it at first (thinking of something funny that happened the day before can help), but after a while you will start ‘feeling it’ and your mood will instantly lift. This takes away that first half an hour of the day, where we walk around feeling groggy at best or grumpy and fed up at worst. In addition, read funny books, watch comedy and laugh with friends as often as possible. You could even try out a laughter yoga class (yes, it’s a thing!). There is a reason they say laughter is the best medicine, as it is proven to have measurable benefits for our health as well as our mood.
Having a sense of purpose and direction in our lives is essential to happiness. In the yogic tradition this is known as ‘dharma’. It translates roughly to mean ‘right living’ or living the way that upholds the truth. This means doing everything we do in the best possible way, being true to ourselves and our values and living authentically. When practicing dharma we wake up feeling excited about the day ahead, feel joyful carrying out our daily tasks and experience a sense of gratitude for everything and everyone in our lives. A good place to start is to ask yourself what your true purpose in life is? What makes you feel like you are making a positive contribution to the world? What activities bring you joy and make you feel amazing? Then include more of them!
Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels
Fluctuations in blood sugar levels lead to unbalanced energy levels, appetite and mood and increase the likelihood of cravings for sugar and other unhealthy foods. To balance your blood sugar, simply replace sugary foods and refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, white pasta, pastries, cakes etc.) with wholegrain versions and other complex carbs such as beans, lentils, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables. Include protein with all your meals and reduce or avoid caffeine and alcohol, which both disrupt blood sugar. You also need to eat at regular intervals over the day to avoid blood sugar lows, about every 4-5 hours. This will also benefit your overall health, reduce your risk of disease and help control your weight.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind at this time of year, but it is one of the most effective ways to relieve the winter blues. If you are feeling low in mood or energy, start slowly with just 5 minutes of walking or stretching and build up gradually. Regular, low-intensity exercise such as walking helps release proteins in the body called neurotrophic factors, which help improve brain function and support a positive mood. More vigorous exercise will also release feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which can lift mood dramatically. Exercise has been shown in studies to be as effective for relieving mild to moderate depression as medication and without the unwanted side effects.
Try an Infrared Sauna
Infrared saunas use far-infrared light to create heat – ‘far’ describes where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum. They produce effects in the body similar to those of exercise, such as raising the heart rate and metabolism and sweating. Infrared sauna therapy has a host of health benefits including improving skin health and appearance, detoxifying the body, strengthening the immune system, reducing cellulite, burning calories (200-600 per 30 minute session), alleviating back pain, improving energy levels and releasing the same feel-good chemicals that a 30 minute workout would give you, all while you relax, warm up and de-stress!
Feel Good Nutrients
Two key nutrients to support mood and energy levels are B vitamins and omega-3 fats. B vitamins are needed for the body to release energy from food and low levels have been associated with depression. Good sources are nuts, seeds, fish, wholegrains, eggs, mushrooms, beans and avocados. Increasing your intake of essential omega-3 fats has also been shown to improve mood and reduce your risk of depression and anxiety. To get enough, you should be having at least 2 servings of oily fish per week, a daily serving of seeds and ideally, a good quality fish or krill oil supplement. The best oily fish to eat are mackerel, herrings, sardines, salmon and trout and flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds are the best seeds.
Skin Vitality Drink
Including a daily Beauty & Go Vitality drink as part of your beauty routine will help banish tired-looking skin and give you and your skin an energy boost. It contains energising ingredients such as guarana, a plant extract with natural stimulating properties, which can also aid appetite control. Ginkgo biloba is a herb known to increase circulation and blood flow, as well as being a protective antioxidant. It supports memory and brain function, by increasing blood flow to the brain – perfect for when you’ve had a few late nights and need a brain boost. Mandarin, persimmon and pineapple provide high amounts of vitamin C to support the function of the adrenal glands, which are involved in managing stress in the body. It also contains vitamins B5, B6 and B12 to support energy production.
Raise your Serotonin
Eating foods containing the amino acid tryptophan in combination with healthy wholegrain carbohydrates (see above) will help your body to produce the happy chemical serotonin. Serotonin improves mood and sleep as well as reducing pain and inflammation in the body. The best food sources of tryptophan are seeds, especially pumpkin seeds, nuts, poultry, tofu, fish, oats, eggs, beans and lentils. Include some of these every day, especially in the evenings, as they will also aid restful sleep, as serotonin is converted in the body into the sleep hormone melatonin. Exercise and getting as much natural daylight as possible will also help regulate serotonin and melatonin production.
Research has found that simply staying warm can reduce the winter blues by a whopping 50%! Eating warm foods, plenty of hot drinks and wrapping up in warm clothes will all help.