We’ve been blessed these past few weeks with some glorious late summer sunshine. But as the days become shorter and the invigorating rays of sunshine become only a distant memory, there are lots you can do to prepare your body to fight the winter blues.
With fewer sunlight hours during the autumn and winter months, your body produces less serotonin – a hormone, which can affect your mood, energy levels, sleep pattern and appetite.
According to the Seasonal Affected Disorder Association, about 20% of UK adults suffer mildly debilitating symptoms of seasonal affected disorder (SAD) or the ‘winter blues’.
Symptoms may include:
- Low mood
- Lethargy – energy levels feel low and you find it difficult to motivate yourself to complete normal tasks
- Poor concentrate
- Reduced immune system and vulnerability to infection
- Sleep problems
- Overeating – especially craving carbohydrate foods to lift mood
- Loss of libido
5 Things you can do to boost your mood and energy levels
Regular exercise can naturally boost serotonin levels. Many people report improvements in mood and sleeping patterns following exercise. It is important to include some form of activity every day – you should be aiming for about 30 minutes a day. Walk whenever you can. Include activities that will raise your heart rate and get you out of breath.
Yoga has many benefits on the body systems. Breathing techniques can promote relaxation and improve sleep patterns. As well as promoting strength and flexibility, performing yoga asansas (postures) massage the internal organs ensuring efficient digestion and hormone production. Check out the ‘Power of Pranayama’ blog to discover some simple breathing exercises.
A diet rich in carbohydrate foods will actually raise serotonin levels, but this is only a quick fix. When serotonin levels are low, your body will crave carbohydrate foods. These cravings are usually in the form of sugar or refined carbohydrates – white bread, pasta, rice, cakes and biscuits. This only leads to a cycle of craving, over-consumption and weight gain. A diet of good quality protein foods – nuts, fish, meat, beans and pulses with unrefined carbohydrate grains – whole grains cereals, oats, barley, quinoa, brown and wild rice and starchy vegetables is beneficial.
Include lots of brightly coloured and dark green vegetables to boost your anti oxidant vitamin levels.
Eat a variety of good fats – oily fish (salmon, mackerel, or tuna) nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, wheatgrass, avocado, good quality meat, and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. These foods provide essential fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins which will support a healthy immune system throughout the autumn and winter months. They will also provide Vitamin D, which can become deficient with lack of sunlight.
Check out the nutrition blogs ‘Autumnal veg to boost your serotonin levels’ and ‘sprouts’ ’ to try out something new.
Include positive actions and activities in your life
Get outdoors as much as possible. Do things you enjoy to boost your mood. Be with people you love to spend time with.
Get enough sleep
Try to get 7-8 hours sleep per night. This will allow your body to rejuvenate and reenergise.
Bright light therapy
You may want to consider investing in a light therapy lamp or alarm clock. This type of treatment is thought to replace the sunlight you would get in summer. The action of this light on the eyes sends nerve signals to the brain in turn releasing chemicals, which can affect your mood.