There is nothing we can do about it- winter is here. And it’s the UK, so who knows how long it will last for!
Unfortunately for many of us the lack of sunshine and short days can be accompanied by a feeling of gloom and low mood. Ever wonder why humans don’t hibernate? You’re not alone! But rather than resigning yourself to endless months of blue and a long countdown to spring, why not try these five feel-good approaches to a happier winter.
B vitamins have a well-established role in improving mood, and low levels of vitamin B6 and B12 have been linked with an increased incidence of depression, some research has also gone onto suggest that taking these vitamins at certain times of day can be beneficial.
Eat Mood Foods
There is a growing body of evidence to show that what you eat can help to reduce stress, ease anxiety & fight depression. Here are some of the best foods to help boost your mood:
- Dark chocolate (yes!) – stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that bring on feelings of pleasure. It also contains the neurotransmitter serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant.
- Fish- oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel provide us with omega-3, a key mood-boosting nutrient that the body does not produce itself. Studies have shown that people deficient in omega-3 are more susceptible to low mood and depression. For vegetarians, chia & flaxseeds are the best plant source of omega-3, so get these sprinkled over your breakfast, soups and salads!
- Autumn berries – bursting with mood-boosting antioxidants and phytonutrients.
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach & broccoli- rich in folate which is needed by the body to boost your feel good hormones
For six months of the year (October to April), 90% of the UK lies too far north to have enough sunshine necessary to make vitamin D in the skin, and a large proportion of the population in the UK are thought to be vitamin D deficient. Researchers are now discovering that vitamin D may play a very important role in mental health and depression. Studies have shown an association between low vitamin D levels and various mood disorders including depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Vitamin D can be taken as a dietary supplement in the D3 form. In addition, try to up your food sources of vitamin D, which include oily fish, eggs and fortified foods such as cereals.
Boost your Serotonin
The lack of light in winter can result in lower levels of serotonin, the mood-enhancing chemical responsible for our feeling of happiness and well-being. The supplement 5-HTP can be taken to raise serotonin levels. In addition you should up your intake of foods containing tryptophan- which your body can use to make serotonin. These include poultry, seafood, nuts, beans, pulses and oats.
It may feel like an effort, especially when you are already feeling low, but incorporating regular exercise into your weekly regime can be the ultimate mood booster. When you exercise, your body releases all the “feel good” chemicals- endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline. In fact, studies have shown exercise to be as effective as medication in depressed individuals for improving mood.
Naomi Mead is a nutritional therapy’s at Food First, a London based nutritionist consultancy. She has a particular interest in the areas of weight management, female health, sports nutrition, and digestive disorders. If you would like to follow Naomi you can follow her on Twitter or read her other expert articles on Nutrition Expert from Healthspan.