Tips this Winter to help pick you up and put a smile on your face!

As the nights get colder and the days get shorter the urge to hunker down, keep warm, eat comfort food and stay indoors gets stronger. The chemicals and hormones in your brain are adapting to less sunlight and a part of your brain called the hypothalamus reacts by making you feel tired and maybe even a little unhappy. These feelings are often referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern affecting people during the winter months.

The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviours, thirst, fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms. During the winter months it can stop working properly and this affects the production of the hormones melatonin and seratonin. Melatonin controls your body’s daily and nightly cycle, whilst the hormone seratonin regulates your mood, appetite and sleep. Your body’s internal clock is also affected (referred to as circadian rhythm), which regulates several processes during a 24 hour period.

You may feel lethargic, have a lack of interest in life, feel low, need to sleep more, are less active and notice changes in your appetite. If your mood is unusually low it may be a good idea to discuss this with your GP.

Here are 5 tips to help perk you up through the winter months.

  1. Feel the sunshine – exposure to daylight releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affects mood. Even if the sun isn’t shining, get out as often as you can, as exposure to regular daylight is very beneficial. It will help boost your levels of vitamin D, improve your mood and wellbeing. On those dark and rainy days bring the outside light into your workplace and home, by changing regular light bulbs for full spectrum bulbs or daylight bulbs. Artificial light that mimics natural light has been shown to reduce feelings of tiredness, improve mood and reduce eyestrain.
  2. Exercise, exercise, exercise! Yes I know this is probably the last thing on your mind, especially if you are feeling low, but bear with me. The body produces endorphins in response to exercise, which helps you feel fewer of the negative effects from both stress and pain, and will help you regulate your appetite. You don’t have to go ballistic and spend money to gain benefits: get your exercise mat out and practise your Pilates and Yoga, or go out for a brisk walk. This will help you tremendously, especially if you feel low, have back pain or feel the need to binge eat.
  3. Eat good healthy food to provide your body and brain with nutrients and help stabilise your blood sugar levels, and give you more energy. Avoid refined and processed foods which will reduce your energy levels, make you feel sluggish and contribute to mood swings. Have a look at for inspiring healthy recipes.
  4. Drink plenty of water to help support a healthy immune system. Good hydration is essential, as water makes up about two-thirds of the weight of a healthy person and helps our blood carry nutrients around the body. Cells need water in order for chemical reactions to take place and our bowel gets rid of waste more efficiently if it is hydrated properly. Water is also important to spinal health and helps nourish intervertebral discs. A sign of dehydration is feeling thirsty, having dark urine, headaches, lack of energy, feeling lightheaded and being constipated. Keeping well hydrated greatly contributes to feeling healthy and well, so have a glass of water first thing in the morning and a take a bottle with you when you are out and about.
  5. Take time to de-stress and relax. The run up to Christmas can get stressful as the big day approaches. Make a list of things to do each week and take time out for yourself to take a brisk walk in the winter sun at lunch time, and eat a healthy lunch and get plenty of sleep. When you look in the mirror in the morning, take a deep breath and smile at yourself. Make a promise to yourself to check you are breathing properly throughout the day. Try to avoid saying “yes” to every party celebration and pick and choose the ones that will make you feel really happy. Go easy on the social media, turn off your phone for at least one hour a day, and when you settle down in the evening. Take time to connect with loved ones over breakfast or dinner, when ideas for the festive season can be discussed and tasks shared. Voice your anxieties and let others help you.

Finally, remember that a little Light in the Darkness can make a big difference! Kick off your shoes, make a cuppa and watch this magical video “Sparked”. It’s guaranteed to make you smile!