How can you set yourself up for a really strong winter before it’s properly arrived?
1. Stay happy by staying off S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
Essentially, S.A.D. is a season-related type of depression whose origins aren’t fully understood but which is likely to relate to reduced sunlight and daylight during the winter months. This can affect the hypothalamus – a small part of the brain which controls a whole bunch of important stuff like circadian rhythms, appetite and mood, through some hormones called melatonin and serotonin. There are some simple tips that will reduce the chances of this affecting you:
– Get outside as much as you can during daylight hours, when sunny or cloudy, as this will help keep the hypothalamus working properly. When you’re inside, try to get near to windows more of the time to maximise light absorption. You could also buy a light box which simulates sunlight. If you’re at work, getting in a good 30-40 minutes of outside time during the day rather than being stuck at your desk and getting outdoors more at the weekend will really help.
– If your SAD symptoms are really severe, it may well be worth speaking to your GP and considering counselling or talking therapies; in the short term though, stress reduction techniques will help (e.g. meditation) as well as making sure you’ve got a good support network.
2. Eating for winter
We do know that the immune system gets a real beating during the winter as there are more illnesses about everywhere, so how can you build up your immune system during the winter months to reduce the chances of getting into the ‘illness cycle’? There’s some really good seasonal produce around such as root vegetables like carrot, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and squash. This makes a great base for soups, stews and sides for meals.
In addition, this list is hugely helpful for boosting the immune system by providing great anti-inflammatory power (and inflammation is one of the causes of many illnesses). Here’s a list of awesome anti-inflammatory, immune boosting foods: turmeric, ginger, broccoli, most herbs, pineapple, leafy greens like swiss chard and spinach, beetroot, almonds, walnuts, red peppers and cooked tomatoes.
3. Don’t resist, embrace
Some people absolutely love winter – the snuggling up, wrapping up, the comforting winter food, the dark, the central heating coming on, the warming drinks, all the different holidays – Halloween, fireworks, Christmas, the chance to spend more time with friends and family. So if you’re not one of these people, maybe this year is the year to start channelling some of their winter love and embrace the season, look for the positive in wet, dark mornings, breathe it in and enjoy it.
Spending time just with others and enjoying that can give some great high points to look forward to during winter. And if you are a winter-lover, now’s your time: spread that love and be sure to include the resistors and the scrooges in your plans – it’s hard to resist someone who’s super-passionate about something, so wear your winter passion with pride and you will inspire others!
4. Build good habits now
If this is the year you’re going to make sure you do more exercise, take that lunchtime walk at work to get some daylight in, start meditating, make more home-cooked food, book in more time with friends – start building those habits now before we get right into the grip of winter in a month or so’s time. Check out the podcast on building habits in the back catalogue – you can start to make real in-roads into building new habits within 30 days if you start today.