Information & Advice
Health & Beauty Magazine Online Editor
Published 17th November 2008
As winter approaches it’s not surprising that lots of us want nothing more than to snuggle up under the duvet and stay there. It’s estimated that every year, half a million people suffer from a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to darker, shorter days. SAD affects sufferers in the autumn and winter when there is a lack of daylight, leaving them feeling depressed and lacking in energy. Diet, sleep patterns and sex drive are also affected.
It can last from September right through to March but there are lots of ways to fight back, whether you’ve been diagnosed with SAD or are one of the millions who feel low in the winter months. Follow our practical tips to banish the blues and boost your energy.
‘In the winter months the level of sunlight falls and this can play havoc with your levels of melatonin, the chemical that helps us sleep,’ says top wellbeing and stress expert Liz Tucker. ‘This imbalance is what makes people with SAD feel so lethargic and run down.’ You could invest in a special light box, such as the Lumie Brightspark Lightbox, which reproduces natural light rays. Sitting in front of it for an hour each day will help brighten your mood.
Or why not try a HoMedics Sound Spa Sound Machine? Calming sounds, ranging from the ocean to rain, create the perfect environment to help you nod off. If your budget doesn't run to gadgets, try Botanics Time For Bed Bath, Body & Massage Oil.
‘Make time to do one thing each day that's guaranteed to cheer you up, such as a walk in the park, playing with your kids, or a long, hot bath,’ suggests Liz. Perk yourself up with This Works Energy Bank Bath and Shower Gel or relax with No7 Sumptuous Bath Soak.
Having something to look forward to will automatically lift your mood, so idle away a few minutes each day making plans. It could be a day out at the zoo with the kids, visiting a friend you haven't seen in a while or even next year’s holiday.
Getting outside as much as possible, even when the sun's hidden by clouds, can be a real pick-me-up. Try a 20-30 minute walk during your lunch break; the longer the better.
Exercise produces feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. Any activity that gets your body moving and releases these feel-good endorphins will help bring back that sparkle. Step up the pace on your lunchtime walk and it'll help keep you fit as well as exposing you to extra sunlight.
‘Avoid junk food, which is full of fat and sugar, and gives you a temporary high followed by a serious slump,’ stresses Liz. ‘Opt instead for wholegrains, vegetables and fruit.’ You don’t have to be a saint, either. ‘Follow the 80/20 rule,’ says Liz. ‘Be good 80 per cent of the time and for the other 20 per cent have a little of what you fancy.’
People who feel lacklustre are often lacking in Vitamin B12, which is vital for a healthy nervous system. One of the best sources is lean meat such as chicken but if you’re a vegetarian you might consider a supplement such as Boots Multivitamins Vegetarian Tablets.
‘Nicotine introduces toxins into your body, which drain your energy levels and make you feel exhausted,’ says Liz. So whether you plump for Boots NicAssist Patches or good old-fashioned willpower, do what you can to kick your habit.
They say ‘eat, drink and be merry' but according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists ‘alcohol actually affects the chemistry of the brain, increasing the risk of depression.’ So enjoy the odd tipple but avoid binge-drinking rather than relying on booze to cheer you up, plan social activities with friends and family who make you happy.
‘Water is vital for transporting nutrients around your body and a lack of it can lead to lethargy,’ says Liz. Try sipping water throughout the day and cut back on caffeine-laden drinks like tea, coffee and colas, which act as diuretics and can leave you dehydrated.
Bodyclock wake-up alarms help SAD sufferers to reset their internal bodyclocks. They work by slowly coming on as if dawn is breaking thus allowing you to wake up more gradually and naturally. Take a look at Lumie’s range of products available at Boots.com including the Lumie Bodyclock Advanced Lamp.
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