- Exercise - do aerobic exercise every morning or at least three to five times per week for 30 minutes. It will oxygenate your brain, making you feel more alert and motivated, and raise endorphin levels (the feel-good brain chemicals).
- Omega 3 fats - your diet should contain plenty of foods high in omega 3 fatty acids. Oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring) should be eaten several times per week, or a good quality supplement of fish oil containing high levels of EPA & DHA should be taken daily. Another good source of omega 3 fats includes flax seeds (linseeds), which you can take as an oil, ground seeds, or in capsules. The oil in linseeds is converted into omega 3s in your body.
- Good mood foods - apart from oily fish, foods that are high in an amino acid called tryptophan can help to keep your mood up. Tryptophan is converted to the "feel good" hormone seratonin in the body. Eat plenty of natural yoghurt, organic turkey, organic chicken, cottage cheese, avocados, bananas and wheatgerm (if not gluten intolerant) to gain this amino acid.
- Nutrients - important nutrients for your brain are the B vitamins, particularty B6, B12 and folic acid. However, B vitamins work best when they are taken in combination and I recommend you choose a supplement that contains "activated" Bs. A good multi-vitamin & mineral supplement is a good way to get all the B vitamins and other important nutrients.
- Blood sugar balance - avoid added sugar and eating sugary foods and refined carbohydrates (white bread, cakes, soft drinks, biscuits, processed snacks) as they may cause major fluctuations in your blood sugar levels and also your energy and mood. If you cut down on these types of foods and drinks your mood will become more balanced, you'll suffer from less mood swings and also symptoms of premenstrual syndrome will decrease.
- Caffeine & stimulants- reduce caffeine containing drinks such as coffee, tea, cola, sugar-sweetened hot chocolate and guarana drinks - too many of these drinks cause a release of stress hormones which will make you feel stressed, out of control, moody and tired.
- St. John's Wort - this herb may be useful to those suffering from mild depression and anxiety. Don't take this herb if you are on any prescribed medication without getting professional advice first. This herb is not compatible with the oral contraceptive pill.
- Dark chocolate - a good quality 70 - 85 percent dark chocolate contains excellent antioxidants and constituents that lift your mood. Just remember that dark chocolate also contains caffeine which can disturb sleep in slow caffeine metabolisers.
- Vitamin D - take 2,000iu of vitamin D3 daily over winter to help prevent deficiency. Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamin D and also vitamin A. Both of which help to improve immune function.
- Socialise - don't hibernate and avoid social contact. We need our friends and family to give a good feeling of community and connectedness. If you don't want to go out - invite them to yours!
Winter months with the grey cold days, shorter daylight hours, winds and rain can put a dampener on even the hardiest souls. So many of us reduce our exercise and increase our comfort eating and this may result in low mood and tighter clothes! It's so easy to want to hibernate and be less active. In fact, some people are genetically predisposed to gaining weight and feeling depressed over winter. Here are my top tips for preventing the winter blues ...
"My mission is to spread the word on eating well and living well to create vibrant good health. My passion is assisting my patients to feel the best they can, using a balanced, achievable and effective approach."