Brighten up those winter blues this season

Sunday 21 Oct 2012

You know the score. The nights draw in. The temperature drops. The mornings are dark and you just want to stay in bed – Winter Blues!

That's normal for our winter months. The sudden drop in natural light causes your body to go into hibernation mode as the nights draw in.

And things are about to get worse for those of us who react badly to the dark days, yep the clocks go back next weekend.

Once more we are plunged into the gloom of winter, and all for the benefit of whom?

The Daylight Saving Bill was introduced in 1916 during the First World War, with the aim of increasing the daylight hours available to farmers and the like. But with modern milking units operating virtually 24 hours a day it is unlikely that even the cows notice a difference nowadays.

We all suffer as a result of dark mornings and dark nights, but some people get this at extreme levels.

If you feel constantly tired, unmotivated, anxious, depressed and unable to go out, you could have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Find out more about SAD, and what you can do to conquer it

The problem affects around 500,000 people a year in the UK.

So what can you do?

Well, there's the obvious measure. Get as much light into the home as possible. Get outside in natural light whenever you can. Anything involving light!

But did you know some changes to your diet could help?

Fight SAD with food

- Eat foods rich in vitamin B6. They've found that low levels can lead to depression. I suggest cabbage, bananas and fish. But not on the same plate, unless you're pregnant!

- You should also get some folic acid in your system. Researchers have found that clinically depressed patients just don't have enough. Eat more citrus fruit, spinach and wholegrain foods which are packed with the stuff.

- Nuts contain selenium, which was found to boost your mood by researchers at University College in Swansea. The daddy of all selenium is the mighty Brazil nut.

- Eat chilli peppers. They contain capsaicin, which helps your brain produce endorphins - the natural mood-enhancing chemicals in your body.

Of course the best way to overcome SAD is to have some fun this winter!

The best favour you can do yourself when winter comes is to concentrate on what you love in life.

So is this all just a state of mind? Just a case of winter blues?

Surprisingly, NO...

SAD is triggered by a chemical imbalance caused by lack of sunlight.

Discover how to bring balance back into the winter months – click here

This imbalance takes places in the hypothalamus - a section of the brain just behind the eyes. This section helps to control the pituitary gland, which in turn controls the thyroid, adrenal glands and sexual organs.

It can be unbearable for sufferers. In some cases, it can have a devastating effect. You literally cannot function.

Don't let a little wind and rain put you off that trip to the cinema or restaurant. Don't feel guilty about a lazy weekend snuggled in front of the television, if that's what you crave.

And although you should add the foods I've mentioned to your diet, don't starve yourself because constant hunger will worsen your mood. (To be honest, only having one slice of toast rather than two in a morning is enough to make me grumpy until lunchtime!)

A little light exercise can also go a long way too. It releases endorphins (the pleasure chemical) into your brain. It helps get rid of those pesky toxins and gets your blood flowing properly to your organs and muscles.

And, as if that wasn't enough, the hypothalamus also helps control appetite and weight, sleep, body temperature and emotions.

So when the hypothalamus is mucked about with, your body can feel extremely off-centre, and can make the act of “keeping up appearances” very hard indeed...

People who suffer from SAD may feel like shutting the world away. And if they do have to deal with people, they can be irritable and snappy. They become tense and stressed, they find it hard to stay awake, they tend to crave carbohydrates and sweets...

In short, they suffer from a full-blown depression which can all-too-easily be written off as a general low feeling that most of us feel when January comes, when work and school starts up again, and when things slowly get back to normal.

But there are ways to fight it...

Vitamin D is also a major weapon against depression. And guess what - a fair proportion of our Vitamin D production comes from sunshine. So during the winter months, your Vitamin D levels are likely to be struggling, so up your intake by eating oily fish and eggs.

Plus venture outdoors whenever you can.

In the rare moments between the rain clouds, try and nip out for a brisk walk. Picture a destination and walk there and back at a pace that makes you a little breathless and gets your heart pumping. If you're unsure of how much exercise you should take, have a chat with your doctor.

For most of us though it is more a matter of quality rather than quantity - all you need is a 20-minute brisk walk, jog, aerobics session or swim, three times a week.

Or why not try my 40 minute-a-day pub walk? That way you get a dose of natural light, some exercise AND a spot of indulgence.

Cheers me up anyway.

If you get SAD, try a light box

If you think you suffer from SAD, or even just feel in the need of a little tonic during the winter months, then get a light box. These give out concentrated doses of light that trick your brain into thinking its summer.

They can be used while you work or read.

I have heard from many readers who have used these devices to great effect, so have a look at those available in the Good Life Shop – don’t forget that the 10% discount offer is still valid for a few more days, so grab a bargain whilst you can.

Click here for the best light therapy units in the sleep therapy section of the shop

SAD self help checklist

  • Recognise the symptoms and act quickly to counteract them.
  • Fight it, don't give in - start by giving yourself one small easy job to do to get the day going.
  • Wear something you like which is also cheerful and keeps you warm.
  • Turn the heating down - don't create a fug in the house.
  • Do something, no matter how small, that will make you feel you haven't wasted the day. Try and make it something that clears a space as it will clear one in your head.
  • If it's a grey day, don't sit indoors on your own. Go out where there are people e.g. shopping, or contact a good friend.
  • If the sun comes out, go out. Also open some windows.
  • Accumulate things you want to read and things you enjoy doing for the days you stay in (e.g. making something, repairing something, hanging a picture, cooking).
  • If you have a bus pass, use it. Visit new places, near or far - a change of scene is a tonic.

I hope the dark days of winter don’t leave you feeling too low. Follow the tips contained in today’s letter to make a real difference this year.

Why not treat someone that you know needs a lift at this time of year, take advantage of our discount to get the best value SAD boxes that we have ever had, or just get them something to help them sleep.

Click Here, and don’t forget your discount code when ordering GLLDISC10

Yours, as always








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