Get out and about
Going outdoors, particularly around midday or on bright days, can help to give your mood a lift. When our eyes take in daylight, the pineal gland in the brain stops producing the hormone melatonin, and this makes us feel more alert.
By all means wear a hat if the sun is strong, but don’t wear sunglasses as this will block out mood-enhancing daylight. Getting out of the house also increases the chance of bumping into someone you know and enjoying a friendly chat.
Get the T factor
The amino acid tryptophan is vital for the manufacture of the feel-good hormone serotonin. It is found in protein-rich foods, including red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, Cheddar cheese and milk.
You can buy it as a supplement (5-HTP or L-tryptophan) but talk to your GP or pharmacist first as it can interact with other drugs, including antidepressants. Try Happy Days tryptophan tablets from Healthspan (£13.95 for 60 tablets); visit www.healthspan.co.uk or call 0800 73 123 77.
While it’s good to get out and about during the day, it’s also important to have plenty of downtime during the darker hours. We naturally sleep more in winter, so it’s a great time to catch up on some shut-eye. Winter is also the time to simplify our lives and give ourselves some TLC.
Leave major tasks, such as decorating, repairs and entertaining, for the summer months. Cold, wet days are ideal for cosying up on the sofa with a good book or watching your favourite TV programme or DVD.
Physical activity is proven to boost serotonin activity and mental wellbeing. Stick to activities that won’t drain your energy too much, such as swimming or walking. One study showed that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day can be as helpful for coping with the winter blues as light therapy, where exposure to bright lights is used to treat winter depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Try St John’s Wort
If your winter melancholy doesn’t lift, you could try St John’s Wort. Research shows this herbal remedy is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you are thinking of trying it as it can interact with other drugs and might have side effects.
One side effect is that it increases the skin’s sensitivity to light so don’t take it if you also use light therapy. Try Boots Mood Lift tablets (£10.79 for 30 tablets).
If all else fails…
…go on holiday! There are lots of tempting deals on offer, so if you feel down when snowflakes start falling, why not swap your summer holiday for a winter break?
- There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.