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Our ancient ancestors’ lives were based around the activities of the sun, moon and seasons. These days - with 24/7 connectivity and increasing pressure to do more with every minute - there are benefits to bringing those fundamental natural rhythms back into our lives to create more balance.
In the warmer months, getting outdoors is easy. Exposure to sunlight and connection with nature is part of our summer lifestyle. But in the colder months, we often use the weather as an excuse for ‘going to ground’ and slowing down. However, getting some time outside is particularly important in winter, because it helps to prevent SAD (seasonal affective disorder). This is a type of temporary depression that causes fatigue, low mood and strong cravings for carbs. The fix is natural light, staying active and eating foods that lift our mood.
Here are some tips for avoiding SAD this winter:
- Don’t hesitate, just do it!
We humans are brilliant at procrastinating, particularly when it comes to going outdoors in winter. Time to let that go. Just put on warm clothes, open the door, step outside and the rest will follow as night follows day.
- Walk to a local park for a stroll around, observing the changes in the seasons.
- Do some ‘plant housework’ in your garden – pruning, weeding and feeding.
- Play a game of golf - even if it’s raining, golf umbrellas have totally got you covered.
- Wrap up warmly and find a wild, exhilarating beach or coastal walk.
- Take a drive to a location you normally don’t visit and explore the area on foot.
- Book in tennis at the local public courts or find an outdoor wall and practice your shots.
- Dust off your bike and check out the local cycle paths.
- Commit to a spring exercise event that will get you training through the winter months.
- Dog owners find daily exercise easy, of course. Taking the dog for a walk at the park requires no decision making at all. Maybe it’s time for a canine companion?
- Soak up some sunshine.
Vitamin D is freely dispensed by the sun and is hugely important for bone health, general immunity and mood balance. It’s a powerful juice that impacts on major elements of your health.
It’s a fact that people in Scandinavian countries struggle with SAD during winter because of lack of sun and daylight. The impact is frighteningly measurable.
To top up vitamin D levels, you need to expose some skin to sunlight. So roll up your sleeves and get out into the sun for 10 to 15 minutes, even if it’s just to sit and contemplate nature. And don’t forget to, even in winter make sure you apply some sunscreen every day.
- Upgrade your food shopping list.
In winter we tend to eat more, especially warming dishes in the ‘comfort food’ category. Think about choosing a more natural diet that involves lots of green vegetables, oily fish, nuts and seeds. As well as helping to keep your appetite under control, these foods are good for mental health. They all contain tryptophan, which your body uses to produce serotonin – the neurotransmitter that’s largely responsible for feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
Here are some winter feel-good foods that help to boost serotonin levels:
- Greens – broccoli, kale, spinach, silver beet, watercress.
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds – toast them lightly in the oven and keep in a jar for sprinkling.
- Nuts – walnuts, cashews, pistachios and almonds.
- Soy products – edamame, tofu, soya milk, miso and soya sauce.
- Salmon and sardines.
- Lean chicken and turkey.
- Rolled oats.