Warm up to Winter

Warm up to Winter

Take these 5 steps to Winter happiness.

I think many of us would agree that around this time of year, we find ourselves struggling with negative thoughts, disturbed sleep, irritability, and poor concentration.

The dark nights and mornings, the central heating and dodgy office lighting can all contribute to some rotten symptoms which all magically disappear when the spring rolls in or you take a holiday?

So, what can we do to stave off the winter blues?

Here’s 5 tips to help navigate our way through to the spring.

1. Build a nest - In our busy lives, sleep seems to be the ultimate luxury and being sleep-rich seems to be the latest aspiration. During the winter, getting great sleep plays a role in protecting us from coughs and colds and less than 6 hours a night can increase our risk of catching a cold by 5 times. So, turn your bedroom into the ultimate nest – check out your mattress first. Does it provide the right support, and do you look forward to jumping into bed? If not, maybe the time has come to invest in a new mattress as well as the next important step - treat yourself to a new, warm (best quality you can buy) quilt, with hotel quality bedding that means you just want to wrap yourself into it and snuggle down.

2. Start right - Getting to sleep is one thing, but starting right in the morning is also important. A new study has revealed that over half the UK struggle and admit to being irritable in the mornings. Because we are experiencing less sunlight, our brains aren’t always ready to wake up and this can mean sleep inertia for longer (foggy brain, to you and me). One way to help is with a dawn simulator alarm clock which glows and allows you to wake slowly. Exercising in the morning whether with a walk or yoga can also provide you with a shot of energy, elevating your metabolism and increasing blood flow to the brain and boosting endorphins (the happy chemical). Sometimes, a few stretches may be just enough to get you going.

Get social - 3. We all hear the call of the sofa on cold, dark evenings, but staying indoors every evening isn’t a recipe for health and happiness. When we are stressed or stretched, sometimes going out is the last thing we think we need and convince ourselves we won’t be good company. As our mood lowers with the season, relationships are even more vital as they offer social support, helping us get our heads straight during the long Winter months. Organizing a regular night out or joining a club or class creates a new routine that can be really beneficial in winter.

4. Develop soothing habits - Sometimes we tend to look at Winter as something we just get through, but for some animals it’s a time when they hibernate to protect themselves. Maybe we should take a leaf out of their book and see it as a time to show ourselves a bit of love and work on creating some new positive habits. Candlelit baths? We now know that immersing ourselves in water does amazing things to our neurotransmitters. Add even better, add some aromatherapy oils to re liven the senses. Did you know that cold water showers and cold-water swimming has just been proven to help alleviate depression? Also, there is a growing body of support now for mindfulness and meditation practise, both of which will make a great difference to your mental alertness. The Headspace App is worth looking at or try breathguru.com with easy to master breathing techniques that promise to quieten the voice in our heads and relieve tension.

5. Eat happy - So avocado salads and sprinkling chai seeds on your cereal may not quite cut it in winter, when all we need is some comfort food. What we really crave in the depths of winter is food that will enable great brain function and regulate our hormones. The most important place to start is gut health as there is a strong link between a healthy gut and our moods. Any imbalance in our gut flora can impair our ability to make serotonin which will have an immediate detrimental effect on our mood. One quick fix for this is to take a probiotic supplement, which will encourage friendly bacteria or nourish the gut with sauerkraut or cider vinegar. But a nicer way is eat foods high in prebiotics which feed our gut bugs - try winter squash or sweet potatoes. Oily fish (three portions a week if possible), are also important at this time of year which is essential for brain health, improving the cell to cell communication of happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin.

So, there you have it; five natural ways to beat the winter blues.

Go on, what have you got to lose?

Sally is the Founder of LifeBuddy. She is an Organisational Development consultant and is a Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology.