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5 easy ways to beat the winter blues

Top New Year resolutions usually involve a plan to lose weight, making January a month of restrictions (and misery!).  But in the winter months, shift your focus to replenishing instead of restricting to get the results you’re after- and actually enjoy it!

#1 Eat more protein

Protein is usually associated with building and repairing muscles but it’s also essential to make brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.  One such neurotransmitter is serotonin, the happy hormone, which helps improve your mood.  Serotonin is also required to make melatonin-a calming neurotransmitter that helps us to sleep.  So eating more protein is a win-win to help lift your spirits.

#2 Exercise

Exercising releases endorphins, chemicals in the body that make us feel good.  But the intensity of the exercise is a key factor on endorphin release.  Endorphins are a stress response released to reduce pain.  So to release endorphins, you need to exercise at a high enough intensity to feel some discomfort!  Too much pain is of course, not a good thing, so it’s important to listen to your body and make sure that you’re pushing yourself to the level that you’re at. And endorphins don’t work alone.  Your body releases serotonin before endorphins, giving you a double dose of happy hormones.

#3 Get your Omega 3’s

Omega 3’s are essential fatty acids that play a large role in brain function.  They contain the chemicals EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) both of which are in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.  Studies have found that individuals with anxiety and depression have low levels of Omega 3.  To obtain adequate amounts, it’s recommended that oily fish should be eaten 2-3 times a week.  However, for vegetarians, vegans or those who just don’t like oily fish, this can be difficult. There are also concerns about the levels of toxins in some fish due to environmental pollutants.  If eating oily fish is difficult for you, you may choose to take a supplement but do check the label and ensure that it contains 600-700mg of EPA and DHA combined.

#4 Eat comforting foods 

No, that doesn’t mean reach for cakes or a packet of biscuits!  Foods grow seasonally for a reason and winter is the time for root vegetables which give us energy and the nutrients we need for the cold, dark days.  Think parsnips, swede, carrots, beetroot, celeriac and sweet potatoes.  Try roasting them and mix with a grain such as couscous, bulgur wheat or pearl barley or put in warming stews for a nutritious lunch or dinner.

#5 Get a good night’s sleep

Easier said than done but a lack of sleep can play havoc with your mood, hormones and appetite, increasing cravings for high carb, sugary foods.  With the increased use of mobile phones and technology, it can be difficult to mentally switch off.  This can then impact on your sleep leaving you needing stimulants to help you stay awake and feel alert.  Which of course then perpetuates the cycle.  To find out how you can improve your sleep, read my 6 top tips to getting a better night’s sleep.

 

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