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6 tips to optimise your health during the shorter, colder, darker days of winter

the dark days of winter

The shortest day of the year is December 21st (known as the Winter solstice) but even after that the nights can seem long, the days are cold, often wet and sunshine is scarce.  An extreme form of feeling blue and fed up is called Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) and it tends to occur in winter when there is not much sunshine. The NHS reckons it affects approximately one in 15 people in the UK between September and April. So, what can you do to avoid scurrying back under the duvet and avoid feeling fed up or even depressed?

 

  1. Get as much natural sunshine as possible
    Try to get 10 or 15 minutes outside around midday, when the sun is at its strongest- it can still have a positive effect, even with a bit of cloud.  Maybe try and take a lunchtime walk to get a vitamin D top-up.
  2. Take a Vitamin D Supplement
    So many diseases are linked with low vitamin D levels, including depression .  For this reason it’s a very good idea to take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months as it is difficult to get enough sunshine in the UK and food sources of vitamin D are not widespread. Health expert recommend that a 10 mcg (400iu) should be taken by adults and children during the autumn and winter months.  Babies and children up to 4 years old should take it all year round.  There is no need to exceed this dose unless recommended by a health professional. 
  3. Get Some Exercise
    Exercise can release endorphins which can help lift mood; doing some activity during the day also gives you more energy helps avoid those winter foods settling around your middle  Regular exercise generally helps to ward off depression as well as warding off other diseased such as heart disease and cancer. Indeed If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.
  4. Eat to beat low moods
    What this actually means is eat a balanced diet containing all the food groups.  Keep your energy levels high by eating some slow release wholegrain carbs with each meal.  Although you may crave carbs this time of year there is no need to go mad; and avoid sugary foods that can give instant energy but leave you feeling slumped after an hour or so.  Don’t forget to get at least 5 helpings of fruit and veg so you get the and micronutrients that can help fight colds as well as depression. 
  5. Avoid over-boozing
    Its tempting to spend time in a pub when its cold out and over imbibing during the festive season, but alcohol in excess will lay you low both physical and mentally, so stick to the limits!
  6. Wash your hands regularly
    Hand washing helps to avoid the spread of colds, flu and other diseases.  So, wash them regularly especially when you have been about and about.  Remember that  to have an effective wash, you must spend 45 seconds at the sink with soap, ensuring to interlock your fingers, rub the backs and palms of your hands and even your thumbs.

 

Finally, don’t forget to get your flu-jabs.  It really is worth it!