Richard Sambridge and his team from The Natural Way give their top wellbeing tips to help brighten up even the darkest day…
The clocks went back on the 28 October and for many that meant an extra hour of slumber. For some however, the shorter days and longer dark nights herald a reduction in sleep and energy, and a general feeling of being ‘down in the dumps’.
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short is usually diagnosed if symptoms occur for at least two winters in a row, with remission in the spring months. It is referred to as seasonal because it is mostly triggered by a lack of sunlight during the darker months.
Insufficient sunlight can affect our levels of serotonin, the so-called happy hormone responsible for our sense of wellbeing, and melatonin, which is responsible for normal sleeping patterns. Low mood, lack of concentration and energy and difficulty sleeping are some of the most common symptoms.
Happily, there are a number of steps you can take to help lessen the effects.
Get out and about as much as possible. Early morning exercise can help to improve your mood for the rest of the day thanks to the ‘feel good’ endorphins it helps to release.
If you can’t always be out, light therapy will give you a source of natural light indoors. Typically there are several devices to choose from including light boxes and dawn simulators, which mimic a sunrise to wake you gradually.
Diet is also important. Mood-friendly foods include fish, turkey, chicken, beans, avocados, bananas, protein and wheatgerm as they help the body to produce more serotonin. Whole foods such as grains, root vegetables and fresh fruit will give you a welcome boost of energy and foods rich in omega 3s, such as fish and seeds, can help to support general brain health. Oat-based cereals (porridge especially) are a great way to start the day because they are an excellent source of B vitamins. The B vits are important because they help to convert food into energy, and deficiency has been linked directly to low mood, so well worth topping up.
Vitamin D is also important; it is naturally produced in the body when exposed to sunlight and so deficiency in winter is common. Fish and eggs are good food sources.
Herbal remedies can also help. For trouble sleeping try Valerian; it is recognised for its calming action and is thought to inhibit the breakdown of GABA, a chemical transmitter that enables you to ‘cross over’ into sleep.
A perfect partner to Valerian is Hops as it exerts a gentle sedative action on the nervous system.
For feelings of sluggishness, low mood or mild anxiety there’s St. John’s Wort or Hypericum. Scientists believe it works by prolonging the action of serotonin and by increasing levels of melatonin. Hyperiforce tablets can help but bear in mind that Hypericum can take up to six weeks for best results, and it can interact with other medications and affect the way they work, so isn’t suitable for everyone. Check with your GP first if on prescribed medicines.
If Hypericum is not for you, Passiflora, which has been used for centuries as a mild sedative and to help prolong sleep time, can also help alleviate mild anxiety.
The Natural Way Health Food Store is an independent family run business that has been helping Braintree stay healthy for over 35 years.
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