With Christmas now behind us and autumn a distant memory, we’ve finally been left in winter’s icy hold amidst another lockdown.
For many people, these factors can lead to some unhealthy habits such as becoming less active, always staying indoors where it’s warm or craving comfort food.
We tend to develop a lower level of happiness when it’s cold, wet and dark. As a result we lean towards ‘comfort foods’ by a desire to cheer ourselves up.
What we eat and how much physical activity we complete have massive effects on our mental wellbeing.
Keep moving and get outdoors
The World Health Organisation recommends that adults have a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week. For some of us, this might seem tricky to achieve, but taking a brisk walk which raises your heart rate contributes towards these 150 minutes.
By getting outdoors, your vitamin D levels rise. Sunlight hitting the skin begins a process that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D. Many studies suggest that this vitamin helps fight certain conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks.
Plus, light often elevates people’s mood, and there’s usually more light available outside than indoors.
Food cravings and the need to feel happy
For many people, the winter months and self isolation can bring on a bout of seasonal depression. These people find it hard to cope with the darker nights and shorter days, suffering from low motivation and increased anxiety. The cause is often attributed to the neurotransmitter serotonin which, in low levels, has been suggested as a contributor to depression.
Eating high fat, high carb foods has been shown to increase the levels of serotonin in the body, causing temporary feelings of happiness. Omega-3 rich foods, such as oily fish, are good for boosting serotonin, as is dark chocolate in moderation, so these are a good choice to raise those happy feelings.
When you feel exhausted, depressed, stressed or anxious, the chances are you wouldn’t consider that your digestive system, or a food you’ve eaten, could have anything to do with it. But the gut and our emotions are linked.
Don’t feel guilty about those extra winter comfort foods, as long as they are a treat rather than a daily occurrence! And remember to embrace the cold and get out for a winter walk or a snowball fight (weather permitting!)
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