The merriment of Christmas and New Year are long gone. In January the days are short and cold and spring still seems a long way off, so it’s not surprising that even the most energetic and positive among us feel a little sluggish at this time of year.
‘Blue Monday’ is supposedly the ‘most depressing day of the year’. Originally calculated in 2005, Professor Cliff Arnall from Cardiff University factored in weather conditions, debt levels and failed New Year’s resolutions into his equation.
No concrete studies have proven that ‘Blue Monday’ actually exists, but it is a fact that people do suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at this time of year. The NHS describes SAD as a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern, with symptoms tending to be more severe during the winter months.
The NHS advises that if you think you might be suffering from SAD, you should speak to your GP. However, by making a few positive changes to your lifestyle, you can take steps to help beat the January blues.
Boost your mood with vitamin D
Our skin largely manufactures this vital vitamin through exposure to sunlight and during the dark winter months, many of us aren’t getting our recommended daily dose. We can all up our intake of vitamin D by incorporating certain foods into our diets. Eggs and fish such as sardines, herrings and salmon are all good sources of it. Not only does topping up on vitamin D help to improve your mood, it can also help strengthen the immune system and keep bones and teeth healthy.
Get enough Omega-3
Low levels of Omega-3 are thought to contribute to low moods and increased doses have been found to help treat some types of depression. Sources of this essential fatty acid include oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, walnuts and flaxseeds, so keep a look out for these types of foods when you next visit the supermarket.
During the cold winter months, many people turn to stodgy high-carbohydrate foods which can be very comforting as they make you feel warmer when you eat them. However, rather than reaching for high-glycaemic index carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes and white bread, it’s advisable to opt for low-glycaemic index carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables and seeds instead.
The glycaemic index (GI) was originally designed for people with diabetes to help them get their blood sugar levels under control, but it can be a useful guide for anyone planning a healthy diet. The lower the GI score, the slower that food releases energy into the body. Try to replace your plates of pasta, white bread and mashed potato with foods like wholemeal pitta bread, sweet potatoes and sugar-free muesli.
By the end of January, many people find that the novelty of that new gym membership is starting to wear off. However, it’s vital to maintain a regular exercise routine as it releases the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin into the body, which is a chemical that researchers say is responsible for maintaining mood balance.
It may be chilly outside, but there are many fun activities you can engage in indoors, such as swimming, yoga, badminton and aerobics. If you fancy trying something a bit different, read our blog on alternative exercises to the gym.
If your resolve for maintaining a healthy eating and exercise regime starts to wane, keep reminding yourself of your goals. Above all else, they need to be realistic so that they see you through dreary January and beyond! Planning smaller milestones and mini successes to help keep you on track can make your goals seem more achievable so they aren’t too overwhelming.
By making these small positive steps to your lifestyle they can help you overcome the January blues and improve your overall health and wellbeing. Another positive step you can make is to have a health care cash plan from Sovereign Health Care. Cover starts from just £2.52 per week and you can claim money back towards a range of everyday health care costs including glasses, contact lenses, dental treatment, physiotherapy and much more. For more information click here.