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It’s a well-known affliction that when the days get shorter and darker, many of us start to feel lethargic and sad. Some people even experience feelings similar to depression, often referred to as SAD, aka Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Fighting these low moods and energies can feel tricky when you look out of the window at 4pm and the overcast darkness matches your emotions. It’s true that sunlight signals to your body that it’s time to get up and look lively.
Without sunlight, lively is the opposite to how we’re feeling. We feel sluggish because our body is confused. Are we not meant to be asleep right now? Is it not the night time?
Then it becomes a vicious circle. In the winter months, people have packed schedules during party season (the lead-up to Christmas) and a tendency to overindulge. We crave comfort foods which a lot of the time aren’t actually that good for us, and we can eat like we’re going into hibernation (which we pretty much are).
Lethargy leads to a lack of interest in doing your usual hobbies, and less energy means less exercise. The result is a lower mood when we don’t have all those feel-good endorphins rushing around our body.
The truth is that we are much more likely to entertain our unhealthy habits in these dark months. But this does not help us get out of our vicious circle.
Here are 10 ways to have your most energetic winter yet. No more winter blues please!
1. Stay Hydrated.
We become dehydrated often before feeling thirsty, and when we feel tired, you might just need a refreshing glass of water. Drinking adequate amounts of water manages all bodily functions, including energy. So the next time that afternoon slump hits, water could help to wake you up. The recommended daily intake of water is 3.7 litres for the average adult male and 2.7 litres for the average adult female. The smallest amount of dehydration can affect your energy, concentration, mood and the health of internal organs. So drink up!
2. Use bright lights to help wake you up in the dark mornings and to feel more energised throughout the day.
Light therapy is a treatment that is often used for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that is associated with the darker, colder seasons, leading to low mood and energy levels, as well as other symptoms of depression. However, some people find that they experience SAD in reverse, experiencing symptoms in the summer instead.
You can use a light therapy box which is often recommended for this disorder, but you don’t have to experience SAD to benefit. You can also use Full Spectrum and Daylight bulbs. This replicate natural daylight to help reduce tiredness and eye strain. Anyone will benefit from getting more light in the colder, darker months.
3. Build up your immune system with the right nutrition.
The last thing you want to do is get sick, but the cold and flu virus is very common in the winter months, as the cold and dark, and the temptation to revert to unhealthy comfort foods, means that this is a time many people get sick and run down. This means eating lots of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, nuts and seeds to boost your immune system and provide it with the nourishment it needs to fight off those nasty bugs.
You might also want to try using an immune boosting supplement to fight off a cold occurring. Echinacea is a flowering plant that grows in the USA and Canada and is commonly used to treat and prevent cold and flu symptoms. For more immune boosting nutritional power, you can also try Fushi’s ‘The Best Superfood Berry Blend’ in your smoothie, sprinkled on your fruit, or on your cereal. This is packed with a blend of berries and antioxidant power to combat free radicals and fight off illness.
4. Take a hot bath to relax and rejuvenate.
If taken at night, you can relax your muscles and senses by using Epsom salts and calming essential oils. Epsom salts are magnesium rich, so soaking in them can boost the levels of magnesium in your body, as well as relax aching, tense muscles. This prepares your body for a deeper, better quality sleep.
Combine this with essential oils such as lavender, chamomile and frankincense, known to calm the nervous system, and you’re on to having a sleep that is restful and will boost your energy for the following day.
5. Keep exercising despite the cold.
Many people struggle with energy levels during the winter, and therefore the motivation to exercise is much less. Push through lower energy levels and cold weather to keep exercising, as not exercising at all can potentially make your energy levels even worse. Doing an exercise that truly brings you joy and doesn’t fill you with dread helps.
6. Take an adaptogenic herbal supplement to manage anxiety and stress levels.
When we become stressed, frazzled and anxious, our immune system weakens and we can experience higher levels of fatigue and poorer sleep. An adaptogenic herb like ashwagandha can potentially really help.
Ashwagandha is thought to promote better sleep and reduce cortisol levels to lower the impact of stress on the body. With a mild sedative-like effect, it can relax the body for a deeper sleep. It has also been shown to improve energy levels and be helpful for those with fatigue-related conditions.
7. Declutter your spaces.
When mess and clutter covers our rooms, it can cloud and weigh down our minds too. This can affect our energy, mood and motivation in turn. They say a tidy room is a tidy mind, and it’s true that when you go through all that ‘stuff’ you don’t need, it’s almost like a weight has lifted and you can feel liberated and energised. They say that we hold on to clutter we don’t use or need because we are either holding on to the past or future, when really, we need to be living in the present moment as much as possible to enjoy true wellbeing and peace.
Decluttering your space and only keeping the belongings you truly value can improve your relationship with money and spending, as in the future you will be less likely to buy that new top that you know will be just another top that you won’t wear. Because why would you want to sacrifice the way your new decluttered space makes you feel?
8. If you can, take a 20 to 30-minute power nap at midday or early afternoon.
This can give your energy levels a quick boost by alertness and performance without leaving you with a groggy feeling. This can be beneficial if you struggle with your energy levels throughout the day. The benefits of the power nap have been studied and there are different benefits for different nap lengths.
Humans sleep only once a day but scientists are uncertain as to whether we are naturally pre-disposed this way or if we are monophasic because of the constructs of society. Napping can improve our mood, fatigue levels, creative problem solving, perceptual learning, reaction times and logical reasoning. It can also be beneficial for our stress levels, blood pressure, heart and weight management. You might want to incorporate the power nap into your schedule to reap these benefits and gain more energy.
9. Get plenty of sleep.
In addition to naps, a regular bedtime routine and the correct sleep hygiene can ensure a great night’s sleep to keep your energy levels higher during winter. In the Western world, we are chronically sleep deprived. Most of us don’t get enough adequate sleep, and this is detrimental to our long term health and daily lives. You can also take magnesium or as mentioned before, an adaptogen herb like ashwagandha.
Maintaining correct sleep hygiene includes not looking at blue light emitting screens and going to bed at the same time each night to be in tune with your circadian rhythm so that your body naturally fall asleep more easily. Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake in the afternoon can also help you fall off quicker and improve the quality of sleep. Creating a specific bedtime routine that works for you can be helpful. You might want to incorporate yoga, a bath, or reading a fiction book as the markers to tell your body it’s time for sleep.
It’s recommended that you get 8 hours of sleep each night. This is easier said than done with our fast-paced lifestyles, but prioritising this can really boost both short and long-term health.
10. Prioritise self-care and seeing friends and family.
Make time to relax and do the things you love and enjoy. Set aside a little bit of time each day for self-care so that both your mental and physical wellbeing can be prioritised above anything else. Remember that friends and family – our social support network – can be great at alleviating stress, improving depression and anxiety, and strengthening the sense of joy and connection in our lives, which is vital to our wellbeing. And let’s face it – spending time with our favourite people is what life is all about.
The Blue Zones of the world are five regions where they have the most centenarians still living with good health. These places all do different things that influences their longevity, but one thing they all have in common is that they all place value on connection with others and spending time with friends and family. Our social network is vital to our health and can really improve our mood and sense of vitality in these upcoming winter months! So cherish your loved ones!
You can try adding these tips to your lifestyle one at a time, or all at once! Whatever works for you as an individual is always the best option. Sometimes when we focus on adding one good thing at a time, it can prevent us from getting overwhelmed and help us to develop a habit until it becomes second nature. But this might not work for you, and you might be too excited to try all of these tips. We hope they make a difference and that your winter is full of energy, cosy nights, fun and feelings of wellbeing!
Written by Jess Burman
BA (Honours) in Writing