Winter blues and low energy? Reclaim your health
Winter Blues (including lethargy) are typical signs of low exposure to daylight, the consequent lower levels of vitamin D, and the lowering of the metabolism due to an increased intake of fats and sugars that we may need to consume to keep warm and carry on functioning until spring comes. Humans are mammals and, like other mammals who hibernate in the winter time, we need to store fats and nutrients to keep us functioning in those months where historically food was less available and metabolism automatically lowered to a physiological minimal level (Martin 2008).
As our modern lives do not allow us to hibernate or just rest during the winter months, it is important that we maintain vitality but also allow ourselves to take plenty of rest (relaxation and sleep) to honour our natural need to slow down in the winter time. Each of us is a unique human being, but here are 10 tips to help you feeling positive and help with traversing winter in optimum health and mood. Feel free to choose whichever resonate best with you.
10 Ways to Boost Energy and Feel Functional in Winter
1. Make sure you go out for walks in the sunshine when it is possible. Winter daylight and sunshine will help you feel more energetic and positive. Blue light (daylight) has been proven to help with feeling more awake due to the way it is perceived and interpreted by the receptors connected to vision. If you work in an office for many hours, install or ask for lighting that provides blue light (Viola et al. 2008).
2. Test your levels of Vitamin D, and if lower than 52micrograms/Lt consider taking supplements or eating more foods rich in vitamin D. In some regions GPs tests for vitamin D. If not a private test costs in the region of £35.
3. Have a high enough intake of omega-3 fatty acids. They help with optimal levels of vitamin D, bone profile and density. They are anti-inflammatory and vital help for a healthy nervous system. Vitamin D has also been proven to help minimise the risk of cardio-vascular disease (Zittermann et al. 2005).
4. Avoid stressors like coffee, refined sugars and opt instead for seasonal vegetables in rainbow salads and stews, lightly stir-fried or steamed. Rainbow vegetables (make sure each colour of the rainbow is present in your plates) give you plenty of anti-oxidants and botanicals. They also help you with optimum fibre intake.
5. Hydrate yourself thoroughly. 6-8 glasses (200ml per glass) of water per day will help feeling hydrated and cleanse your urinary tract. Reduce caffeinated drinks (coffee, black tea and coke or fizzy drinks).
6. Opt for mono-unsaturated (avocado oil, rape-seed oil, or extra virgin olive oil and poly-unsaturated (vegetable oils, nut oils) fats and make sure you preserve them in optimal condition (away from the light and in cool dry store places) (Sircar 1998). Coconut oil is also beneficial and has been associated with good (HDH) cholesterol in menopausal women (Feranil 2011). It’s best to opt for a variety of oils.
7. Only cook with fats that do not turn into trans-fats: coconut oil (saturated but doesn’t reach burning point), olive oil and rapeseed oil. Avoid putting foods that have been washed and are still wet into hot oil – instead dry your food and stir-fry them in warm oil. Do not fry or sauté with vegetable oils - they turn into trans-fats. Avoid barbecued foods (Geogaris 1991).
8. Make sure you consume adequate portions of foods containing both soluble and insoluble fibre. Fibre is fundamental for our large intestines to maintain a good and healthy bacterial flora, and to promote production of vitamin B complex. Also, consume plenty of foods promoting intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C should not be taken in huge doses through supplements (Gale 1995), but it is best to take it through foods.
9. Start exercising. Exercise, including resistance work (hill walking, yoga, wight-lift and pilates) and cardio-vascular workout have been proven to help to raise mood and vitality. If you can choose between using stairs or a lift, use stairs. However, do not exercise in the evening as it may promote insomnia.
10. Get plenty of sleep. The best hours to sleep for our cellular regeneration are 10:30pm to 7am. Make sure you sleep in a completely dark room and try not to use your bedroom for watching TV - exposure to blue light [screens] before bedtime has been associated with insomnia and poor sleep (Landers 2009).
Feranil, Alan B., et al. "Coconut oil predicts a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines." Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 20.2 (2011): 190.
Gale, Catharine R., et al. "Vitamin C and risk of death from stroke and coronary heart disease in cohort of elderly people." Bmj 310.6994 (1995): 1563-1566.
Geogaris, Robert S. "Barbacue grill with water-filled fat-collecting trough." U.S. Patent No. 5,044,266. 3 Sep. 1991.
Landers, John A., David Tamblyn, and Don Perriam. "Effect of a blue-light-blocking intraocular lens on the quality of sleep." Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery 35.1 (2009): 83-88.
Martin, Sandra L. "Mammalian hibernation: a naturally reversible model for insulin resistance in man?." Diabetes and Vascular Disease Research 5.2 (2008): 76-81.
Sircar, S., and U. Kansra. "Choice of cooking oils--myths and realities." Journal of the Indian Medical Association 96.10 (1998): 304-307.
Viola, Antoine U., et al. "Blue-enriched white light in the workplace improves self-reported alertness, performance and sleep quality." Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health (2008): 297-306.
Zittermann, Armin, Stefanie S. Schleithoff, and Reiner Koerfer. "Putting cardiovascular disease and vitamin D insufficiency into perspective." British Journal of Nutrition 94.04 (2005): 483-492.