It is raining in Epping. Lots. The evenings are dark and some of our regular evening Pilates participants are struggling to leave their cosy homes for class.
It’s chilly enough for most of us to consider putting the heating on and seek out our woollens, thermals and socks.
The sudden onset of grey, autumn days also means it’s time to take action against the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s thought most of us get it, to some degree and when you look at the scientific reasons why, well it makes a lot of sense why we get it and also how we can prevent it.
The shorter days and longer nights play havoc with our hormones. Our sleepy melatonin and happy/awake serotonin get confused, leading to that ‘duvet day’ mentality. When daylight saving time starts we lose motivation for doing ‘stuff’ and when the lack of light during the day coupled with wet weather encourage us to hobbit ourselves away, our get up and go gets up and leaves.
The other cheeky little hormone that mucks with our settings is cortisol, the stress hormone. Working late at night or eating sugar/drinking coffee to make us feel better can disrupt our stress hormone. It’s suppose to be high in the morning to make us alert and motivated and wanes at night for sleep time. If you’re buzzing at night and dozy in the morning it’s quite likely yours is out of whack.
We muck up our snooze settings even further by filling our senses with lots of blue light and stimulation, otherwise known as TVs, computers and PDAs. This new fangled gadgetry messes with our old fangled biochemistry to leave us sleep deprived and grumpy.
And then, when the sun hasn’t got its hat on we also miss out on that precious feel good vitamin D. Our bodies struggle to synthesise it from food so by far the best source is sunshine.
Fascinating fact: did you know that diseases which have been linked with vitamin D deficiency, like rickets and Multiple Sclerosis do not exist own countries near the equator? The sun gets weaker as we move further away from the equator (stands to reason), in fact it’s thought that north of Birmingham the sun is never strong enough to give you your RDA of vitamin D. Sorry northern folk
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
- The most important thing to remember is to take pre-emptive action. Once you’re down and depressed it’s going to be harder to motivate your sorry self into activity. So make exercise your medicine from late September to March.
- It might be dark out there but there is some light. Make the most of it by getting outside, whenever you can. For a walk, a jog, a play in the park.
- Exercise boosts your serotonin levels and intense exercise boosts your cortisol too. So work out in the mornings.
- Switch off all blue light emitting equipment at least half an hour before bed. Dim the lights and snuggle up with a book instead.
- Eat right. I’ve written about this before in mood food but put simply, this means ditching sugar, stimulants and processed foods and eating plenty of good quality protein and vegetables. Your brain needs protein to create serotonin and melatonin so if it’s already struggling in winter, give it a helping hand with hearty casseroles and soups.
- Eat lots of omega oil rich foods or take a supplement. This is again for your brain’s biochemistry balance. A supplement is fine, our whole family takes this one http://www.alimentnutrition.co.uk/Omega-3-Fish-Oils/c-1-71/ , it tastes of orange so you don’t get cod breath.
- Consider a vitamin D supplement in winter. Recommendations vary as to how much you need and the darker your skin, the more you need. You can read the government recommendations here http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Vitamin-D.aspx. Our family uses this spray http://www.alimentnutrition.co.uk/Vitamins-&-Minerals/Vitamin-D-Spray/p-69-209/.