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Beating the winter blues

Well, fellas, winter is almost upon us. And while the chilly season brings a certain charm, it can also cast a frosty shadow on our moods – especially given how summer short-changed us this year. But if you've had enough of this weather before it's even begun, worry not! Because we've got the ultimate guide to helping you beat those winter blues. So, grab a hot cuppa, rug up, and let's dive right in!

1. Pump up the heat . . . and those endorphins.

When winter hits, it's tempting to hibernate under a blanket and binge-watch your favourite shows. But while Ted Lasso often delivers the happy feels, breaking a sweat can do wonders for your mood, energy levels, and overall well-being. To up your odds of sticking to an exercise routine, make sure to find a fitness fad that suits you – be it hitting the gym, joining a local sports team, strapping on your running shoes, or trying out some winter sports like skiing or snowboarding. Exercise will get your blood pumping and those happy hormones flowing and keep you in tip-top shape for when summer does finally arrive.

2. Soak up the sunshine . . . even on a gloomy day.

During the winter, our exposure to sunlight tends to diminish – along with our vitamin D levels. A lack of vitamin D is believed to contribute to low moods, with studies finding lower serum vitamin D levels in depressed individuals. While vitamin D is found naturally in foods like salmon, mackerel, and sardines – and in vitamin D-fortified cereals and milk – the easiest way to get vitamin D is through good old-fashioned sunlight. So, even on those cloudy days, make it a point to soak up what little sunshine is available. Take a break during lunchtime, step outside on the weekends, and let those rays work their magic. If the sun is feeling particularly shy, consider boosting your vitamin D intake through supplements or vitamin D-rich foods.

3. Warm your heart . . . with some social interaction.

In winter, it's easy to become a hermit – only venturing out for work or replenishing your snack stash. But while it can feel like a good idea to stay home and stuff yourself with pizza, what we really need to feel good is a bit of human companionship. Human connection is vital for our well-being, even when it's chilly outside. So, call up your buddies, organise game nights, or hit the local pub for a pint with the boys. Embrace the cold by attending winter-themed events or taking up a new hobby like ice hockey. Friends, family, and laughter can thaw even the iciest of hearts. Plus, you'll have some epic stories to share when spring rolls around.

4. Rest your weary bones . . . and get a good night's sleep.

Winter can wreak havoc on our sleeping patterns, leading to groggy mornings and gloomy days. Worst still, substandard slumber can impact our mental health – making it more challenging to cope with everyday stressors and affecting our ability to perceive situations accurately. While it is tempting to sleep in on a cold winter's morning – or stay up late binging shows from under a blanket – it's essential not to let Jack Frost mess with your shut-eye. Establish a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Create a sleep-friendly environment by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and free from distractions. And if you need an extra dose of cosiness, treat yourself to a new set of sheets or a plush blanket. Don't forget that a good night's sleep is critical to keeping the blues at bay.

5. Eat yourself happy . . . with nourishing foods.

Winter is the season of comfort eating, but don't let it become an excuse for unhealthy habits. Nourish your body with wholesome, nutrient-rich foods that keep your energy levels up and your mood in check. Add winter vegetables like pumpkin, spinach, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes to hearty soups or deliciously warm stews and casseroles. While greasy refined carbohydrates like pizza and garlic bread might make you happy in the short term, they can spike your blood sugars, making you feel sluggish and tired. Instead, try swapping refined carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates such as broccoli, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, beans, and lentils. And remember to hydrate (with water!).

6. Think like a Scandinavian . . . and embrace winter.

In Scandinavia countries such as Norway and Denmark, people often practice the concept of 'hygge'. Pronounced 'hue-gah', hygge is about embracing winter as a time to slow down, spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy the present moment, and focus on the positives that winter brings. Whether it's savouring a hot chocolate, making s'mores with the kids, sitting by a roaring fire, or soaking in a hot bath, embrace the frosty season and create moments of happiness.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, winter blues can get the better of us. When that happens, remember that it's okay to ask for help. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member and share what you're going through. Seek professional guidance if needed. Remember, strength lies in recognising when we need support and taking steps to get it.