Beat the Winter Blues: Boost Your Mood and Energy in Autumn and Winter
Written by Moynul Hazari
As autumn and winter embrace the UK, shorter days and longer nights become the norm. With less daylight, it's easy to feel the impact on your mood and energy levels. Many of us may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that often accompanies reduced daylight. But even if you haven't been diagnosed with SAD, you might find yourself experiencing lower moods and less energy during the cooler months.
While you can't change the seasons or add more daylight hours, there are proactive steps you can take through dietary adjustments and supplements to help your body adapt. It's not just about what you eat and supplement; it's also about when you eat and cultivating healthy habits.
So, what you're aiming for is a diet that supports your mood and energy, optimises sleep, and aligns with the changing seasons.
Dietary Strategies: Nourishing your mood and energy
Let's explore which foods should be at the forefront of your diet:
Mood-boosting foods: Fruits and vegetables
Aim for a diverse array of fruits and vegetables. Higher levels of dietary antioxidants are linked to a reduced risk of depression [source].
Balancing blood glucose: Whole grains
Whole grains are a rich source of dietary fibre, helping regulate blood glucose levels, which influence your energy and mood positively.
Support from lean proteins
Incorporate foods like beans, peas, and lentils. Dietary protein intake is associated with increased production of neurotransmitters [source].
Supplementing wisely: Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D
Consider omega-3 fatty acids, linked to reducing symptoms of depression and enhancing brain function. For plant-based diets, supplement with algal oil for easily metabolised omega-3. Studies show that Vitamin D, crucial for brain function and mood improvement, can also be supplemented to help with SAD symptoms [source], especially when natural sunlight is scarce.
Meal timing and healthy habits
Meal timing and habit-forming play a pivotal role in managing mood and energy levels:
- Aim for a 12-hour eating window to optimise blood sugars and insulin sensitivity.
- Avoid late-night snacking or consuming alcohol late at night, which can negatively impact sleep, digestion, and metabolism.
- A post-dinner walk is beneficial for blood sugar regulation, digestion, and sleep.
Embracing seasonal foods and spices
Include seasonal foods like butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, apples, and pears to enhance your antioxidant intake.
Incorporate spices like cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, chilli powder, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, and harissa into your meals. These spices elevate the flavour of healthy dishes, providing comfort and warmth even on the chilliest days.
Conclusion: Thriving in the darker months
In conclusion, to better adapt to the shorter days and reduced daylight exposure in autumn and winter, consider making dietary adjustments, focusing on when you eat, and exploring supplementation options. These strategies can significantly contribute to maintaining a positive mood and high energy levels during the UK's darker months.