January can be a depressing time of the year after the fun and excitement of the holidays, and spring can still feel a long way off. Here we round up four ways to help you embrace the season for a happier and healthier start to the new year.
Make the most of daylight
A lack of daylight can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, which can affect many of us around the world experiencing shorter, darker days.
To help combat this depression try to get outdoors as much as possible to make the most of the daylight. Make an effort to get out of the office and take a walk at lunchtime or bundle up and head outdoors on the weekend. Just a few minutes of sunlight a day is also important for topping up levels of vitamin D, with sufficient levels previously linked to a reduced risk of colds and flu.
Eat a varied diet
If you're still struggling to get enough daylight then vitamin D levels can also be topped up with food. Try adding vitamin D-fortified foods into your diet such as milk and yogurt, as well as eggs and vitamin D-rich fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna and halibut. Thanks to also having a high level of omega 3, fish is also a good option for helping to combat SAD and regulate your mood. Tuck into walnuts, hazelnuts and even dark chocolate to boost levels of magnesium, which will help to fight tired and stress, and fill up on plenty of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Aim for as many different colors as possible to ensure you're getting a wide range of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy during the cold season.
Embrace winter activities
Take a cue from the Danes and follow their idea of "hygge." Usually translated into English as "coziness," it is said to be one of the reasons why the Danes are the happiest people in the world despite their long dark winters.
You can bring more hygge into your life by making the most of wintry days and nights with a cup of hot tea and a good book, embracing seasonal food and cooking warming and nourishing stews and soups, inviting friends over so you can stay social without needing to brace the cold, and by creating a cozy living space with good quality candles, dimmed lights, and luxurious blankets and throws. You might even find you start to enjoy the colder, darker days and an excuse to snuggle up at home!
Invest in a lightbox
If you're suffering from SAD, then light therapy can also be used to help lift seasonal depression. Using a light box, a device that emits a 10,000 lux of full-spectrum light to mimic sunlight, can make a real difference to our mood as we need a minimal amount of light each day.
For those who are thinking about investing in a lightbox, you will need to sit in front of it daily, usually in the morning, to simulate the sun rising and kickstart your circadian clock. Just 30 minutes a day for 6 weeks should give results, with some studies indicating that this non-invasive, non-toxic light can reduce SAD by over 50%.