By: Lara Somervell – HR Coordinator, Careerforce

Lara is Careerforce’s in-house HR and yoga guru

Winter mornings are dark and cold. And with less time outside and reduced exposure to the sun, it can leave you feeling less than excited to get out of bed – even if you love your work.

So how can we beat the winter blues, and increase our happiness and health without too much extra effort? Check out these 5 easy ways below.

1. Boost your mood with food! 

Vitamin D is essential to great health and in winter it can be harder to maintain adequate levels. When your skin is exposed to the sun, it starts producing Vitamin D which is responsible for helping you to absorb calcium in your diet and contributes to overall wellbeing including mental health. As the sun is weaker in the winter, you may need to consume Vitamin D, rather than just relying on infrequent sun exposure to get it. Vitamin D can be found in some foods like oily fish, liver, fortified dairy, and eggs.

 

Get some Vitamin D

In winter, we generally feel like eating more, and this usually means we turn to hot and comforting foods to make us feel good. But there are some foods that have the power to make us feel better than others, and these are foods which contain tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid which can help to boost your levels of serotonin (the neurotransmitter responsible for your mood, appetite and sleep) and which can help you to feel happier. Bananas, walnuts, oily fish, oats, cheese, tofu, chicken, and dark chocolate are great mood enhancing foods. So try adding them into your diet to reap the rewards.

2. Move more   

 

There are so many videos and apps out there now which offer free exercise programmes, so moving more doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Sworkit is a free app for android phones which offers short exercise videos.

Whilst going outside may not seem that appealing when it’s cold and wet, take advantage of fine days when you can and take a walk with a friend (this will also help with increasing your Vitamin D levels). Alternatively, build some short bursts of movement into your day. Find some stairs to climb or get on YouTube and find an exercise video that you like that you can do at home or at work. Persuade a colleague to go for a walk at lunch or do some stretching if you tend to sit a lot.

3. Be mindful  

 

Mindfulness can help you to switch into relaxation mode after work and prepare you for sleep. But it can also be a great way to start your day on the right foot by helping to improve your focus. To learn more about how to practise mindfulness, check out Headspace or Meditation Oasis which are apps you can try for free.

You will have heard a lot of buzz about mindfulness recently and there’s a reason it’s getting popular. Even taking just 10 minutes in your day to stop, focus on your breath, and calm your thoughts, can increase your resilience and sense of calmness. Mindfulness is about bringing your attention back to the present moment, breathing in a conscious way and about acknowledging your thoughts without getting stuck on them.

4. Plan something or do something new  

 

Learning something new can also increase the happiness and satisfaction we feel with our lives. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in winter, but trying something you haven’t done before can be a great way to break routine. The GrabOne and Event Finder websites can be a good place to start to find out about upcoming events and to get good deals on activities.

When we have something to look forward to it can help to increase our motivation. Winter can seem long when we spend a lot of time inside, so planning something (a holiday or weekend away) can give us focus and help to remind us that it won’t last forever! Plan small highlights for yourself each week, even if it’s just trying a new café or restaurant, going for a drive locally to somewhere you haven’t explored before, or making time to do something just for yourself!

5. Practice gratitude and be generous

 

Acknowledging the things that you are grateful for regularly has been shown to have a positive effect on mood. Similarly, doing something kind for someone else whether it be an act of service or buying a colleague a coffee, can increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Perhaps you could make it part of your morning routine to think about 3 things you are grateful for each day, or set yourself the task of doing something kind for someone else each week, without expecting anything in return.

 

Keep warm and keep well. Beat the winter blues!

 

About the author

Lara takes weekly yoga class for Careerforce staff. She has an interest in nutrition and holistic health approaches and learned about the basics of nutrition and physiology during her study. She has a science degree majoring in Psychology from Massey University.

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