6 TIPS TO KEEP HAPPY AS THE NIGHTS DRAW IN
Winter is here, so I thought it might be useful to share with you six simple and effective tips to keep happy as the nights draw in.
As the year draws to a close so do the number of daylight hours we see. The difficulty with the shorter days and longer nights is that it can affect our mood. This time of year is often romanticised as cosy and intimate, and yet the reality for many is that we feel more tired and in a lower spirits. During the winter months we can feel less energetic and less like the best version of ourselves. We crave the freedom and independence the summer months and sun give us to be outside and be warm for more hours of the day. We miss the energy and enthusiasm we shared during the sunshine days.
The science behind this shift in energy and feelings is well researched and documented, and relates to our levels of hormones serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical which helps regulate many of our bodily functions including mood and the regulation of melatonin. Serotonin is produced in greater abundance when we are exposed to sunlight. Melatonin is instrumental in regulating our sleep patterns. Both hormones are affected by each other and sunlight, so when exposure to sunlight is reduced, this can have a knock on effect to our hormone levels. Add into this mix our innate body clock which, just like melatonin, responds to daylight hours and it is no wonder that we really do think, feel and behave differently during the summer versus winter months. Feelings of hibernation are a real and explained phenomenon in humans.
So the science is there to support us feeling sluggish, low and quieter in the winter, but that is not to say that’s how we want to feel, or, how our 21st Century lifestyle’s allow us to feel. So what can we do about it?
Here are my six top tips to keep happy as the nights draw in.
1. The Happy Mirror: Studies have shown that we are influenced by the expression on other peoples faces. No surprises there then. However, it turns out, the face we are influenced by the most is our own. So next time you are feeling tired, stressed, or not very happy and sociable, go to the mirror and start smiling. And in less than a minute you will start the endorphins flowing and start feeling, happier, brighter and more energised.
2. Fresh Air: It may sound obvious, but fresh air, and being outside are essential during these daylight deprived days and months. So whenever and wherever you can, get some fresh air. The important benefit of fresh air is not just that it often means you are moving around and therefore getting some form of exercise, it also means that you are more likely to be getting some daylight / sunlight on your skin, which will in turn help improve and regulate those all important mood and sleep regulating hormones. (This assumes you are not walking before sun rise and after sun set only).
3. Turn the heating down: This might sound bonkers to anyone who, like me, has the internal heating system and circulation of a stone. However, bear with. The warmer and cosier we are constantly, the less energy we have. Think about those hot and humid summer days, rarely do you feel like doing much. Well the same effect can be caused by our winter heating regimen. So I invite you to be brave and just keep the temperature in your home, car and office a couple of degrees lower. Or, if you are feeling really brave, combine tips 2 and 3 and keep the window open just a crack and help yourself feel more awake and alive. Remember, we were not born to be inside hermits, we are creatures and as such, nature is our natural habitat, so grab a little bit of nature where you can and you’ll reap the benefits.
4. Eat a salad: Again, referring back to those summer months where we can find our appetites reduce in the heat. A healthy salad will actually get your metabolism revved up and therefore keep you warmer, leaving you feeling less sluggish and more energised. Plus its full of lots of healthy vitamins to ward off colds and germs, and help your brain keep on top of regulating those all important hormones.
5. Stay connected: I find people go one of two ways during this time of year. They either retract into themselves and stop keeping in touch with friends and family as much as they would at other times of the year. Perhaps under the impression that they are too tired, or it would be too draining to see people when you are already so tired. Or, they try to cram in seeing everyone before the Christmas and New Years deadline, lest another year should pass when they haven’t seen friends, because what would that then say about them or those friendships! (Sound familiar?) The truth of the matter is that we are social creatures. We need to be connected because it gives us an all important sense of belonging, and this is a biological need. So the rule here is the same as with chocolate – everything in moderation. Find balance. Do not hide yourself away or your will start a self fulfilling downwards spiral of tiredness, guilt and loneliness that only you can break out of (and if there’s a New Years diet on the horizon as well, let’s not make more work for ourselves shall we!?). Equally do not over stretch yourself. You have to leave some time for you. It really is okay to say, No thank you. Better to pick a few keys engagements to go to and give them your all, than go to everything and feel like you weren’t you best at any of them because you were just too tired. Everything in moderation, so find the balance that is right for you, and you will feel happier and more confident in no time.
6. Walk and talking: Building on staying connected, and linking back to tips 2 and 3. Walking and talking is a great way to get fresh air, get exercise and stay connected with friends, family and loved ones. Whatever days you work in the week, do whatever you can to get out and about on your days off. Even 30 minutes standing watching fireworks with friends and family is better and more valuable to your physical, mental and emotional health than 30 minutes in front of the TV…again!
Overall, I hope you have found these 6 tips useful and interesting, and no matter which ones apply to you, I can assure you that they will help you think, feel and behave happier this winter as the nights draw in.
Wishing you a happy and confident day