Healthspan Editorial Team January 08, 2016

 Bad weather, money woes and wrecked New Year’s resolutions mean that our motivational levels can hit an all-time low at this time of year. 

Dr Sarah Brewer, Medical Director at Healthspan says “This kind of mood slump can lead to many unhealthy habits. Inactivity, eating too many carbohydrates and feelings of anxiety and stress can also have a negative impact on our health.”

Fortunately, we’ve put together some smart strategies that could help you manage your mood.

Exercise

Fight the urge to hibernate by wrapping up warm and going for a walk – spending time outdoors, especially if it’s somewhere green, boosts mood, according to research by mental health charity Mind.

Regular moderate exercise is highly invigorating and energy-giving. Good options include dancing (just think of how much weight all those stars of Strictly Come Dancing have lost), swimming, step classes or cycling. All will clear out your mental cobwebs, increase blood flow and reduce stress. They will also release mood-enhancing brain chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin, which help to keep you happy and content.

1. Be thankful

Financial worries impact the moods of as many as 30 per cent of people, according to a survey by vitamin and supplement supplier, Healthspan.

Psychotherapist Sally Brown says ‘Remind yourself that it’s relationships with friends and family, not possessions that bring lasting happiness. Try and pinpoint three things you’re grateful for every day for a week. It can shift your focus to what you’ve got rather than what you can’t afford.’

2. Crack a smile

If you’re someone who feels low when it’s cold and grey, try cracking a smile. Research has shown that purposely activating your smile muscles lowers the stress response and releases happy chemicals in the brain just as effectively as a spontaneous smile.

3. Get some sleep

Make sure you prioritise quality sleep – we sleep for two hours less than we did in 1960, and it can take its toll on your mood, energy levels and general health. The average amount of sleep needed is seven hours, but everyone is different, with women sleeping about 15 minutes longer, on average, than men.

GP Dr Roger Henderson shares a couple of nighttime tips:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, including weekends;
  • Avoid eating and drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks late in the evening and don’t exercise just before going to bed.

4. Know your fats

Omega 3 fats are essential for mental health, but are sadly lacking in many of our diets. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be eating excessively fried fats and the unnatural fats that have been created by modern food-processing techniques: the hydrogenated fats and trans fats.

In addition, an imbalance between our intake of omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids has been linked with depression and other mood disorders. “The ratio of omega 3, found in oily fish such as herring, salmon and sardines, walnuts and ground flaxseeds to omega 6s, found in many margarines and refined vegetable oils, should be around 2:1. Although the UK has no dietary guidelines for omega 3s as such, the American Psychiatric Association recommends eating oily fish at least twice a week and suggests that people with mood disorders take a daily omega 3 supplement,” says Head of Nutrition from Healthspan, Robert Hobson.

5. Stay in contact

Talking things through with a friend or family member can help to lessen the burden of negative thoughts and can sometimes help you to find a solution.

Always see your GP if your low mood lasts more than a few days, or affects your appetite, sleep patterns, sex drive, or your general ability to cope with every day life.

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Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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