6 Steps to a Happier Healthier January and February!
Top Tips to help you to feel the best that you can in the difficult winter months
1. Go Out in the Daylight
It can be depressing to travel to and from work in the dark and stay indoors while it’s light outside.
To counteract this, aim to go outside for at least 15 minutes a day during the hours of daylight, even if the weather is cold and dreary.
At the weekend, resist the temptation to snuggle up indoors and go out as much as possible, so that you maximise your exposure to daylight.
Daylight helps to control the body’s circadian rhythms. If you don’t go out much in daylight, your digestion, sleep pattern, energy levels, and mood can be adversely affected.
This can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterised by a low mood, a lack of energy, cravings for sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods, and sleep disruption in winter.
If you do feel as if you are suffering from SAD, it’s worth investing in a light box.
This will help boost your levels of the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin, and reduce levels of melatonin, a hormone created by your body in response to darkness. Too much melatonin can make you feel tired and sluggish.
Exercise causes your pituitary gland to release endorphins and it encourages your brain to produce a chemical called dopamine. Both of these improve your mood, making you feel happier.
Exercise also increases your overall energy levels and reduces stress.
Aim to do some exercise every day during January and February, even if it’s just a brisk 15-minute walk. Take advantage of your free time at the weekend by hiking, jogging or riding your bike.
Exercise outdoors during the hours of daylight as much as possible to maximise your exposure to light.
If you can’t manage to exercise outdoors, putting on a yoga DVD or going to the gym will still help you feel good.
3. Have Fun with Your Friends
It’s tempting to hibernate at home when the temperature outside is below zero. However, socialising improves your mood.
A study of over 17,000 adults carried out by the research company, Gallup, showed that socialising with one other person leads to a significant improvement in a person’s mood¹, and, if you’re exercising together, both the exercise and the company will make you feel good.
So, make an effort to catch up with your sister while walking your dog, meet a group of friends at the ice rink or simply invite friends over for dinner. Watch your winter blues melt away as your mood improves.
4. Brighten Up Your Home
Make your home a cheerful place by adding accessories in warming and vibrant colours. Snuggle up under a throw in a warming shade of red or cheer up your bedroom by placing yellow scatter pillows on your bed.
Home fragrances can also lift your mood. Replace your Christmas tree with a pine-scented candle or room spray.
The fragrance of pine can reduce depression and relieve stress. In a study carried out by Kyoto University, Japan, volunteers who walked through a pine forest for 15 minutes reported much lower levels of stress and depression than on a day when they didn’t go on a pine-fragranced walk.²
Replace the incandescent light bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFBs). The light generated by CFBs is more similar to sunlight than that produced by incandescent bulbs. This should help to boost your mood even when you’re indoors during the hours of darkness.
5. Wear Brightly Coloured Clothes
Add a splash of colour to the winter by wearing brightly coloured clothes on a cold, dreary day.
These can help you feel more cheerful, putting a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
When traveling to and from work, wear a brightly patterned scarf or a hat and gloves in a vibrant shade of red, purple or green.
If your office dress code allows it, cheer up your somber business suit with a hot pink top or a tie with a cheerful pattern.
6. Set Goals
Rather than New Year’s resolutions, set a few goals for January and February.
These will help you to remain motivated during these months.
Make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-defined).
So, instead of resolving to lose weight this year, set yourself a specific goal of losing two pounds in January.
Then, in order to achieve that, set smaller daily goals, such as eating an apple instead of a cookie, going out for a brisk walk at lunchtime, and eating a healthy dinner of salmon and vegetables.
Make January and February Awesome!
Although January and February can seem like the most depressing months of the year, they don’t have to be!
If you spend time outdoors, exercise, socialise, brighten up your life, and set some goals, you’ll be overflowing with energy and positivity.
This will allow you to thrive even during the depths of the harshest winter.