As the nights draw in and the months ahead get colder, we look at ways in which we can fight the ‘Winter Blues’ by boosting our happy hormones through diet & exercise. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the extreme form of ‘Winter blues’, characterised by depression, poor sleep, low mood, irritability, social withdrawal and perhaps overeating too.
Whilst lightboxes are a popular suggestion to help combat SAD, our ‘Happy Hormones’ are often forgotten about. Serotonin is our natural happiness drug and melatonin is our natural sleeping drug, simply put serotonin helps you feel awake and melatonin helps you get to sleep.
How can we naturally produce more of these hormones through our everyday lifestyle and diet which will improve our physical and mental wellbeing both at work and at home to combat the ‘Winter Blues’?
Scientifically, tryptophan is an amino acid that can be converted into serotonin and melatonin. Low levels of tryptophan may contribute to mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. Once serotonin has been produced from tryptophan in the body, it can be converted into another important molecule, melatonin.
There are natural ways to boost your melatonin levels such as eating melatonin-rich foods like cherries, bananas, oatmeal, and milk contain the amino acid tryptophan which supports the production of melatonin to help with sleep, one of the most powerful self-healing tools we have. Dimming the lights in the evenings and avoiding bright screens in the form of smartphones and laptops before bedtime are other ways to ensure maximum melatonin production when we need it.
Eating foods high in tryptophan will boost serotonin levels and research suggests that if incorporated with carbohydrates, more tryptophan could reach the brain faster synthesising more serotonin. Protein-rich foods such as chicken, eggs, cheese, salmon, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, milk, turkey, tofu & soy should be eaten in conjunction with foods such as brown rice and wholemeal bread.
Exercise and massage therapy triggers the release of tryptophan in your blood so it can reach the brain quicker by converting to serotonin. Aerobic exercise is the best form, increasing your heart rate; such as brisk walking, swimming and light jogging. Spending time in the sunshine also increases the uptake of serotonin, just by going outside for 10-15 minutes a day, during a lunch break, even in the winter months will boost your supply.
The sooner we become aware of the importance of the happiness hormones, the faster we will understand how we can readjust our lifestyle and diet to improve our mood and sleep patterns, to kick those ‘Winter Blues’ into touch.
Kettering Park Hotel & Spa offers lifestyle and exercise consultations boasting a beautiful 13m pool, dance studio, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi plus a large fully equipped gym with air conditioning. Corporate wellness packages are available. Call Georgina on 01536 416666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.