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Natural ways to beat the winter blues

It’s that time of year again when the dark evenings start to draw in and the temperatures begin to drop - two factors which combined, can leaves us feeling a little blue. So with that said, we’ve asked our experts for their top tips to keep us feeling bright even on those bleaker days!

Rise and shine…. Even if it’s dark outside when you wake up, as soon as you’re out of bed open your curtains and let as much light in as possible. “Sunlight or bright daylight stimulates our body’s production of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’. The dark and dull days of winter can easily deplete your serotonin levels, making you feel low, sluggish and tired. Do what you can to maximize your natural light exposure,” explains Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at - the online shopping destination for health & wellbeing.

Get moving…. A recent study from the American Journal of Psychiatry has found that even an hour of exercise a week may help prevent depression. So, even though it may be cold outside, make sure you don’t neglect your exercise routine.

Snack Happy… “When we are feeling down, we can be tempted by snacks that are high in sugar or quickly absorbed carbohydrates, such as cakes, biscuits and chocolate. This is because carbs and sugar can provide a quick boost – not only in energy, but also in serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’). However this benefit will only last an hour or two, then we are likely to feel down again and reach for more sugar or stimulants – a vicious cycle! These highs and lows in energy induced by sugary foods can be unhelpful for anyone’s mood, but may be especially associated with low mood in winter – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). To achieve a healthier balance, go for snacks that contain a good combination of slow-releasing (unrefined) carbohydrates, proteins, and if possible, some healthy fats. So for a mood-boosting snack try a slice of smoked salmon on two oatcakes. The salmon provides protein and essential fats, while the oatcakes provide slow-releasing carbohydrates,” suggests nutritionist Cassandra Barns.

Top up on Vitamin D…. 'Vitamin D can help with the symptoms of mild depression and SAD. The best way to get this vitamin is through sunlight on the skin. Although you can get some vitamin D from foods such as butter and oily fish, it’s not really enough. The best way to get vitamin D is from spending lots of time in the sun.’ says Cassandra.

Give yourself a pick me up…. If you hit that mid afternoon slump, perk yourself up with a couple of squares of raw cacao chocolate. Cassandra explains, ‘Cacao contains a compound called phenylethylamine (PEA for short!). PEA is thought to elevate mood and support energy and is said to be one of the reasons that many people love chocolate! By choosing raw chocolate, such as OMBAR chocolate [£1.99, Ocado] made with raw cacao and without refined sugar, you’re getting the benefits of the energy-supporting nutrients without the sugar rush.”

Have a laugh with a friend… You may just want to crawl under the covers after a long day at work, but catching up with your friends may actually benefit your health more! “Oxytocin is another ‘feel good’ hormone. Released when we bond socially and feel general trust, comfort and love, this hormone is just as powerful as serotonin. Whenever you feel low and need a lift, spend time with your family and friends to mellow down and feel instantly better,” says Shona. Marilyn Glenville, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists, (, adds, “Many studies show that laughter boosts our energy, decreases stress hormones, improves immunity and diminishes pain. But what’s very important for anyone, who is stressed or feeling down, is that laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the natural feel-good chemicals that make us happier and relaxed.”

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