While this is the season of roaring fires, parties and fizz, it’s also when we can feel as grey as the skies. But if your usual verve seems to have gone south for the winter, don’t fret. Small, positive lifestyle changes can help anyone feel energised and alive.

Your mindset

Dr Meg Arroll, psychologist and author of Tiny Traumas (drmegarroll.com), believes changing our attitude to winter can make all the difference.

Find the positive:Energy flows where your attention goes” is a powerful saying, which reminds us that what we focus on becomes our reality. Instead of telling yourself how horrible winter is, focus on the energising aspects of the season.

Use positive statements such as: “Winter reminds me to take stock and appreciate the warmth loved ones give me”, “I love the natural beauty of winter”, or “the changing seasons bring exciting new opportunities”.

Dive into the past: Nostalgia has many mental health benefits, including buffering against low mood and depression. Create your own sense of nostalgia by thinking of winter and Christmases in your past.

Focus on five things you can see in your mind’s eye, four things you can hear, three smells, two textures and one taste. Think Christmas music, your ­grandmother’s mince pies, cosy blankets or socks – or whatever sense-based stimuli is meaningful for you.

Tick off your to-do list: Research shows that our ability to maintain sustained attention is at its best near the winter solstice and at its worst around the summer solstice. Use this time to get to grips with tricky tasks that require focused and sustained attention.

Your sleep

Dr Lindsay Browning, chartered psychologist, neuroscientist and sleep expert (troublesleeping.co.uk), believes it’s possible to still feel rested and refreshed throughout the party season and beyond.

Do a ‘brain dump’ before bed: With Christmas looming and endless to-do lists whirring around our heads, it can be helpful to do a brain dump. Write down anything on your mind on a piece of paper a few hours before bed, so that your mind is clearer at night.

Create an alcohol curfew: Alcohol disrupts the quality of your sleep for the rest of the night, especially changing REM sleep, leaving you tired in the morning. Try to drink in moderation (the NHS advises no more than 14 units a week), even at Christmas. Drink earlier in the day rather than the evening so you won’t have as much alcohol in your system at night to interfere with your sleep.

Keep it regular: We sleep better when we have a similar bedtime and wake time seven days per week. However, if you can’t avoid late nights, try to get back to a more typical schedule as soon as possible.

Take naps: A 20-minute nap ensures you feel more energised and alert for the rest of the day. Any longer and you’ll fall into a deep sleep and wake up feeling groggy. Make sure you nap early in the day, though, so it does not interfere with your sleep later on at night.

Swap devices for the TV: Bright light can interfere with sleep as it suppresses ­melatonin production and keeps us awake. Screens tend to be especially damaging since we hold the light source (the phone) so close to our face and some research suggests the frequency of blue light may be especially harmful to sleep. Instead, watch an actual television in the evening as the light source will be further away than a handheld device or laptop.

Your food

Nutritionist Yalda Alaoui, founder of the anti-inflammatory nutrition and lifestyle platform Eat Burn Sleep (eatburnsleep.com) says the right diet can provide steady energy levels forlife.

Check your iron levels: Anaemia can make you feel tired, but don’t take iron supplements without having a blood test first.

Stabilise your blood sugar: Focus on food that has a low glycaemic index and doesn’t spike your blood sugar after eating. This means building a plate for sustained energy levels, so pick ­unprocessed protein, vegetables, whole grains, pulses and good fats such as extra virgin olive oil. Relying on sugar and caffeine for energy will create a roller-coaster of ups and downs all day, and you’ll be wired and unable to sleep at bedtime. Stick to two cups of coffee a day.

Rethink snacks: Keep olives, chicken, nuts, fruit and boiled eggs to hand. If you snack on something sweet, combine it with healthy fats to slow the release of glucose into your blood.

Increase your protein: Are you getting enough? Most adults need around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight per day, for the average woman this is around 45g and for men, it’s 55g. Focus on natural proteins, which are more easily absorbed than protein in shakes. If you eat protein first at every meal, your body absorbs more of it than if you leave it until last.

Double whammy: Vitamin D is important for the functioning of our immune system, mood and for healthy bones. The NHS recommends we take a vitamin D supplement over the winter, but it is thought that to absorb it effectively, you need to take it with vitamin K2, which is found in egg yolk, butter, beef liver, chicken and sauerkraut.

Your movement

Personal trainer Caroline Idiens (carolinescircuits.com) has tips that can motivate you to begin your fitness journey today.

Plan ahead: The night before, write down what you’re going to do, such as a 10-minute arms workout, and then lay your kit out before you go to bed. You could arrange to meet a friend for a walk or jog to increase accountability.

Just do 10 minutes: Fit in 10 minutes of squats while the kettle is boiling, do tricep dips on the side of the bath, or go for a short walk. Short bursts are achievable even for ­someone who hasn’t exercised before.

Remember the benefits: Exercise won’t deplete you, it will energise you. You’ll gain a mental boost, you’ll be contributing to stronger bones, a better mood, improved immunity, straighter posture and an increased balance. Plus it’s an investment in your brain and heart health.

Make exercise your me-time: There’s a social media trend for #cosycardio, where exercise is all about candles, music and working out in your pyjamas. So don’t see exercise as a punishment but as a time for you to de-stress.

Don’t put it off: Why wait until January to start exercising? If you start now you’ll have a month of fitness under your belt already. I always say, in four weeks you feel it, in six weeks you’ll see it, in two months your friends will ask you what you’re doing and you’ll have formed a habit.

Your hormones

Dr Milli Raizada, a GP, lecturer and author of Happy Hormones, Happy You (Beaten Track Publishing), believes understanding our hormones can help you recover your zest for life.

Boost your ‘reward’ hormone: Women in perimenopause or ­menopause might feel low because their levels of oestrogen, which influences the reward hormone dopamine, are declining. Get a surge of dopamine from exercise or cold therapy, such as cold swimming or cold showers. Make the most of sunlight, too, or try playing your favourite music loudly or eating some dark chocolate.

Hug your loved ones: Spending time with people you love, hugging your family, eating together and tapping into community all boosts oxytocin, the love hormone. This reduces stress and promotes feelings of wellbeing.

Workout for your testosterone: Testosterone levels also fall during the perimenopause, leaving women in midlife feeling sluggish. But working out can increase testosterone, which in turn boosts energy.

Release the brain’s Miracle Gro: When we exercise, our muscles release a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), dubbed “Miracle Gro for the brain”, as it helps neuron growth and development. It’s why we get good ideas in the middle of a walk or run.

2023-11-25T16:51:16Z dg43tfdfdgfd