Mental health: 7 tips to feel good
When we’re doing our best to exercise, watch what we eat, and take care of our bodies on the inside and out, our mental health can take a bit of a back seat. As important as it is to look after our psychological wellbeing, we don’t always know what to do when our spirits are low. Especially in winter, when cold weather arrives and the days get shorter, feelings of anxiety and depression can soon creep in. Many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder in one way or another, whether it’s a case of the winter blues or something more serious. Here, we give you 7 tips to take care of your mental health and stay motivated on your journey to #FINDYOURFIT.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
When the winter blues turns into a full-blown depression, it’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. It’s a type of depression that typically occurs with the onset of winter and is due to a lack of natural light. According to Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones, women are more susceptible to SAD than men are. People living in northern countries that get little sunlight, like parts of Norway, Canada and Iceland are also likely to experience it more than others. In Europe, SAD affects between 1.3% and 4.6% of the population.
Here are 7 tips to fight against this dreaded winter blues:
The right nutrition is an important pillar of good psychological balance. In fact, nutritional psychiatry is a new field of research dedicated entirely to studying how food can affect mood and mental health. Research is still in its infancy, although it’s already known that certain minerals and vitamins are involved in normal psychological functioning.
Essential fatty acids, including omega 3, contribute to the normal functioning of the brain. They are found in small oily fish such as mackerel, sardines or herring, but also in vegetable oils (walnuts, rapeseed, flaxseed…). Our Body&Fit Omega 3-6-9 concentrates 3 of the essential fatty acids.
We usually get our vitamin D by spending time under the sun, which doesn’t come out much during winter. The body stores enough vitamin D during the summer months to meet its winter needs, but a deficiency is still possible. Other sources of vitamin D include oily fish, meat, eggs and supplements like our Body&Fit Vitamin D3 3000 – IU.
One of the many benefits of Zinc is that it supports normal cognitive function. A study in 2017 showed that zinc deficiency is linked to depression and anxiety. To avoid this, you can eat foods like red meat, seafood, nuts, eggs or supplement with our Body&Fit Zinc Complex.
Another important mineral to help fight the winter blues is magnesium, which contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and supports normal psychological functioning. You can find it in nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, flax and sesame, as well as cereals and dark chocolate (go for a minimum of 70% cocoa). Our Body&Fit Zinc & Magnesium formula is a great way to stay on top of your intake.
It’s often said that our digestive system is our second brain. The idea that our intestinal flora can affect our emotions is not surprising. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yogurt or kefir, but it’s also possible to supplement to help our digestive system restore and maintain good bacteria.
If you want to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy (both physically and mentally), adding a multivitamin complex to your routine is ideal. Our Body&Fit Multi Men and Multi Women makes it easy to get all the vitamins your body needs to thrive.
According to one study by the Greater Good Science Centre, gratitude makes you happier, improves relationships and can potentially prevent depression. It even boosts self-esteem. A miracle cure? Not far off. It’s thought that practicing gratitude transforms the neural pathways in our brain, allowing us to cultivate more positive thoughts and actions. Try to practice it each morning by writing a list of things you are grateful for or just thinking about them in your head. Your partner, your home, your career, what someone said to you the night before, the smell of coffee in the morning, having two socks of the same colour… Enjoy the pleasant sensations of thinking about these things and keep these emotions with you throughout the day.
Learn to breathe
Breathing is something we all do subconsciously. However, did you know that certain deep breathing exercises have real health benefits, both mental and physical?
There are several types of breathing exercises:
Cardiac coherence helps to slow down the heart rate and lower the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. Inhale for 5 seconds through the nose, exhale for 5 seconds through the mouth, all for 5 minutes. Practice this exercise 3 times a day to experience the full benefits.
Pranayama is a form of yoga that’s about learning how to control and regulate the breath to help bring an inner calm. There are several exercises but the main goal is to reconnect to your breath and be aware of it. You can try it by sitting or lying down, putting your right hand on your lower abdomen, your left hand on your chest and just being conscious of the ebb and flow of your natural rhythm.
Alternate Breathing is another common yoga exercise, alternate nostril breathing can be useful for calming the mind and helping to lower anxiety. Find somewhere quiet to sit, gently cover your right nostril with your thumb and take a deep breath in and out. Do the same for the left side and repeat for a few more times.
Holotropic breathing, also called “breathwork”, is often explored in hip fitness classes like Sanctum. An intense technique, it’s similar to hyperventilation and aims to release tensions and hidden emotions. Always practice with a certified facilitator to be safe.
Keep an active social life
When it gets dark early and cold outside, all we want to do is cancel dinner and stay under the blanket watching Netflix. While it’s tempting, and taking time for yourself is good, what’s even more beneficial is getting out to spend time with people you enjoy. Humans are social beings, so it’s no surprise that enjoying time with others has important emotional, psychological and even physical benefits. It can be as simple as a 15-minute walk in the park, a quick coffee or a phone call with a friend. Alternatively, you could do some sports together and discover why exercising with other people is so great.
Get enough sleep
The day after a sleepless night is never ideal. We are more prone to mood swings, irritability and fatigue. In the longer term, poor sleep can have serious consequences on mental health. Without restful sleep, our cognitive and emotional capacities are directly affected. It’s important to get those magic 7 hours, try to go to bed and wake up at regular times and adopt rituals to facilitate falling asleep at night. We recently explored how to find a routine that works for you and gave lots of advice on setting up your own unique wellness routine.
Do a digital detox
Almost all of us spend some time during the day scrolling on social media, looking at the lives of others who all seem more beautiful, rich, fit and happy than we are. Of course, this is not really the case. What we see on social media is only a part reality, although this is easy to forget. Endless scrolling on Instagram and TikTok can be overwhelming. So, try to take little breaks to disconnect and think about what’s important in life.
Keep the body moving
A good dose of physical activity promotes the secretion of endorphins like serotonin (also known as the happiness hormone). These are what make you feel so good after a session at the gym, a high-intensity spin class or a game of five-a-side. Working out is also a great self-confidence booster. Find a sport or activity you enjoy doing and those cold winter nights will simply fly by.
What are you doing to keep your spirits up in winter? Let us know by tagging us @bodyandfit_official. Remember, all good habits are no substitute for professional help. When we have a stomach ache, we go to a doctor. When you have an emotional ache… same thing! If you feel that something is wrong (blues, anxiety, stress, demotivation…) and you can’t get out of it by yourself, don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional.