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Holding on to that holiday feeling
As your memories of that sun-drenched beach start to fade and the humdrum of the nine-to-five rudely beckons, you’d be forgiven for wanting to dive deeper under the duvet. Happily there’s plenty you can do to stave off those post-holiday blues.
Missing the sun? You may well associate the summer with fun-filled memories but there is also a biological reason why you might be missing the sun. Insufficient sunlight can affect our levels of serotonin, the so-called happy hormone responsible for our sense of wellbeing.
Light therapy will give you a source of natural light indoors and may help to keep low mood triggered by a lack of sunlight to a minimum.
There are plenty of devices to choose from, including light boxes, light caps and dawn stimulators
The amino acid 5HTP (5 hydroxy l-tryptophan), a pre-cursor to serotonin, may also prove helpful.
Another important nutrient is dopamine. Made from the amino acid tyrosine, dopamine is an important brain chemical that gives us drive and motivation. The body also converts dopamine into noradrenalin, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and energised.
Tyrosine-rich foods such as fish, chicken and turkey can help to boost dopamine levels
You can also source tyrosine from dairy foods, legumes, almonds and pumpkin seeds, or a supplement may provide a useful alternative.
Vitamin D can also counter the effects of sunlight deficiency. It is naturally produced in the body when exposed to the sun’s rays, hence its nickname as the sunshine vitamin. Deficiency, especially during less sunny months or in less sunny climates, is quite common. Food sources include oily fish and eggs or you could try supplementing with vitamin D3.
As far as your general diet is concerned you should be looking to eat plenty of wholegrains, root vegetables and fresh fruit, which will give you a welcome boost of energy. Try limiting your intake of carbohydrates, which can make you feel lethargic, and avoid eating refined foods, sugar and saturated fats. Cutting down on alcohol and caffeine can also help.
Vitality-boosting foods include fresh fruit and vegetables and low GI slow-release foods such as nuts, seeds and wholegrains. Oat-based cereals (porridge especially) are a great way to start the day because they are an excellent source of energy-giving B vitamins, and foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids (for example fish and seeds) can help to support brain health. Supplementing your diet with a good multivitamin and mineral supplement should also help.
Get active! It may not be as warm as you’d like outside but get out and about as much as possible, especially on bright days when the sun is shining.
Early morning exercise can help to improve your mood for the rest of the day thanks to the ‘feel good’ endorphins it helps to release
By exercising you also speed up your metabolism not only when you exercise but generally, so that the body is permanently producing more energy. Try to do some form of exercise that speeds up your heartbeat for at least 20 minutes a day, four times a week.
Even a brisk walk can provide a healthy distraction, especially if it involves dreaming up your next adventure to sunnier climes!