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A recent survey by Mind found that one in four people suffer with mental health issues each year in the UK.
Woman jogging in early evening.
This tends to be at its highest level over the winter months. The short days and lack of light can bring on the winter blues. The medical name for this is seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short. In some cases, your GP will prescribe medication to help relieve the symptoms, although this isn’t always ideal for everyone. So what can you do to feel well again and avoid the medical options?
Vitamin D is naturally produced when you are exposed to sunlight. It releases serotonin into the brain. The lack of sunlight often results in a drop in vitamin D, followed by a reduction of serotonin in the brain. Vitamin D supplements can be bought easily on the high street or online to counteract this.
Scientists are not exactly sure why a lack of vitamin B relates to seasonal affective disorder but there is clear research that the two go hand in hand. In particular, Vitamin B12 and B6 are the most vital vitamins to maintain a healthy mind during the winter months. A major cause of vitamin B deficiency is poor diet.
Vitamin B-12 can be found in animal products including fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Many healthy breakfast cereals are also a great for of vitamin B12. Again vitamin B supplements can be bought easily on the high street or online.
Exercise is also a key part in relieving SAD and general low mood. Feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and endocannabinoids are released into the brain when you become active.
The winter months can be very demotivating for some people but even a 30 minute walk each day or week can make a difference. The more you do, the better. Joining the gym is a great way to start getting active. The classes tend to be very sociable too, another plus for keeping a positive mind. And my favourite, the steam room or sauna after a work out. You relax, warm up and it feels great!
Why not try jogging or running? It’s much easier to run in the winter than in the heat of summer, which is the reason most marathons and half marathons are in spring.
I particularly love skiing holidays and you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy yourself. Not only are you in the fresh air surrounded by amazing scenery and beautiful natural daylight, you are keeping active and learning a skill.
A few years ago, I visited some colleagues who instruct skiing in Bulgaria during the winter months. I was shooting lifestyle for Getty images, covering the whole story from morning to night. On reflection I cannot recall seeing one unhappy face for an entire week!