Battling Blue Monday. Tips to improve your mood

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Once the excitement of New Year has given way to the long, cold months of January, many of us succumb to a condition known as Seasonally Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD, also known as “winter depression”, is a feeling of low mood and lethargy which tends to occur cyclically in the months of the year when the days are shorter. SAD is thought to affect around three in 100 people in the UK, beginning in the autumn, lasting through the winter, and easing as the season changes to spring.

As we reach Blue Monday, believed to be statistically the saddest date in the calendar, we’re looking at the causes of low mood, and what we can do to give ourselves a boost to help banish the blues.

Symptoms of depression and low mood

Depression and low mood can manifest in a range of physical, emotional, and psychological ways, including:

  • eating more than usual
  • feeling anxious
  • feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, or guilty
  • feeling less sociable
  • finding it difficult to wake up in the morning
  • losing interest in your usual activities
  • loss of libido
  • low energy levels/feeling lethargic
  • poor concentration
  • sleeping more than usual

Many of these symptoms can also be linked to non-season specific depression.

Depression can be caused by or linked to many factors, and it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about the different options available to you if you are struggling with these types of symptoms. Counselling can help you explore the cause of the feelings and provide effective coping methods. Your doctor may also want to explore medication.

Mood boosters

When it comes to our mood, there are plenty of small things we can do to help us feel better, from dietary tweaks and exercise to changes in routine and habits. But when we’re struggling, finding the motivation to make big changes can be overwhelming, so it’s best to start small. Here are some simple things you can do to give yourself a boost.

Soak up some sun

While it’s certainly true that there’s less sunshine to be found at this time of year, even a little can go a long way in helping to improve your mood. Try and make sure you’re getting as much Vitamin D as possible by getting out for a walk during the daylight hours and keeping the curtains open.

Light up your life

If the sun is proving elusive, it may be worth investing in a SAD lamp. According to SADA, the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association, these ultra-bright lamps have been shown to be effective in treating up to 85% of cases.

Do a little daily exercise

The cold and wet weather may be off-putting when it comes to going for a run, but it’s important to find ways to get your heart rate up if you want to boost your mood. Finding even 30 minutes each day to exercise can make a big difference to how you feel, releasing those all-important endorphins. If running isn’t your thing, try a brisk walk, exercise video, or even have a dance around your kitchen. Whatever gets you moving!

Practice gratitude

Gratitude journals have become a popular trend in recent years, and with good reason. Habitually, our brains tend to be wired towards the negative. By focusing on things that we’re grateful for, no matter how small, we can help to reframe our ways of thinking. Try carving out 5 minutes each day to list three things you’re thankful for.

Take a closer look at your diet

It’s often said that our gut is like a second brain. 90% of the body’s serotonin, the hormone responsible for happiness, is produced in the gut. The body’s main nerve, the vagus, connects the gut and the brain, with information constantly travelling between the two.

With the gut and the brain so closely connected, it’s not surprising that if the gut is unhappy, the brain will be too. If your gut is often upset by something in your diet, the resulting side effects could be having an impact on your mood.  

The impact of food intolerance on your mood

If you have a food intolerance, it’s not just your gut that can suffer. As well as bloating and IBS, common symptoms often also include itchy skin, acne, joint pain, headaches and migraine, fatigue and respiratory problems, many of which can contribute to feelings of low mood and lethargy.

Taking control of your diet

Stress, depression and anxiety can be triggered by many factors. They can be specific to a certain event or situation or can be long-lasting. If you’re suffering with the symptoms outlined in this article, it’s important to talk with your GP.

If you suspect that something you’re eating could be causing issues that are contributing to your feelings of low mood, it might be time to take a closer look at your diet.

Getting to the bottom of a food intolerance can be frustrating. Elimination diets, where you remove one ingredient at a time for a few weeks to see how you feel, can take a long time to reveal your triggers. As many of us react to between two and six ingredients, it can be a while before you’re able to see the bigger picture.

Additionally, the foods that you react to can often be surprising. It’s common to blame a few ‘usual suspects’ when it comes to food intolerance but in reality anything, from tuna to tomatoes, could be the cause.

At Smartblood, we offer a comprehensive test to help you take control of your diet quickly and discover your own particular trigger foods. 

Our home-to-laboratory service, using ELISA plate testing, gives you fast, accurate results that pinpoint exactly which foods you are reacting to. Tests are completed in our accredited laboratory by trained experts with clear, easy to understand results sent to you by email within three days.

The test is supported by a 30-minute telephone consultation with our BANT registered Nutritional Therapist to help you understand the results of your test and make safe, sustainable changes to your diet.

Could you have a food intolerance?

If you think that food intolerance may be responsible for your symptoms then we believe that our easy-to-complete tests could help you. Find all your food intolerances at once with a full Smartblood test.

Around 10% of our customers exhibit no IgG reactions to the 134 foods whatsoever – we provide non-reactive customers with a 100% REFUND so they can continue their investigations through other testing.

Find out today with Smartblood.

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