How to beat the winter blues
Beat the January blues and eat yourself happy with our healthy, mood-boosting recipes and advice
Monday 15 January has been designated ‘Blue Monday’ – allegedly the most depressing day of the year. Although there’s no science behind what was in fact dreamed up as a PR stunt, many of us find January a fairly miserable time of year. The excitement of Christmas and New Year celebrations is over, the weather is cold and the days are short, with much of winter still stretching before us.
But it doesn't need to be so bleak! Crawl out from under the duvet and try our tips to boost positivity and beat those winter blues.
Boost your mood with vitamin D
Studies are constantly reiterating the mood-boosting benefits of this vital vitamin. However, as our skin largely manufactures vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, it's also regularly highlighted that, during the dark winter months, we probably aren't getting our recommended daily dose. Luckily, we can top up our intake by including a few specific foods in our diet. Fortified breakfast cereals and dairy, eggs and fish such as sardines, herrings and salmon are all good sources. Plus, along with improving your mood, topping up on vitamin D can help strengthen the immune system and keep bones and teeth healthy.
Here are a few recipe ideas that will help you increase your intake:
Salmon & puy lentil salad with olive dressing
Smoked salmon & lemon scrambled eggs
Open sandwiches – tomato, sardine & rocket
Sardines with chickpeas, lemon & parsley
Grilled herrings with mustard & basil dressing
Mushroom & basil omelette with smashed tomato
More like this
Cautious comfort eating
There are several reasons we sometimes resort to food for comfort, particularly at this time of year. An exaggerated craving for carbohydrates and stodgy foods in winter can actually be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of winter depression that affects one in every 15 people in the UK. Overeating in winter may also simply be due to the fact that we're indoors more and we're cold. Understandable, but potentially detrimental to any healthy aspirations you have. Instead of turning to white, high-GI carbohydrates, which will only lead to sugar highs and inevitable lows, make sure you're eating complex carbohydrates, like wholegrains, and build a satisfying yet nutritious daily diet around low-GI foods, which release energy slowly and will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Swap big plates of pasta for healthy one-pots and, if you can't be without your favourite foods, try some of our healthier versions to keep you on track.
If you're concerned you might be suffering from the condition, you should speak to your GP.
Try our pick of healthier classics and warming one-pots when you're in need of a comforting supper:
Get enough omega-3
Good for the heart and also good for the mind - low levels of omega-3 in the body are thought to contribute to low moods, with increased doses even found to potentially help treat some types of depression. Give your motivation a boost by ensuring you're getting enough of the fatty acid - sources include oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, soya, rapeseed and flaxseed oil and dark, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.
Discover some omega-3-rich recipes below:
The novelty of your new gym regime is probably wearing off by now. Exercise releases the happy hormone serotonin and, as well as being important for health, regular exercise will boost the positive results of all your healthy eating efforts – so keep going! If your workout is feeling more chore than choice, make sure you're giving your body everything it needs to perform at its best.
Whether you're interested in counting calories or foods to boost performance, our expert tips can help:
Reassess your goals
If you've made New Year resolutions, are trying to stick to a healthy diet, or are giving up meat or alcohol during January, you could find yourself struggling to hold your resolve. Forcing yourself to give up things you enjoy is likely to make you miserable even in mid-summer – let alone during a difficult winter!
If you're finding it hard, it could be time to give yourself a break. January isn't the time for voluntary self-deprivation. What would work as a treat without breaking a commitment you really want to stick to? Or could you build in the odd day when you allow yourself a break, in the knowledge that it'll help you hold out for longer overall?
Finally, if your resolve is starting to wane and no mood-boosting tip or guilt-free treat is doing the trick, you may need to reassess your goals. Perhaps switching up your challenge could give you the boost you need. Trying a less intimidating exercise regime, deciding to cut out ultra-processed food rather than sticking to a diet plan, or just taking up a different hobby to the one that hasn't really 'connected' might be all you need to beat those winter blues.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.