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21 easy ways to combat the winter blues

Siski Green ( 01 March 2018 )

If winter leaves you feeling lethargic and listless, follow these terrific tips to give yourself a lift.

Boost your energy in winter with porridge
Boost your energy in winter with porridge

1. Fill up on porridge

By helping yourself to a large serving of Oliver Twist's least favourite dish, you'll keep yourself optimally fuelled for the rest of the day. "Oats will gradually release energy into your bloodstream, keeping you alert for a longer period of time," says nutritionist Carina Norris. "And the fibre will help to keep you full." 

How to make the perfect porridge

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2. Liven up with a laugh

Everyone experiences an energy low between 2 and 4pm in the afternoon, so plan group activities for that time, to ensure there’s enough entertainment to keep you feeling lively.

Why laughter is good for your health

3. Check your seat

The way you sit, especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, can play havoc with your energy levels. Slumping not only causes muscle ache putting extra strain on your body, it also prevents your respiratory system working as it should, so you end up being starved of oxygen. Make sure your hips and knees are level and that your back is fully supported to give your lungs maximum room to breathe.

4. Dance yourself dizzy

Sitting around, watching TV or reading a book can make you feel really drowsy, so if you feel yourself nodding, get up, stick some upbeat music on and have a boogie. It'll get your blood circulating, and in just five minutes you'll have danced off your lethargy.

Fancy doing some dance classes? Here's how to get started

5. Help yourself to a cuppa

Relying on oceans of tea or coffee to stay awake will only make it difficult to sleep when you eventually come to bedtime... and so make you even more tired, but the occasional cup is just the thing to perk you up. Plus caffeine has been shown to improve memory, so a cup mid-morning will help you remember what you have planned for the rest of the day.

The health benefits of tea and coffee

6. Walk this way

A 10-minute walk will give you more energy than eating a chocolate bar, according to research undertaken at the California State University. But that's not all - subjects who ate the sweet stuff felt more uptight an hour afterwards, whereas the walkers were more relaxed.

10 healthy reasons for a winter walk

7. Have a snack attack

But avoid anything sugary, which will give you more energy in the short term but make you more tired long-term. "Instead, have an apple with either a small piece of cheese or some unsalted nuts. These will provide you with a fruit sugar energy hit, and also protein and fibre to make the snack more filling,” says nutritionist Carina Norris.

How to choose the best healthy snack

8. Make some noise

Silence may be golden but it can kill your energy levels. A two-year study from Tilburg University in Holland revealed that people who liked to be alone or avoided interaction with others reported feeling more tired and stressed than more sociable folk. Call a friend for a chat, or corner an over-enthusiastic salesperson in a shop - they're paid to talk!

Fight loneliness and improve your health

9. Pack a light lunch

Eating a little less in the middle of the day helps keep you awake, according to research published in the journal Nutrition & Food Science. Scientists gave some subjects a high-carbohydrate lunch while others went without – and when offered the chance to nap in the afternoon, those who went without slept only 30 minutes, compared to 90 minutes for the carb-eaters. “Snacking all day long and eating a light lunch such as a salad with some low-fat protein such as chicken, turkey or fish is your best bet,” says Norris.

Healthy lunch ideas

10. Hit the streets first thing

Get outside in the morning to get that all-important sunlight on your skin. Even if the day is overcast you'll still feel the benefits. Indoors you get approximately 500 lux of light; compare that to the 10,000 you get at sunrise and you'll see why you need to get outdoors.

Natural winter energy boosters

11. Get some shut-eye

It sounds obvious, but getting regular good sleep is probably even more important than you realise - during sleep your body transfers the energy from the food you ate during the day, storing it for the next day's activities. So without good sleep the healthy diet you've been maintaining is fruitless.

The secrets of sleep - and why it is so important for your health

12. Clean up your act

The more toxins you imbibe the harder your body has to work to free itself of them, and the more energy it uses to do so. There are plenty of other reasons to give up smoking, but you can also help your body by avoiding areas of high pollution - and by cutting down on alcohol.

13. Go light at night

High-fat or high-protein meals in the evening can drain your early morning energy by taxing your body as it digests the food while you sleep. Instead, opt for lighter meals such as fresh fish or salads.

14. Drink up

Your body is like a car that needs lubrication to work at its best - and for you that means water. “You need to drink at least 1.5 litres a day,” says Norris. “But some of that can come from hot beverages, and fruit and veg make a good contribution as well.” Still not certain whether or not you’re drinking enough? Some people need more liquid than others and your needs also depend on what you’re doing during the day, so do the pee test. If you’re drinking enough your urine will be colourless or just slightly coloured.

Dehydration strategies

15. Get fresh with mint

A study undertaken at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle revealed that chewing gum stimulates the brain, facilitating memory recall. And if you choose peppermint gum, you’ll feel even fresher. A study funded by NASA found that people who were exposed to the minty scent reported an increase in alertness of 30%.

16. Pop a pill

To ensure that your body works efficiently at converting food into usable energy you need to regularly top up its vitamin supply. And the ones to look out for are the Bs, the so-called 'energy vitamins'. "You need B vitamins to aid the conversion of food to energy," says Norris.

Learn more about vitamins and minerals

17. Pump some ion

Waterfalls, fountains and the sea – all these work to clear your head and leave you feeling energised. Why? Because flowing water produces negative ions, which research has shown to sharpen mental functioning, as well as beat fatigue. A study undertaken at Columbia University in the US also found that negative ions can help relieve depression. No flowing water to hand? Invest in an ioniser.

The health benefits of living by the sea

18. Hit the gym

Getting active by doing some exercise actually creates a feeling of more energy than it uses up. That's because it causes the body to release endorphins making you feel good and it also helps pump oxygen around the body, which makes you feel more alert.

10 natural ways to lift your mood

19. Overdose on oxygen

You might think you’re pretty good at breathing, since you’ve been doing it from birth, and yet most people use only a fraction of their lung capacity, which leaves their blood gasping for oxygen. Try spending a few minutes each day focusing on your breathing, taking deep breaths that fill your chest and abdomen, or better still, join a yoga class.

10 benefits of spending time outdoors

20. Rosemary refresher

To keep your mind sharp during dark winter days take a good sniff of fresh rosemary. According to Alan Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, scans have shown that the herb's scent increases blood circulation in the brain, improving alertness. If smelling herbs gets you funny looks, buy a small vial of rosemary oil, or scented shampoo or shower gel, from Neal's Yard.

Find out more about the health-boosting properties of herbs

21. Iron out your fatigue

Iron is essential for red blood cells to transport oxygen around your body and unless you eat dark green vegetables, lean red meat or beans and lentils, you may not be getting as much as you need. And don’t forget to add oranges to your weekly shopping list - without vitamin C your body can’t absorb the iron you’ve eaten.

How much iron do you need?

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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