The Finns are doing something right. For the sixth year in a row, the 2023 World Happiness Report named Finland the world’s happiest country despite having some of the coldest winter months in the world.
1. Go outside — even in the cold
The health benefits of spending time in nature — from better breathing to improved immunity — are well-documented but even some fresh air is a game-changer so try jumping off the bus or tube a stop early on your commute or diarise a 15 min walk every day at work. When it’s sunny, try to get 10 to 15 minutes of daylight each day, to avoid seasonal affective disorder, and first thing in the morning if possible to help reset the circadian rhythm. This is your body’s internal clock controls your sleep-wake cycle and explains the link between sleep and mental health.
2. Exercise /start a new hobby
Regular exercise boosts serotonin levels and endorphins. 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week plus two strength-training sessions per week can improve mood disorders as well as much more! The quieter months are also a great time to try something new and boosts dopamine, the reward hormone.
3. Hot cold therapy
Dry-heat has a wide range of proven health benefits, including heart health, pain relief and better mood. Try alternating with a cold-water plunge or ice swim to double the benefits. Even just 30 seconds creates a feel-good “hormone storm,” while improving immunity and enhancing blood circulation
4. Stock up on mood-boosting foods nutrients
Tryptophan is an amino acid from which serotonin is made. Insulin is needed to absorb amino acids so eat the below with a small portion of carbohydrates e.g. oat cake, crackers, veg, wholemeal bread:
- Pineapples, bananas
- Nuts, oats and seed
Vitamin D: It’s difficult to get enough sunlight in the darker months so boost fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified products (low sugar cereals, alternative milks) and supplement if advised by a healthcare professional.
Berries: Superfoods due to their high concentration of nutrients and antioxidants.
Chocolate: cacao has mood-boosting benefits, among other health-promoting properties but make sure it’s at least 70%.
There are a few nutrients that provide the body with the pre-cursors needed to make the feel good hormones; serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin and are therefore responsible for mood and balanced mental health.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) - an amino acid that we produce and is a precursor to serotonin that supports sleep, mood, anxiety and appetite.
Magnesium - used for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body including serotonin and dopamine production.
Vitamin B complex - The 8 B-vitamins provide the building blocks of a healthy mind and body health. B6, B9 and B12 are particularly important for supporting the feel good hormones.
5. Make plans to look forward to
Build up some excitement during the cold, dark days by planning a weekend away, holidays, cozy dinners with friends or practising a new hobby.
Meditation can give a sense of calm, peace and balance that can impact outlook. Start with 5 minutes guided meditation morning and evening and increase slowly with increasing independence. Vedic meditation is very powerful involving 20-30 minutes morning and evening.
7. Embrace winter for what it is
Shift mindset to savour slowing down, the comforts of home, the simple pleasures of nature, time with friends and family and pausing in order to boost recovery and optimise the whole body and mind. It’s ok to chill!