Invest in a mood-boosting lamp
To address the side effects of low sunlight exposure, a crop of ‘SAD lamps’ have hit the market which emulate sunlight in order to trigger the production of feel-good hormone serotonin. This desk lamp from Lumie will bathe you in up to 10,000 lux of light (about as much as ambient daylight) on even the bleakest of days. You can toggle the light settings to find what works for you, keeping in mind that the lower the intensity, the longer the exposure you’ll need to enjoy its benefits.
Another downside of winter is the impact it can have on our circadian rhythms, when waking up to an alarm pealing out in pitch darkness can make pulling yourself out of a deep slumber considerably more difficult. To cheat the effect of waking up to a sunlit room, try Lumie’s Bodyclock lamp: an alarm clock, radio and bedside lamp in one, it mimics a natural dawn by gradually building light to wake you up. You can add a gentle sound as well if you’re nervous light alone won’t wake you up.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a lamp without the bells and whistles to deliver a gentle, comforting glow in the colder months, you might like a Himalayan salt lamp. While the jury is out on the scientific evidence behind their health claims, advocates of salt lamps swear by their ability to release negatively charged ions (produced when water molecules in the air evaporate off their warm surface), thereby helping to counteract a myriad issues from stress and anxiety and help boost mood and alleviate asthma. Just be sure you buy an authentic one: expect to pay around £20 and look for those that come from the Khewra salt mine in Pakistan, have a deep pinky-red or off-white colour, are fragile and only emit a dim light (in contrast, fakes are cheap, hard to break and glow brightly).
Warm up and improve your mood
Besides warming you up from the chill outside, infrared saunas supply a host of benefits that will boost both your physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re not familiar, traditional saunas warm the room around you, whereas infrared iterations harness infrared light to heat the body directly. And as the latter tends to be set at a gentler temperature, it makes for a more comfortable experience than old-school saunas.
As well as boosting blood circulation and reducing inflammation, warming up in an infrared sauna is great for increasing endorphin and dopamine levels, helping to noticeably improve your mood. If you’re in London, we’d suggest booking in at Repose or Cloud Twelve, or to reap the energy-boosting perks at home, opt for a sauna blanket. HigherDOSE’s offering has been name-checked by Gwyneth Paltrow and you simply slip in (it’s shaped somewhat like a pocket and runs from shoulder to toe) and relax for up to 45 minutes. It’s not the beach, but it’s the next best thing we’ve found!
Consume key nutrients
It’s now widely acknowledged, and indeed advised by the NHS, that between October and early March sunlight alone usually isn’t sufficient for the majority of people to generate ample vitamin D and so taking a supplement is advised. While the role the vitamin plays in preventing or alleviating SAD is a little unclear – those with the condition have often been found to have low levels, but the link beyond that is inconclusive – it is known to improve mood more generally, and given it plays a critical role in boosting immunity and in the absorption of calcium (which helps to prevent osteoporosis), getting in enough should be a top winter priority.
The NHS recommends that children aged above one year and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily (which is equivalent to 400 IU). This peppermint-flavoured supplement from BetterYou packs 1000IU per day of vitamin D3 (the very form of the vitamin your skin creates through sun exposure) and its spray format means it is absorbed into the bloodstream more rapidly.
A lesser known nutrient is tryptophan, which is crucial to the production of serotonin and sleep-inducing melatonin. An essential amino acid, our bodies can’t produce it naturally so we have to rely on food to get in our dose. The richest sources include animal proteins (like chicken, beef and salmon), but if you’re plant based, seek out oats, nuts, seeds and spinach which are all also rich in the stuff.
Schedule some mood-boosting exercise
Fitting in exercise can be a tricky task year-round, not least when the temperature is hovering around freezing. But the endorphin-boosting magic of getting your heart racing is not to be understated – exercise is one of the top treatments recommended for those dealing with SAD by the NHS.
If the idea of turfing yourself out into the cold doesn’t appeal, try scheduling in a few short walks throughout the day – even a five or ten minute session every few hours is miles better than staying cooped up inside all day. And it will allow you to soak up a little sunlight while you’re at it.
Really hate the cold? We’re big fans of Uniqlo’s Heattech range of everything from jeans to underwear and ultra-light layering pieces for keeping toasty without having to dress like the Michelin man. Or treat yourself to an electric hand warmer like this one from Ocoopa to keep your mitts feeling snug while you’re outside – and conveniently, it also doubles as a portable phone charger.
Build a ritual you can look forward to every day
Short of sitting out the winter in a tropical climate, there’s no way you can completely escape it, so there’s something to be said for embracing the season as best as you can. If you’re finding pulling through the colder months gruelling, implement a little (seasonally inspired) self care session you’ll look forward to every single day.
Body brushing and having warm baths are both great for getting cold circulation flowing and aiding mood. Take your brush pre-shower or bath (we like Legology’s Lymph-Lite Boom Brush) and starting at your feet, apply firmly but gently in upwards strokes towards the heart. Continue across the rest of the body, using circular motions across your torso. Not only will it leave your skin feeling soft and exfoliated, it will get your blood pumping (which is great for improving your mood) as well as facilitating lymphatic drainage.
We reach for Aromatherapy Associates’ Forest Therapy Bath and Shower Oil all year round, but its notes of verdant fir trees and pink pepper definitely come into their own when the temperature dips. Or if you’re looking to relieve weary, aching muscles, a magnesium-rich bath might prove just the ticket. Westlab’s Recovery Bath Salts provide the ultra-relaxing benefits of magnesium as well as soothing arnica and revitalising eucalyptus to get you feeling in fighting form once more.
After a luxurious soak, round out your pampering session with a body massage in the comfort of your own bathroom with Sarah Chapman’s Bodylift Tool. It makes short work of water retention, boosting blood and lymphatic circulation to leave limbs feeling lighter and more toned.