This week signalled the approach of winter weather in Sweden and the seasonal changes will be leaving some of us feeling more tired and down than normal.
If this kind of weather spells an unusual fatigue for you, here are eight tips for surviving the Swedish winter naturally and ensuring you are fighting fit to take advantage of the darkness, snow, and, cold.
1. Get a regular exercise kick
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which not only reduce your perception of pain but make you feel incredibly happy. Exercise has also been proven to reduce stress, improve sleep and has a calming effect on the body. Supercharge your exercise by taking advantage of any sunlight hours and exercise outdoors to soak up winter light, adding an instant lift to any heavy mood.
2. Set yourself a daily and weekly routine
Establish a daily routine as best you can, this should include waking at the same time every day, regular gym visits, personal down time, sufficient time for cooking real food and not forgetting the importance of socializing with friends. Not only are these factors all important for good health but having a routine with consistent and repeating activities gives you a sense of regularity that can help with warding off winter blues.
3. Invest in a SAD lamp
Sunlight helps regulate hormones such as melatonin, which helps sleep, and serotonin, which affects our moods. A drop in serotonin can negatively affect mood and is thought to play a role in the onset of seasonal depression. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamps gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light (which we lack during winter) and therefore affect the brain chemicals melatonin and seratonin, linked to mood and easing winter depression.
4. Maintain a good intake of fresh produce
Scientific studies show links between low levels of B vitamins and depression. The B vitamin folate, found in green vegetables and legumes, is thought to be essential for preventing low moods. It is also thought that low folate levels may even stop antidepressants from working. Ensure you get a good daily intake of folate rich foods including lentils, green vegetables (just lightly cooked or juiced) beans and pulses.
5. Reduce your intake of caffeine and sugar
Caffeine and sugar – whether in drinks or food – give us a quick energy boost but often leave us worse off after their effects wear off. Too much can make you shaky or anxious, and is thought to worsen depression whilst if you suffer from any type of fatigue condition, this will exacerbate your energy lows due to the pressure it puts on the adrenals. Opt for caffeine free drinks and natural slow-release energy snacks like almonds to get you through the day!
6. Think turkey!
Up your intake of tryptophan-rich turkey! Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which is converted in our bodies into serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which makes us feel happy. Low levels of the serotonin are often correlated with feelings of depression. If you are feeling a bit blue, include tryptophan-rich foods such turkey or chicken into your meals. Tuna, shrimps, lamb, salmon and beans are also good options to increase your happy hormones.
7. Supplement with vitamin D
Experts estimate that 70 percent of Europeans suffer from low levels of vitamin D. Not only does it help regulate the immune system and protect us from the flu but it could help alleviate the symptoms of winter depression. During summer we get sufficient sunlight which allows our body’s to naturally synthesize vitamin D, however for the other nine months of the year a liquid vitamin D3 supplement is highly recommended for anyone in darker and northern European climates.
8. And lastly, consume more Omega 3
Omega-3 supplementation has been shown to help relieve depression as well as aiding muscular pain, healthy brain function, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and blood sugar stabilisation. Natural sources of omega-3s include fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, whilst ground linseeds, chia seeds or linseed oil are all good vegetarian sources. Try getting 2-3 portions of fresh oily fish a week or alternatively supplement with a good quality Omega 3 supplement.
Editor's Note: Kate Nordin, a Kiwi based in Stockholm, is a fully qualified nutritionist and member of the Royal Society of Medicine and British Association of Nutritional Therapists.