It’s July and we’ve past the half-way mark. This is the time when many of us experience a mid-year slump at work and in our personal lives and are usually in need of a mood and morale booster. To live a happy, healthy, balanced, life it is important to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. This means looking at food, fitness, sleep, and supplements, all of which contribute to a person’s overall mood and energy.
What we put into our body has a direct impact on what we get out of it. All food provides the body with energy, but this energy can vary greatly. Some foods, such as sugars and refined carbs, give the body a quick jolt of energy, however they also cause your blood sugar to spike and give you a short-lived high that ends in a crash. The body needs more sustainable energy from ingredients such as fruits, grains, and legumes.
- Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals and fibre and should make up just over a third of the food you eat each day.
- Starchy foods should make up just over a third of everything you eat. Choose wholegrain or wholemeal varieties of starchy foods, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and brown, wholemeal, or higher fibre white bread.
- Milk and dairy foods, such as cheese and yoghurt, are good sources of protein. They also contain calcium, which helps keep your bones healthy.
- Protein is essential for the body to grow and repair itself. Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, and meat are all good sources of protein, as well as a range of vitamins and minerals.
- A small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet; however the source thereof is important. You should get most of your fat from unsaturated oils and spreads. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body can’t make itself. Fat also helps the body absorb vitamins A, D, and E.
Are you drinking enough water? The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends adults drink at least 2 litres per day. You might be surprised to discover dehydration may actually be at the root of your fatigue. It can lead to headaches, ruin concentration, and put you in a bad mood.
Arguably clichéd, there’s no escaping the age-old adage ‘summer bodies are made in winter’. While it may be true, exercise is about more than just the way you look in summer. Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.
Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, and improve sleep. Winter simply isn’t conducive to exercise. The cold weather makes gym, and even a casual stroll in the park less appealing than during warmer months of the year. The key is to set small, achievable goals, and find a training partner.
It’s much harder to skip a workout when you know someone else will be there to meet you. While 30min of exercise every day is ideal, this doesn’t have to take place at the gym. Your mind and body will benefit from any kind of exercise. When going to the grocery store, park as far away from the entrance as possible so you have further to walk. Skip the escalator or elevator and instead take the stairs.
It’s possible to get all the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, but supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet. Evidence suggest that some supplements can enhance health in different ways. A natural way to boost your immune system, a range of different supplements are available to help deal with your winter ills.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which protects against free radical damage, chemicals, and pollutants that may harm our body’s cells. Protecting your body’s cells, vitamin C contributes to the production of collagen, essential for maintaining the health of tissues and organs. While vitamin C may not prevent the common cold, if you do happen to get a cold or flu it may help ease symptoms and reduce duration.
- Vitamin D is primarily obtained via direct exposure to sunlight. Scientists believe that during the winter months we’re unable to synthesis enough vitamin D in our skin, thanks to the low levels of sunlight we experience. This makes vitamin D an essential supplement for the winter season. This nutrient helps to contribute to bone strength and aids in the absorption of calcium. Promoting a positive mood, vitamin D is also one of the recommended solutions to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which produces feelings of tiredness and lethargy during the winter.
- Omega-3s cannot be produced by the body, as such we need to obtain them through our diets or through supplementation. Of benefit in winter, omega-3 may support brain health and improve our mood, reduce and prevent inflammation in the body, boost our immune system, and help to keep the moisture in the skin improving dry skin conditions.
- Zinc is an often-overlooked mineral with a host of important benefits. Zinc supports proper immune function, eye health, and the regulation of appetite, taste, and smell. Zinc is a great all-round vitamin that will benefit you all year around but especially during the winter.
- Magnesium is important for helping us turn the food that we eat into usable energy. A magnesium deficiency may therefore lead to feelings of tiredness, even on a healthy diet.
- Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish, and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it.
- Multivitamins can play an important role in supporting improved health for vulnerable people, such as children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with health conditions that compromise their immunity. If you’re someone who seems to catch every cold that goes around, it’s not a bad idea to invest in an immune-boosting supplement, particularly during the winter.
- People react differently to different products and some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken with other medication. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking supplements.
A good night’s sleep is as important as eating healthy and exercising. The amount of sleep you need each day will change over the course of your life. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends:
- Children aged 6-12 years sleep 9-12 hours a day
- Teens aged 13-18 years sleep 8-10 hours a day
- Adults aged 18 years or older sleep 7-8 hours a day Sleep deprivation may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Chronic sleep loss can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power.
As the immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy, ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which the immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections like winter cold and flu. You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.