After a largely locked-down summer, students are heading back to schools and universities and the nights are beginning to draw in.
As the latest government restrictions limit social gatherings and see a return to homeworking for many, here are five tips to boost your mood this autumn.
1. Make the most of the sunlight while you can, then top-up your Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, nutrients that help to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.
We get Vitamin D from the sun. However, from early October to March, UK sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation for our skin to be able to make vitamin D.
Make the most of the sun while you can and as the nights draw in consider topping up. The NHS suggests 10 micrograms a day to keep your bones and muscles healthy.
You might also add vitamin D-rich food to your diet, such as oily fish, red meat, or liver.
2. Get plenty of exercise
The sun might be light on vitamin D – and in generally short supply – as autumn takes hold, but fresh air is still an important boost to our mood. As is exercise.
If you’re looking for a great way to stay fit and healthy, releasing endorphins while getting some fresh air, head out for a daily walk. Consider joining a walking group and if you’re worried about the stress on your joints, give Nordic walking a try.
The simple addition of walking poles can help relieve stress on joints.
The NHS confirms that walking is, ‘A full-body exercise that’s easy on the joints and suitable for all ages and fitness levels.’ It’s great for those who haven’t exercised for a while, dislike the gym, or have suffered an injury.
If Nordic Walking isn’t right for you, consider gardening or cycling. Anything that gets your heart rate up will help to release endorphins and boost your mood.
3. Ensure you get enough sleep, but not too much
You might feel a desire to hibernate as the nights draw in. A lack of sunlight causes our brains to produce more melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy.
But remember, the amount of sleep you need doesn’t change as winter nears, and too much sleep can make you feel even more sluggish.
Be sure to keep the same morning and evening routines, going to bed and getting up at similar times where possible. If you struggle to sleep, technology might be able to lend a hand.
Apps like Calm and Headspace offer meditations to help you relax and drift into sleep. An app like Portal – describing itself as an ‘ambient sound app’ – uses soundscapes of the natural world to create an immersive experience to ease the worries of the day.
If you want to understand how you sleep, consider an app like Sleep Cycle.
This app tracks and analyses your sleep then uses that information to wake you up slowly, at the optimum time in your sleep cycle. Incorporate the app into a fixed morning routine and you should start the day full of energy.
4. Set yourself goals
Keeping busy is great but setting goals can give your activity much-needed focus.
As the hours of daylight begin to diminish, set yourself tasks to complete – whether in the garden or to-do lists around the house – and tick them off when they’re complete.
Ticking off a task can give you a sense of achievement and an immediate mood boost. It can also help to keep you active, staving off the winter hibernation effect.
5. Reduce your stress levels
Reading a book, listening to music, indulging in a hobby that’s just for you – all these things will help you to relax. Be sure to make time for them this autumn.
It can be especially hard as the nights draw in. Shorter days mean it can be harder to fit in all your usual daily tasks. This can, in turn, lead to stress.
Breaking your to-do list into manageable chunks will ensure you still have the sense of achievement of a task completed. And taking time out to de-stress is important.
Relaxing with a good book or a favourite radio programme can help. So too can meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or mindfulness techniques.
Try the Headspace and Calm apps mentioned previously. Both encourage relaxation through music and meditation and are a great introduction to mindfulness.