How to stop that hedgehog feeling…

Well winter is finally here and if you’re anything like me you’re already pining for those long warm evenings, beer gardens and bare legs. As the nights draw in (though the lack of sunlight I get working in a basement means it could be dark all day for all I know!) I suddenly find that only mashed potato and hot chocolate will do. (not together!) Personally I’d love it if I could spend all Autumn getting fat, have a massive sleep and then wake up skinny and refreshed in time for summer… sadly hibernation isn’t possible so I’ve found some ways to beat the winter blues.  

One of the main reasons we get seasonal depression is due to the decrease in the amount of light we get. Light triggers messages to a part of the brain called the ‘hypothalamus’ (No relation to the animal haha) This part controls sleep, mood, libido and appetite so a decrease in light has an impact of how effectively the brain manages these functions – i.e. we’re moodier, sadder, sleepier, ‘hungrier’ and less sexier. Brilliant.

So, what can we all do to try and put a bit of spring in our booted feet? Although these may not get your leaping out of bed at 7am in the same way you can in July – I hope that’ll at least help make climbing out from under the duvet a little easier (and maybe I can put that potato masher down.)

  1. Run around a bit  –  One of the easiest ways to improve your mood is to get more light! There are recommendations a plenty about light boxes but much as I’d love to splash some cash on a giant light bulb it’s not a financially viable solution, so the next best thing is to get outside moImagere. Combine this with some exercise and you’ll not only be getting the most of the light (and stopping any sort of Vitamin D deficiency!) but exercise is famously as effective a treatment of depression as antidepressants. Gotta love those natural endorphins.  (If the thought of jogging in your lunch break is pretty replusive, like me, you could always go for a wander at lunch and take some other form of exercise later to get the same effect. This lady loves lunchtime yoga)
  2. Put a B in it!  Vitamin B to be precise – needed in the body for energy. B6 boosts the neurotransmitters in your brain-box needed for mood balancing. Fantastic feel good foods rich in B6 include sweet potatoes, eggs (also a egg-cellent source of Vitamin D), fish and avocado (these last Imagetwo will also give you lovely shiney hair too, cause you’re worth it.) Also in this category are bananas, blueberries, brown rice and beef. Beginning with B and also excellent for turning that frown upside down by increasing seratonin. Lean red meat is one of the best sources of protein which stops energy levels from crashing causing you to reach for that biscuit tin.
  3. Have a cup of zen – Consider swapping your regular cup of joe to green tea. ImageYes coffee gives you that kick up the bum in the morning but it can also lead to anxiety, muscle tension and er… gut issues apparently! Research shows that green tea can help as an antidepressant and it’s also thought to boost your metabolism (anything to stop a potato pot belly!) 
    Give it a go – look how chilled out she looks!
  4. Pop a pill – St.John’s Wort, Tyrosine and 5-HTP are all natural supplements which lift your mood. Cod-liver oils will not only give you lovely lubricated joints but they’re also a dose of Vitamin D when the sun’s not.
  5. Get zesty – Researcher have found that just the smell of oranges can give you a pep. Citrus fruit are also famously full of Vitamin C which can ward off winter colds – which can only be a good thing cause, lets be honest, who feels sexy with a cold?!
  6. Have a laugh – if you’re feeling blue get out and socialise. Socialising releases endophines and scientists have found that those who laugh more live longer! (click here to see more benefits of laughter and what happened when I tried laughter yoga) 
  7. Jump on a flight – Nothing really is as good as some genuine sunshine so if funds allow, book yourself a winter holiday. Not only will it give you something to look forward to but you will reap the Imagehealth benefits of the extra light, (you lucky things – only London lunchtime walks for me sadly.)

So there you have it – no need to go into hibernation just yet. Let me know if you have any other tips for getting me out of the house, circus class is definitely next on the list.

I should say however if you are suffering from winter seasonal disorder of a more serious nature you should consult your GP and don’t suffer in silence.

Good to hear from you as always.

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More soon.

Peace.

x

 

 

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What happened when I tried laughter yoga…

When was the last time you had a really good laugh? I reckon it probably wasn’t like this.

There I was in a circle of strangers talking gibberish (literally. nonsense words.) and then ‘showering myself with laughter’ How was I feeling? – Quite surreal and pretty stupid to be honest, very awkward and really not keen to make eye contact with the 30 strangers around me.

Fast forward an hour and my face is hurting from smiling and laughing so much, I feel light headed, full of energy and bonded. I’d even go as far as saying I’d picked up a few new friends.

I have spent a long time thinking about how to describe the class and there’s no getting round the fact that if I tell you – without you having experienced it – it sounds completely bonkers. (Pretending that you’re riding a bike, playing volleyball, sumo wrestling while hysterically laughing for example)

To break it down Laughter Yoga combines unconditional laughing with yogic breathing. The Laughter is created through body exercises in a group which turns into real and contagious laughter. Scientifically the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter and you get the same physiological and psychological benefits including the release of endorphins and seratonin (a natural antidepressant) with reduced adrenaline and cortisol which help you feel relaxed. It also gives your insides a work out, boosts your oxygen intake to the brain and boosts your immune system!

I found my class through Meetup and our Angela – our laughter leader, made the group instantly comfortable with her effortless charm and huge smile.  The group was a mixed bag. Confession – I expected a group of tied dye wearing hippy types (not that I’m against this breed of folk – it’s just what I expected) Instead I discovered a whole range of people of different ages, backgrounds, cultures and countries (India, France, Norway, America, Ireland and that’s only the ones I could remember!) Some were (brilliant) regulars, others had been a while ago and quite a few were first timers like me. We did an introduced activity where we had to laugh every time anyone said their name, where they were from and what they did – a bizarre experience but the laughter was warm not mocking. Amongst the group were a computer programmer, a grandmother, a radio host, a dancer, an accountant and 3 nurses* to name a few (*an excellent group of ladies I accosted prior to the class over hearing them talk about it and who consequently become my giggling comrades.) The class begins with more gentle laughter exercises and builds to quite a dynamic level (you need to yogic breathing to get your breath back!)

Laughter Yoga is not for the faint heart-ed. You have to laugh – on command – for a long sustained period (about an hour)..And I’m not talking about a giggle – I mean big hysterical belly laughing.  We did it outside so passer-by would regularly stop (stare) to see what this group of (clearly) mad people were going jumping around in hysterical laughter.

There is no doubt about it, it’s quite a weird experience but perhaps no stranger than a drama workshop. Don’t get me wrong – when you’re doing it – it feels mental. But once you let go and just go with the flow it becomes liberating, fun, surreal and bizarrely enjoyable!? By the end of the class we were whooping and clapping as if we had just completed a sell out West End show. I felt on a genuine high and afterwards instead of going home (it was 8.30pm on a school night after all!) everyone stayed and had a drink and socialised. I had some great conversations with some interesting lovely people.

Personally Laughter yoga isn’t going to be something I do every week, but I plan on taking it up every few months or if I ever felt down. It is a bit crazy – yes. Is it also totally brilliant – definitely and I highly recommend it. Even if you never go again – you’ll have a laugh.

This week people – Laugh more. Then tell me about it!

More soon.

Peace

xx

To find the fabulous School of Laughter class which I attended click here

To read more about Laughter yoga click here

Laughter Yoga International click here

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