January is one of the darkest months of the year. It was actually December 22 last year, the winter equinox, that was the shortest day but the festive lights and collective joyous mood tended to distract from that fact. Now, however, the decorations have been packed away, people have swapped mulled wine for green juices and our energy is at an all-time low. But we’re here to help— you don’t have to let the dark, dreary, days get you down, we called on 5 experts to share their advice for boosting your energy and your mood this January.
Where possible it’s always best to get your nutrients from good, healthy food but when it comes to energising Vitamin D, the sun is the best source. “In fact, 90% of the body’s Vitamin D levels are produced by the effect of sunlight on the skin,” says Dr Jane Leonard. When we head out in the sunshine, UVB rays convert cholesterol into Vitamin D. “Vitamin D is a multi-system vitamin, this means it works at different levels in our body which has positive effects on our physical and mental health,” she notes.
“Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and helping to prevent depression. SAD occurs in the winter months when the level of natural daylight is reduced. The combination of Vitamin D and improved exposure to natural sunlight can indirectly improve our mood and reduce the risk of depression.”
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so make sure you take your supplement with fatty food like eggs, salmon or avocado.
See the Rainbow
Chromatherapy, also known as colour therapy, is where colour is used to evoke different feelings. Glow Bar London has introduced chromotherapy into its infrared sauna sessions. You can choose from a variety of coloured lights, including green for general healing, calming purple or blue to aid sleep, that is turned on in the sauna during your session. Not in London? This month, try wearing uplifting yellow in the day and surround yourself with calming blue, purple and green before bed.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) uses a simple tapping motion on certain acupressure points to help change your state of body and mind. It can help if you’re feeling, for instance, anxious or tired. Author and coach Janey Lee Grace (founder of www.thesoberclub.com) shares an EFT routine to try.
Firstly, focus on your issue and rate it in terms of its intensity. So if it’s that you’re feeling tired or stressed how is it? 10 would be intense and one would be fine.
Taking your first and middle finger, use your fingertips to tap on the side of the other hand (where the ‘karate chop’ point is). Repeat on either side. This is the start of the sequence.
Take a deep breath and say, while you’re tapping, “Even though I’m tired/stressed/overwhelmed I deeply and completely accept myself.” Repeat three times.
Then tap around the sequence, for a few seconds at each point, repeating the sentence as you go:
The eyebrow (where it meets the nose)
The side of the eye
Under the eye
Under the nose
On the chin
The collarbone (either side)
Under the arm
On top of the head
Repeat the sequence three times and then take a deep breath and check if the intensity level has gone down.
Now rate your issue from one to 10, if it’s still high, repeat the sequence. But this time introduce positive phrases instead, such as “I can increase my energy.” “I’m feeling more refreshed.” “I am energised.”
In a public place? “Just tap on the side of each hand and imagine the rest of the sequence in your mind, it still works!”
Focus on Fun Fitness
Exercise is wonderful for positively affecting our mood. There is nothing quite like the endorphin release you get after a sweaty session. But, really try to focus on having fun in your workouts this month to ensure you get up and out. Whether you enjoy the calming effects of yoga or want to try something completely left-field like trampolining, make sure that when you commit to moving this month you’re having a good time, too! The more fun you have, the more you’ll want to workout.
During winter animals hibernate, so it’s little wonder that you might want to rest a little more this month. Just make sure that you’re getting good quality sleep. Why not make your bedroom a device-free zone this month? Fill your bath with Epsom salts, the magnesium boosts levels of the neurotransmitter GABA that promotes good sleep. Add a capful of energy-balancing and skin-softening The Ritual of Ayurveda Bath Foam. And, if you don’t have blackout curtains get a sleep mask to block out any light that could affect your slumber.
If you want to aid good sleep further, Sana Khan, Nutrition Consultant and founder of Avicenna Wellbeing, says “tryptophan is the neurotransmitter which modulates sleep. Natural food sources include cottage cheese, dates and turkey breast. A spoonful of cottage cheese an hour to two hours before bed may help with the sleep process!”
Boost Your Mood With Scent
“Essential oils such as sweet orange, bergamot and lime help to energise and uplift your mood,” says Khan. The Ritual of Happy Buddha Shower Oil, not only boasts sweet orange but leaves skin silky soft and nourished.
Eat Little and Often
According to Harvard Medical School, when it comes to energy eating little and often is better than the traditional three meals a day approach. They write, ‘This approach can reduce your perception of fatigue because your brain, which has very few energy reserves of its own, needs a steady supply of nutrients. Some people begin feeling sluggish after just a few hours without food. But it doesn't take much to feed your brain. A piece of fruit or a few nuts is adequate.’
Also, keeping your lunch lighter will help to stave off that 4 pm slump, so stick to a nutritious soup or warm salad.
Portable Energy Boosters
Get chewing! Not gum, but cardamom seeds. “This helps improve alertness and energy,” says Medical Herbalist, Pamela Spence. Spence also recommends inhaling rosemary essential oil, so keep a bottle of The Ritual of Hammam Hair & Body Mist, at work to spritz when you need a pick-me-up. “The rosemary oil increases blood circulation to the brain, therefore taking more oxygen with it and making you feel more alert and awake.”
When it comes to feeling more energised and grounded, breathing is a powerful (and free!) tool. Breathing Expert Alan Dolan has shared this exercise to try. Think of a tree and its roots in the grounds, the tree gets its energy from the earth and so can we. Take ten minutes out to try this energising, breathing routine.
“We can become more energised and grounded by lying on the floor (in a well-heated room) and simply feeling your connection to the floor and the earth. If you are a visual person you can imagine roots flowing from your back down through the floor into the earth. If you are not so visual simply feel the sensation of the points of contact your body is making with the floor and then imagine the space below,” says Dolan.
“Now breathe in through your nose, allowing the breath to go at its own pace with no attempt to control it whatsoever. After ten minutes, do some gentle stretches and slowly get up and move around, still conscious of the connection your feet are making with the floor and therefore the earth.”
For more breathing exercises try the Breath Guru app.