When it’s cold and wet outside, the days are short and we’re stuck at home, it can be tempting to reach for ‘comfort’ foods. Or we might indulge in a glass or two of wine.
But enjoyable as these things might seem in the moment, they won’t help your mood, or your health, in the long term.
We’ve put together some of our top lifestyle medicine tips, to ensure you stay fit and well this lockdown.
When we’re not allowed to leave the house as often as we normally would, getting some form of regular exercise becomes a must. A twenty-minute run will boost endorphins and lift your mood for the rest of the day. Even a short walk can do wonders for your state of mind.
Try meeting a friend for a walk, a run or even a bit of outdoor circuit training. So long as you make sure you keep your distance from each other. This allows you to meet your social needs as well as getting that much-needed fresh air and exercise.
Foods that are high in fat and sugar provide a short-lived boost in mood, often followed swiftly by feelings of guilt and self loathing.
Tip: if you are having a craving or feel like snacking, try one of the following:
- Try drinking a glass of water to see if your craving to eat is subsided by this
- Wait 20 minutes between the initial craving, and reaching for the snack. If at 20 minutes you’re still thinking about wanting the snack then have it.
Did you know that there are plenty of foods that do actually help to lift your mood in the longer term? Nutrition psychologists claim there is a strong link between the brain and the gut, so try eating more of these foods if you want to avoid feeling low this lockdown:
- Leafy greens
- Organ meats, like liver or kidney
- Wild salmon
- Shellfish like clams, oysters and mussels
It goes without saying that excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption will cause more problems than it solves. Instead, try reaching for a herbal tea? Teas containing turmeric, lemon balm or ginger are particularly good, as these are all proven mood-boosting herbs.
Remind yourself that the craving will pass and that you are helping to improve your health and wellbeing.
A good night’s sleep can make everything seem brighter, so staying on top of your sleep pattern is vital to maintaining a positive outlook and generally staying fit and well during lockdown.
Ensuring that you get fresh air and exercise every day, eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding caffeine and alcohol will all go a long way to helping you sleep. Some other things you can do are:
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
If you don’t have to go into an office or get the children to school, it can be tempting to stay up late and lie in, but studies have shown that having regular bedtimes and wake-up times helps your body know when it is time to sleep.
Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed
The blue light in your phone or TV screen decreases melatonin, making it harder for us to switch off.
Develop a bedtime routine
We can all benefit from a routine around bedtime. Make yourself a chamomile tea, have a bath, read a book for half an hour… whatever works for you.
This might seem like the hardest thing to achieve in a lockdown situation, but it is vital to maintain social interactions in whatever way you can.
As mentioned above, meeting a friend for a walk can be a great way to achieve this. In fact, many people find they have much more meaningful conversations walking side by side with someone than they would face to face in a café.
If you’re shielding, video calling can be a great way to keep relationships going. Or why not consider getting a pet? There is a reason that demand for cats and dogs has skyrocketed in the past year, pets are a great company.