Q. These dark winter days make my tendency towards low mood worse. Are there any natural remedies that could help?
A. Winter blues affect around one in five people in the UK, according to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (www.sada.org.uk). These mildly debilitating symptoms are known as ‘sub-syndromal seasonal affective disorder’. For about two per cent, however, SAD is a seriously disabling illness. The key is to try a range of strategies.
• Go outdoors in natural light, especially at midday. Sit near windows when you can, and choose pale bright colours at home and to wear.
• Walk away the blues. A daily one-hour walk around lunchtime can be as helpful as light treatment (right).
• Light boxes can be effective in up to 85 per cent of diagnosed cases of SAD. They also help winter blues, in my experience. You can rent a light box from www.healthy-house.co.uk (from £22.80 for one month). A dawn simulator alarm clock helps wake you gently – find a range on www.lumie.com.
• Stay warm. Being cold makes you more depressed, so wrap up well and keep sipping hot drinks and nourishing soups – avoid too many carbs and sugars as putting on weight may lower your mood, too.
• Consider herbs. Traditional herbal remedies benefit many, particularly St John’s wort (hypericum) and magnolia/rhodiola. Try A Vogel Hypericum Tincture, £9.15 for 50ml, or NHS Labs Magnolia Rhodiola Complex, £26 for 60 capsules, both from www.victoriahealth.com, 0800 389 8195.
Vitamins B and C help make anti-stress hormones. Stress depletes your supplies, so top up with Vitamin B Complex with Vitamin C by Terra Nova, £9.50 for 50 capsules, from www.victoriahealth.com.
Vitamin D3 (the ‘sunshine’ vitamin) may boost your mood and is vital for your brain and body to function properly. D Lux 1000 oral spray, £7.15 for 15 ml, from www.victoriahealth.com.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids and magnesium (as well as vitamin D) should also help. Eat oily fish weekly, and try a supplement such as Eye-Q (Dame Judi Dench takes it daily), £8.16 for 60 capsules; I take magnesium at night: DynoMins Magnesium, £14.95 for 90 tablets, both from www.victoriahealth.com.
Definitely a luxury, but also a little bit of genius, Yuyu Designs offer an ultra long, flexible hot water bottle in a cosy cashmere cover. You can wrap up your neck, or slide the bottle down your body or back. I love it! NB you only need one kettle to fill it – one of the stipulations of developer Richard Yu. Yuyu Bottle Cashmere Classic Knit, £159, from www.yuyubottle.com.
Helping children cope with the fear of serious illness in the family or the devastation of losing a parent or sibling needs the sort of special help offered by charity Winston’s Wish, which is supported by Richard and Judy. To support its helpline (0845 203 0405) and other services, Winston’s Wish is asking all of us to hold a Great British Brekkie event in the week of 10 to 16 February. All the information on holding your own breakfast is on www.greatbritishbrekkie.org.uk, including recipes such as the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ tantalising ‘fire’ porridge.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
THE ART OF BABY MAKING, by Gerad Kite (New Generation Publishing , £7.99). I first heard of Gerad Kite some years ago through a colleague who had successfully consulted him about unexplained infertility. She and her husband are one of many couples whom this passionate practitioner of Five Element Acupuncture (the most ancient form) has helped to become parents. Now he has distilled his knowledge into a practical guide to help people support their minds, bodies and spirits to create the optimum conditions for new life. Available from www.amazon.co.uk.