If February has you feeling low, you should know that you’re not alone. Feelings of sadness, low mood, low energy and problems sleeping are incredibly common at this time of the year. Finding ways to manage low mood and support mental health during times of challenge is hugely important. Here we look at ways to feel more positive when the clouds won’t lift – and yes, sometimes a smile really is all it takes…
Something as simple as a smile can trick the brain into thinking you’re happy and calm, as you use the same facial muscles you use when you’re genuinely happy. Better still, share that smile with someone else and brighten their day too!
When we focus on the past, we tend to feel depressed about the things we cannot change and when we focus on the future, we can feel anxious about events we cannot control. Try to ground yourself in the present by being aware of what you’re smelling, hearing, touching, tasting and seeing. Let your senses anchor you to what’s happening right now. Simple activities such as gardening, cooking, arts and crafts or stroking a pet, are great for bringing you back to the present moment.
Exercise, sunlight and green space exposure
Exercise is really good for us. Not only does it help to release the feel good endorphins that make us happy, but exercising outdoors can help to increase levels of vitamin D, low levels of which can lead to low mood - more about that below.
Do all of that in a green leafy park and you give yourself a triple boost as green space exposure is believed to activate a primitive part of the brain involved with stress regulatory responses. Just 10 minutes a day will help you to feel better and more in control.
If you can’t go out, sitting near a window or light therapy that mimics summer daylight can also help.
About that vitamin D
Often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is naturally produced in the body when exposed to sunlight. Deficiency during the darker months is extremely common in the UK and many scientists point to a connection between vitamin D deficiency and low mood. This is partly due to where in the brain our vitamin D receptors are located – the area of the brain we know to be associated with depression. It is also thought that vitamin D may influence how serotonin works which again could influence how we’re feeling.
B vitamins and low mood
If energy levels are low, foods rich in B vitamins are recommended because they help to convert food into energy. B vitamin deficiency has also been linked directly to low mood, so it’s well worth topping up. Oat-based cereals (porridge especially) are a great way to start the day. Alternatively a B-Complex supplement can help.
Can St. John’s Wort help with depression?
For feelings of sluggishness, low mood or mild anxiety, the herbal remedy St. John’s Wort or Hypericum is worth a try. Scientists believe it works by prolonging the action of serotonin and by increasing levels of melatonin. We often recommend A.Vogel’s Hyperiforce tablets but do bear in mind that Hypericum can take up to six weeks for best results, and it can interact with other medications and affect the way they work, so it isn’t suitable for everyone. Check with your GP first if on prescribed medicines.
Staying positive with flower essences
If Hypericum is not for you, you could try Jan de Vries Mood Essence , a combination of flower essences that may give support when it is difficult to stay positive. Taken regularly it aims to uplift and bring back an optimistic and enthusiastic outlook.