Feeling January Blues? Try these Naturopathic approaches to lift your mood

January is a difficult month for most people due to the short daylight hours, getting up when it’s still dark in conjunction with the pretty miserable weather. Spring can seem a long way off.

But there are simple things you can do to help lift your mood, keep you calm yet happy and avoid extra stress and anxiety. Why not give yourself a “happiness” scorenow, then give these 5 suggestions a go and check back in in a few week’s time to see if you notice any improvement?

1. Try to get outside soon after daylight.

Your body sets its natural circadian rhythms in response to exposure to daylight at the start of the day. There has been a body of research to demonstrate how this can give you the necessary cortisol lift at the start of the day (which is required for your get up and go) enabling cortisol to then follow its normal trajectory of slowly falling through the day until it is time for bed. Cortisol should be at its lowest which helps use to unwind and fall asleep. In addition, the pineal gland in the brain controls melatonin release in response to daylight. Raised melatonin in the evening is necessary for a good night’s sleep.

Aim to get outdoors first thing in the morning for at least 10 minutes. Ideally, take a short walk to really help wake you up at the start of the day.

2. Do you consume enough magnesium?

Magnesium is such an important mineral involved in over 300 enzyme processes in the body, yet it is often lacking in people’s diets. It is an essential mineral for mental health as it is required for the release and uptake of serotonin by brain cells. It helps in the production of melatonin which is required to help us get a good night’s sleep. Magnesium helps regulate the stress response system, helping to keep us calm.

All these factors together can make the difference between someone’s calm state of mind or not. The best magnesium rich foods are dark green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, cabbage), nuts and seeds, wholegrain rice, oily fish, avocados and pulses.

3. Did you know you make your own serotonin?

Serotonin is often called the happy hormone. It helps us to feel calm, relaxed and in control. It is actually a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that acts as a mood stabiliser and those with depression are often prescribed SSRIs which help to keep serotonin circulating in the brain.

What if we could make serotonin from your food? Well you can! Some protein foods (containing tryptophan) are converted to serotonin in the brain. Aim to eat a portion of protein foods with every meal as many people do not eat enough. Those foods that may be especially beneficial are dairy, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds and turkey.

There is a catch though. Due to competition with other protein type foods, to ensure tryptophan reaches the brain it is important to eat a little bit of complex carbohydrate (such as oat cakes or brown rice) or fruit alongside (an apple or pear). It is the sugars from these foods that assist this complex process.

4. Are you breathing correctly?

Many people breathe quite shallowly in their upper chest only which creates an oxygen/carbon dioxide imbalance that can enhance anxiety. The body retains too much carbon dioxide. This is especially common if you are stressed.

Deep abdominal breathing not only encourages the release of carbon dioxide but helps to reset the nervous system, taking the body out of the stress response and into the calm state “rest and digest”. To breathe deeply, focus on breathing in slowly allowing the lower abdomen to expand out as you draw breath high up into your thoracic cavity- right up to your clavicle bones. And as you slowly exhale focus on your abdomen contracting which helps to expel carbon dioxide fully from your lungs.

Keep it simple to start with by breathing in and out for a count of 4 each. The simple act of slowing down your breathing, bringing your attention to the breath, helps to switch the body into a parasympathetic state. Try and repeat this several times and especially when you feel anxiety or stress building.

5. Are you triggering stress by consuming too many stimulating drinks?

Caffeine in traditional tea and coffee acts as a stimulant and creates an additional stress response (it results in the release of adrenaline). It also triggers a rise in blood glucose levels and can leave you feeling jittery and wired. It won’t provide sustained energy and it certainly won’t help to keep you calm.

Try to avoid excess caffeine in tea and coffee. `This includes green tea too. Although there is less caffeine than black tea it is not as “herbal” as you might think. Try and substitute some of your tea and coffee for rooibos tea or other herbal or fruit teas. At this time of year, lemon slices and (grated) ginger in hot water is refreshing especially first thing in the morning.

In Conclusion

It really is the simple things that add up to lasting changes. From experience I know that these are easy to implement and sustain and require little effort. This leads to longer term new habits.

Caroline Peyton x

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Keep your eye out for more articles and Peyton Principles in the media.


Gut Health Nutritionist Caroline Peyton Principles
Caroline is a Professional Nutritionist, Naturopath based in Wiltshire.

A little more about me…

Providing expert, personalised, health advice utilising 10 years of nutritional therapy and naturopathy experience with a strong emphasis on digestion and gut health. Zoom or face to face Consultations.

I also develop and deliver well-being in the workplace workshops.

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