The end of Daylight Saving time at 2am this Sunday signals the beginning of longer, darker nights and, to our dismay, even colder weather.
While a change of season can affect our mood, there are some simple ways to beat the blues if we look towards the Nordic countries (five of which occupied the top 10 places in this year's ), specifically in Sweden.
'With as little as six hours daylight in Sweden on the shortest day – almost two hours less than in the UK, we Scandinavians have tried and tested ways of beating the blues,' says Catharina Bjorkman, style and marketing director of Swedish wood burning stoves brand, . 'Rather than mourning the arrival of winter, we believe that as long as you are prepared, there are many reasons to celebrate it.'
Counter the effects of the change in season with Catharina's top tips:
1. Let there be light: 'Natural light is vital for effective brain and body function and those exposed to greater quantities have been shown to be more productive, while also sleeping better at night,' says Catharina. Whilst the sun is up, it's important to get outside as much as possible and embrace the light as well as the oxygen. 'It's also a great excuse to add a few cosy new layers to make you feel good about your winter wardrobe,' she adds.
2. Make your own glow: 'With as little as six hours of sunlight per day in the Swedish winter, we often make our own,' Catharina explains. ' extend exposure to light during the darker months and are a worthwhile investment, providing mental and physical benefits that can counter Seasonal Affective Disorder.' Studies have also shown that the warming and calming glow of a fire reduces blood pressure and stress levels, providing a quick-fix feel-good factor throughout the winter.
3. Music to your ears: 'Create a playlist of upbeat tracks to help you feel energised on dark, cold mornings,' Catharina suggests. 'Music has been shown to elevate your mood, reduce stress and improve cognitive performance. The brain releases dopamine while listening to music, so creating a soundtrack for your winter could provide you with just the motivation you need to make it through to spring…'
4. Hygge happiness: Hygge (or Mysig in Swedish) is about being kind to yourself, spending quality time, creating a sense of warmth and cosiness, enjoying little indulgences and taking pleasure in the simple things. 'It's what gets us Swedes through the winter,' says Catharina. 'As well as creating a cosy environment, do things that make you happy, such as having dinner with family, enjoying cake, rela in a hot bath with candles, or snuggling on the sofa with a good book and hot drink. Embrace the downtime and disconnect for a calmer, happier you.'
5. It makes 'scents': Your sense of smell plays a part in your mood, and different smells can evoke memories, create a sense of comfort, security or peace, and can impact mood tremendously. 'Vanilla is good for putting you at ease, lavender induces calm, and citrus scents can perk you up,' reveals Catharina. 'Popular feel-good winter scents include sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, vanilla, orange and clove.'
6. Declutter, declutter, declutter: 'Believe it or not, a mere 20 minutes a week of cleaning can alleviate symptoms of depression,' says Catharina. 'In 2011, Princeton University found that clutter makes it more difficult to focus on a task. A clear living space really does make for clear mind, meaning you can get on with more pleasurable pursuits without being caught up with the chaos. Move over spring-clean and come on in .'
7. Chocolate is not always bad: Stock up on quality chocolate (and hot chocolate for those colder nights). 'Dark chocolate boosts the production of feel-good endorphins and improves blood flow to the brain. Make sure to treat yourself to purer forms, which offer the greater health benefits,' says Catharina.
8. Baking Therapy: 'In Scandinavia, baking is a standard winter ritual,' Catharina explains. 'Mental health and culinary experts are now supporting the idea that and depression by combining aspects of traditional occupational therapies.' There are a multitude of reasons that baking can make us happier, including the simple fact that it provides a nice treat to enjoy, brings the family together, makes the home cosy and inviting, and makes it smell good, too.
9. Tea Time: Tea contains natural components from antioxidants to caffeine. Amino acids within tea can relax and calm the body, while it has also been shown to reduce mental fatigue and improve the memory, says Catharina. She adds: 'As winter draws in, it is important to remember to take five regularly and make the most of the warmth and the health benefits that a low calorie, cleansing tea can offer.'
10. A leaf out of our book: Catharina says we should try to counter the chaos of the daily commute by transporting ourselves away from the crowd. 'Reading reduces stress, fills you with knowledge, expands your vocabulary and improves focus. Get recommendations from friends, family or colleagues and schedule ,' she advises.
11. Good for the soul: 'Try to do one good deed a day, however small,' Catharina says. 'Showing compassion doesn't just help others; it also helps you. It reduces stress, distracts from negative feelings and has even been shown to increase life expectancy. Acts of altruism release feel-good chemicals in the brain, meaning you'll be motivated to do more in future.'
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