With long, dark evenings and cold, wet weather ahead, the winter months can leave many of us feeling down in the dumps. But from eating a balanced diet to doing some gentle exercise, there are simple measures you can take that will help see you through to spring with a smile. Around 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during winter – more commonly known as the ‘winter blues’. Doctors think that a lack of sunlight can cause some people’s bodies to produce more of the sleep hormone, melatonin, making you feel tired and irritable throughout the day. Cold weather and short days can also make some people depressed, and cause them to want to shut themselves away indoors, and sometimes overeat. Fortunately, for most people, a few diet and lifestyle changes can make a real difference to how you feel over the winter months. These include:

1. Going outside

As the winter blues can be caused by a lack of sunlight, try to go outside once a day – particularly if the weather is bright. Enjoying a walk in the winter sunshine is also a great way to take some exercise, which can lift your spirits and help you enjoy a better night’s sleep. If the weather is bad or it’s not easy for you to get out every day, sit by a window for an hour or two to get some natural light.

2. Staying in touch with friends and family

Independent living can sometimes be lonely for older people – particularly in winter when bad weather often makes you reluctant to go out. But catching up with friends and family can make such a difference to your mood, whether it’s in person, over the phone or even online. You could also try joining community groups or taking up a new hobby. Keeping the mind active and giving yourself something to look forward to is one of the best ways to beat the winter blues.

3. Eating a varied diet

If you’re feeling low, it’s possible you could be missing out on some important vitamins and minerals, such as: Iron – this vital nutrient helps to make red blood cells, so not getting enough of it can cause you to feel tired. Red meat is packed with iron, so why not treat yourself to warming winter favourites such as Cottage Pie or Lancashire Hotpot? Seafood and veggies such as spinach, broccoli and peas are also good sources. Add tempting Salmon & Broccoli Pie to your stock of frozen ready meals for a deliciously varied, easy to cook winter menu. Zinc – this mineral acts as a neurotransmitter, and is essential to almost everything the brain does, - it can also help reduce anger and depression. You should get all you need from eating a balanced diet including red meat, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese, nuts and seeds. Bring some sunshine to your day with Mediterranean classics like Seafood Paella or Tomato & Pesto Quiche. Folate – people with depression often have low levels of folate, which is a B vitamin the body needs to make red blood cells. Increase your levels with folate-rich dishes such as Liver & Onions or Bean & Butternut Squash Crumble . And keep a handy bag of Broccoli florets in the freezer as an accompaniment to your ready meals. Eating a good variety of dishes not only makes sure you include all the nutrients you need – it gives you something different to look forward to at mealtimes. Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and with our wide range of home delivered ready meals, it’s easy to brighten up a cold day with a hot dinner. With our free brochure, it’s simple to plan a tempting menu of all your favourites. Or, if you’re looking for something different, why not try one of our Easy Order Packs, and receive a week’s worth of delicious meals and desserts in one?