Slow it down with yoga
Moderate to high-intensity exercise cranks endorphins, but if you’re looking to manipulate your mood, you might try yoga. Yoga’s effect on mood and anxiety may be superior to other forms of exercise like walking according to Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) research linking yoga postures to increased levels of anti-anxiety neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric (GABA). Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders. In a 12-week study, a group practising yoga three times a week for one hour exhibited higher GABA levels and self-reported mood, with yoga participants largely noting more significant decreases in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than walkers.
The most important external signal for the body clock is light, so exposure to bright morning light is a good antidote to low mood, says Prof Lack. Artificial lighting doesn’t activate the same physiological responses as natural light, so open the curtains as soon as you get up.
On weekends, resist sleeping in. “If you sleep in late, our evidence suggests it leads to a delay of the timing of your body clock,” says Prof Lack. “Because you don’t get light as early, it allows that tendency for delay to take place. Over a weekend you can delay your body clock up to an hour.”
Delaying your body clock over the weekend can result in Monday morning blues, Prof Lack says.
Not only are they likely to show up mismatched foundation and a carefully ironed shirt, fluorescent lights are a poor substitute for sunlight.
“The sort of environmental light outside is much more intense than the light produced by artificial lighting,” says Professor David Hillman, chair of the Sleep Health Foundation. “Artificial light needs to be quite contrived to be the equivalent of sunlight. There’s no doubt that mood gets disturbed by an inability to get out into the open air, so as far as a healthy lifestyle goes, it’s about robust wakefulness and good sleep patterns. These low-light environments are less arousing, so the quality of the wakefulness is less.”
Increasing brightness of lighting may provide an instant boost.
“Enhancement of office and industrial lighting can have an energising effect that strengthens circadian rhythms, allowing more concentrated activity during the day and more refreshing sleep at night,” says Prof Terman.
It doesn’t replace the lunchtime walk, but it might help.
Read the full article by Bronte Chaperon, David Goding and Rebecca Long in the June 2016 issue of Women’s Health and Fitness for more natural winter mood boosters.
If you, or someone you know, need to talk to someone about depression, contact Beyond Blue, 1300 22 4636, or beyondblue.org.au,