January can be a gloomy time. Cold, dark days reign supreme, escapism is at a minimum and a blank social calendar can often lead to the winter blues kicking in, leaving you feeling glum and miserable.

But the goods news is this; we’ve already hopped the hurdle of January 20th, the most depressing day of the year according to experts. Evenings are getting lighter, and we’ve got just over a week to go until a new month and hopefully, a new perspective.

Fear not. Until then, there are ways you can lighten your mood and feel more positive. With that in mind, we’ve teamed up with Medical Herbalist Katie Pande, to bring you these; our 5 IDEAL ways to beat the January blues.

EAT CHOCOLATE

What we eat has a huge impact on our mood. In fact, eating itself can often make us feel cheery. Ever experienced ‘hanger’? Then you’ll know the feeling of joy when you finally feast on some food.

Chocoholics rejoice! Our favourite sweet treat is on the list of happy foods. In fact, it’s the cocoa in chocolate that is said to improve moods and enhance the feelings of pleasure as it boosts levels of serotonin – the ‘happy hormone’ – great for beating winter blues.

Of course, we aren’t encouraging you to eat bar after bar of milky or white chocolate; the latter isn’t even real chocolate, so they say. Instead, aim to eat chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao, as this not only means more of the mood-boosting theobromine but also, it tends to contain less sugar. Too much sugar might temporarily make us feel happy as we float on a sugar high, but it’s soon followed by a crash, which can dampen our mood, ruin our concentration and leave us feeling stressed, anxious and irritable.

Other mood boosting foods to munch on include bananas, turkey, salmon, strawberries and lentils. Perhaps not altogether of course; that sounds like a bizarre dish right there.

CUT BACK ON THE COFFEE

Your oat milk capp might seem like the only way to get through a busy morning but coffee, much like sugar, can leave you anxious and wired, which can soon turn to a coffee ‘crash’. And the result of this? The opposite effect to what you were seeking; tiredness and a slump.

Instead, opting for matcha tea is a great way to still get the caffeine hit without that subsequent crash as it contains a compound called L-theanine. This amino acid helps to increase the mood-boosting hormones serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

GET MOVING

The key to ditching the winter blues, we think. But exercise doesn’t have to mean pounding a treadmill for hours, or spending every morning in the gym. Really, just a 30-minute brisk walk outside is all you need to trigger the production of endorphins – making us feel happy whilst lowering stress levels in the process.

If the weather is intent on keeping you indoors, try yoga or pilates, which can help balance the mind and body, or if you’re short on time, take a lunch break while it’s light outside. Apps such as ‘Seven -7 Minute Workout’ (free from the App Store or Google Play) provide great at-home guided sessions, and even Youtube is a good source of workout videos.

LOVE YOUR GUT 

It’s been dubbed the second brain, and for good reason, as your gut is home to trillions of bacteria. Our gut microbiota, which have been said to potentially impact brain function, aid the immune system and provide nutrients for the body. As such, eat a diet rich in fibre and include plenty of fermented foods such as kefir and kimchi, for an easy gut boost.

Sebastian Pole, Pukka Herbs’ Medical Herbalist and co-founder explains, ‘by supporting good digestion and the body’s detoxification processes, it is possible to increase our resilience to modern lifestyles and regain vitality. Herbs including aniseed, fennel, cardamom and turmeric are perfect to boost the digestive system and liver.

PRIORITISE SLEEP  

A bad night’s sleep can inevitably lead to low energy levels and over time, stress. Avoid that pesky caffeine after midday and try to have your final meal at least a couple of house before heading to bed so your food has time to settle. Prepare for the next day before going to sleep – maybe pack your bag for work, or lay out your chosen outfit, so you aren’t worried about the morning rush.

Making time to unwind before hitting the sack is also important (check out our 5 IDEAL steps to the perfect bedtime routine over here). Whilst a drink too soon before sleep can cause you to wake up in the night needing the toilet, sipping on a tea made with nature’s best nighttime herbs can help to soothe, calm and ground your body and mind. Chamomile, lavender, oat flower and valerian – a sleep-supporting herb with natural sedative and anxiety-relieving properties – can help to drift you into a deep slumber.