Work with the seasons to boost your wellbeing

A Generic Photo of a woman feeling depressed in autumn. See PA Feature WELLBEING Wellbeing Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature WELLBEING Wellbeing Column.
A Generic Photo of a woman feeling depressed in autumn. See PA Feature WELLBEING Wellbeing Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature WELLBEING Wellbeing Column.
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Summer’s had its final fling and now it’s time to prepare our minds and bodies for the onslaught of winter.

Who doesn’t start to feel a bit sad when the leaves slowly fall from the trees each October?

While the recent sweltering temperatures may have allowed us to wear sandals and shorts one last time, autumn has finally set in this week.

For many, the dark nights and chilly mornings will mean colds and for some the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

But for Marie-Claire Wilson, author of Seasonal Awareness And Wellbeing: Looking And Feeling Better The Easy Way, we shouldn’t fight the seasons, but work with them to boost wellbeing.

‘Once the weather turns, you need to think about reeling your energy back in a little bit and start to think about your immune system,’ says Marie-Claire.

‘Follow what happens in nature: from August things start to slow down, plants and trees aren’t growing any more, they’re ripening and maturing, so using a different sort of energy.

‘Think of slowing down and not expending your energy wastefully.’

Boosting the immune system is crucial for preventing the colds and bugs that seem to thrive when we’re all confined indoors.

But it’s about more than just taking vitamins and supplements, adds Marie-Claire.

‘I like to think of it as a pyramid, you’ve got to have a good strong base. No matter how many supplements you take, if your sleep is rubbish and you’re doing too many things and you’re not eating well, then your immune system is not going to be able to do all the things it needs to do.’

Protein and vegetable minerals are crucial for supporting a healthy immune system, but when the days start drawing in, our salad days are over.

‘Cold foods become less appealing, so cook vegetables lightly and start to experiment with soups, casseroles and stews. Make the most of vegetables such as squashes and use spices to create warming, interesting dishes.’

Once you’ve laid the foundations of good sleep and diet, some supplements, besides the usual vitamin C, should help stave off colds.

‘One of my favourite supplements is a probiotic because they’re good for so many things and research has shown they can reduce the frequency and duration of colds,’ says Marie-Claire. ‘But choose a brand which states its concentration.

‘A very strong probiotic can have as many as 30 billion organisms per capsule; more normal is around five to 10 billion.

‘A stronger product can be useful post-antibiotics or post infection, for example, but the main reason to check for concentration is because it shows the product has been tested for potency. Otherwise you can’t be sure you’re getting viable bacteria.’

With less sunlight in autumn and winter, it’s important to top up levels of vitamin D, which helps to balance the immune system, keeps bones strong and can ease skin problems. If you’re concerned whether you’re getting enough vitamin D, take a test.

‘So many of my clients who’ve been tested are deficient, which is quite shocking,’ she adds.