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You are whoever you decide to be

We come to this world as tabula rasa (from Latin, blank slate). It’s a philosophical concept in which every individual is born without inherent knowledge or preconceived notions. Instead, we are empty pages on which experiences, perceptions, and knowledge are gradually etched over time. In our first moments, we are the purest and most innocent that we can be.

And then life happens. We are born to certain parents, in a certain country, with thousands of external factors shaping the world around us. We then go to school where we are taught non-negotiable scientific facts mixed with other truths that have been filtered through somebody else’s subjective point of view. Next, we make sure that our CVs have all the right keywords for the algorithm to pick us for the job, we start contemplating marriage and parenthood, and we learn to behave in a way that will help us claim the best spot within society.

Then one day, we wake up and realize how strategic our lives have become. Of course, we need rules to maintain order in the world, imagine driving in a big city without traffic lights. But where do we draw the line between what is necessary and what is constricting?

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are the creations of our parents (literally and figuratively) and caregivers, of education systems, political and religious structures, cultural constructs as well as the philosophies of our social groups. We’ve been made in the image of everything that has ever had a chance to influence us. Still, we are sentient creations, with distinct personality traits, who can feel, think, and speak for ourselves.

In literary theory, there is a concept called the death of the author. Introduced by French literary critic Roland Barthes in his 1967 essay of the same title, the concept suggests that the intentions and personal background of an author should not influence the interpretation of their work. According to Barthes, once a literary work is created and published, it becomes detached from its author’s identity and takes on a life of its own.

Consequently, in everyday life, it would be unfair to judge anyone by where they come from or what they’ve been through that was not of their own doing. And yet, we all perceive the reality around us through some kind of lens. The proverbial rose-colored glasses aside, there are two kinds of viewpoints we take: the window perspective and the mirror perspective. It goes like this:


interpersonal vs. intrapersonal

others vs. self


The window lens is everything that shapes our viewpoint from the outside in. All the external factors that inform your perspective and govern your evaluation of reality act like a window through which you look beyond yourself for validation. You involve other people and outer influences in the assessment of who you are and how you see and critique the world.


The mirror lens helps us experience life from the inside out. It reflects your inner world to you. Your thoughts, emotions, values, beliefs, and experiences act as a mirror, allowing you to introspect and gain insight into your identity through which you perceive the outside world. Through the mirror lens, you look within to shape your viewpoint of the external reality.

Let us focus on the mirror approach. Because as much as rules and order are useful in our society, it is easy to miss the moment in which all this human-made structure becomes a bit too restrictive for our basic human right: freedom. It’s tricky, it’s no easy job to question the status quo because a lot of it has been put in place for our own good. But if we never challenge anything, we risk blindly following orders when in your life, it’s you who’s in charge.

As long as you never put anyone in harm’s way, you do you―simply because nobody else can walk in your shoes, nobody can see what you’ve seen, or process what you’ve been through so far. No one is going to live your life for you. You write your unique personal story and if anybody else tries to add adjectives to your nouns, it might lose its captivating magic.

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”

― Oprah Winfrey

We are each on our own individual timeline. We carry a deeply personal set of past and present circumstances that we may or may not allow to dictate our future. Societal norms and external conventions often try to force their way into our agendas and impose timetables on our evolution but can we talk about personal development when it is dictated by anything outside of us?

In the spirit of autonomy, I’ll let you answer that question for yourself. Meanwhile, let me encourage you to look over your shoulder and see how far you’ve come. Are you satisfied? Then please pat yourself on the back. All achievements, big or small, deserve to be celebrated. Milestones of any kind mark progress.

However, if you look back on your life and think you could do better, there’s always time to improve. Growth knows no deadline. We all evolve at our own pace so make yourself your reference point because maturing is not a race, and you might still be a diamond in the rough.

To help you polish your edges, I have a quick exercise for you. In your mind’s eye, picture the ultimate version of yourself that you are proud of, one who is capable of getting you where you want to be in life. Imagine who you can become and―that’s the hard part―aim singlemindedly at that. Act from the level of the ideal you. Here’s an example: if you are an aspiring writer taking your very first steps in the industry, writing content for free to build your portfolio, act as if you are already a published author. And hone in on your craft like your life depends on it.

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, author and public speaker Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 10,000-Hour Rule. According to research, it takes approximately 10K hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery in a particular skill or field. One of the best examples of this is the Beatles. Between 1960 and 1964, the band played live in Germany over 1,200 times accumulating over 10K hours of performance time. Gladwell argues that their extensive time on stage significantly influenced their musical talent and made them living legends by the time they arrived back in the UK.

So, are you ready for practice? Your most authentic and fulfilling life awaits.

Muddy puddles and leaky ceilings!

We had to deal with an unexpected leak over our dining room….over a Bank Holiday weekend! Why do these things always happen at the least convenient moment?! Grateful to  our lovely lifesaver of a plumber who came to the rescue but, it reminded me of this wonderful description of categorising problems into muddy puddles or, leaky ceilings.

Some problems are like muddy puddles. The way to clear a muddy puddle is to leave it alone. The more you mess with it, the muddier it becomes. Many of the problems I dream up when I’m overthinking or worrying or ruminating fall into this category. Is life really falling apart or am I just in a sour mood? Is this as hard as I’m making it or do I just need to go workout? Drink some water. Go for a walk. Get some sleep. Go do something else and give the puddle time to turn clear.

Other problems are like a leaky ceiling. Ignore a small leak and it will always widen. Relationship tension that goes unaddressed. Overspending that becomes a habit. One missed workout drifting into months of inactivity. Some problems multiply when left unattended. You need to intervene now.

Next time you are facing a problem, take a moment to consider. Are you dealing with a leak or a puddle?

A Spring in my step!

We’ve passed the Equinox so, it’s officially Spring! And, as I drove to teach this morning, I felt distinctly spring like. Maybe it was the sun shining just a little bit brighter, or the sight of bright daffodils and delicate snowdrops, braving the easterly wind to raise their heads. The days are lengthening with lighter mornings and evenings and we can begin to emerge, blinking and yawning from the winter gloom.

Spring is associated with joy, fresh energy and new beginnings. And, of course, spring cleaning! April is the perfect time to do some internal spring cleaning.  A time to take an honest look at your life, and what you are creating each day.  Similar to clearing our wardrobes of stuff which no longer fits or suits us, it’s a time to take an inventory of our lives, what needs to be tossed away, and what to hold on to.  Through honest and intentional choices, we can see what’s missing, what’s been tossed to the side, and what is holding us back from creating something wonderful.

I use my yoga practice as a guide to bring myself back to centre and to reflect on what I am sending my energy to.  Through my daily practice I choose one clear intention.  The intention could be as simple as a word; “clarity”, “peace”, “compassion”, or it could be more detailed, like visualizing your dreams.  But the important thing is to choose.  Choose what we want to put into the world, what we want to get back, and use our yoga practice as a pathway to that end.  Because once we choose to let go of what is not serving us, choose to move forward with clarity, kindness, faith and a little bit of attitude, well then, we have something to celebrate.  Your yoga practice is a guide; a nudge toward our own true self.

So, as you practice yoga this week, on the mat and in your life, I encourage you to choose an intention.  Through every breath, heart opener, hip opener, twist and hold, choose what you release and what you hold tight.  Toss out the old stuff that is taking up useful space, open the windows of your view, clean out the foundation.  Because then, all that’s left is the celebration of what is possible. And don’t forget to blast some music, laugh, dance and sing as loudly and joyously (and in my case, as tunelessly!) as you can.

Let’s play!

Guess what? If you can be happy with simple things then it will be simple to be happy.

Back in 2003, researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough asked groups of students to write down five gratitudes, five hassles or five events that happened over the past week for 10 straight weeks. What happened? The students who wrote five gratitudes were happier and physically healthier than the other two test groups. Here’s a little game I like to play at the end of each day to help me recount all I have to be grateful for, reflect on what I could learn from things which didn’t go well and what I have to look forward to tomorrow. Want to try it?!

What was the highlight of your day? (Rose)
What went wrong during your day? (Thorn)
What are you looking forward to tomorrow? (Bud)
Before you continue reading, I’m going to ask you to take 5 minutes and come up with your own answers to these questions.
Ok, ready, steady go!

(after 5 mins)

Did you do it?
Was it difficult?
How did it make you feel?
If you found it difficult, no worries. It gets easier and better with time.
Now that you have taken a few minutes to think about your answers, let me share with you the story behind this mindfulness exercise.
Why are you asking me do this?
The main purpose of this fun simple exercise is to help you become more aware of your surroundings and incorporate gratitude into your daily routine.
By reflecting on the highlights and low points of your day, you start to realize that:
-There are always things to be grateful for.
-Sometimes things won’t go according to plan and that’s ok.
-There are events you can and cannot control. The true wisdom lies in knowing the difference and taking action on those things you CAN control.
-There is always room for improvement.
-Mindfulness is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the more developed it becomes.

That’s fine, but why should I care about gratitude and mindfulness?
Because it makes you more self-aware.
We live in the “information age” but a big chunk of the world’s population know very little about themselves.
They don’t know their strengths, weaknesses, or what they are passionate about.
It takes time to discover them but it all starts with introspection, mindfulness, and gratitude.
Gratitude and mindfulness can help you:
-Discover and focus on your strengths.
-Appreciate the blessings in your life as well as the “not-so-great” things.
-Strengthen your relationships.
-Become happier by celebrating the present and blocking toxic emotions.
-Pay it forward to other people.
-Sleep better.

As Charles Dickens said: “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

If you want to learn more about the science behind gratitude, I recommend reading Dr. Robert Emmons’ book “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier”


I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but: HOORAY, IT’S FEBRUARY! Traditionally, the second month of the year is not one that we attach much value to. It’s a non-entity of a month, a sort of tedious bridge to spring that we trudge over because we have to, rather than because we want to. Nothing much happens in February, other than Valentine’s Day, and everybody knows that Valentine’s Day is the worst of all the ‘celebrations’ – it sucks if you’re single, and it sucks if you’re coupledup, because your beloved will almost certainly forget it, or get it wrong.

This year, I want to acknowledge February. I want to honour it. I feel it gets short shrift, when in actual fact it has a lot to offer us. For example, coming immediately as it does after Dry January, it is always a slightly more joyous month, one where we have usually dispensed with the hardships of resolutions and stopped beating ourselves up for not being perfect. February is also when people stop having so many expectations for the year itself. For example, in January 2024 many of us were all: ‘Let this be the start of a new me!’ and rushing to set unrealistic exceptions of ourselves. But by February, I felt pretty confident that most of all have reached a level of acceptance, having decided that a Win Hof style cold water shower every morning in depth of winter was not a good idea!

February is a short but sweet month. It’s not like January, which just goes on and on and on, an endless month of days where it barely gets light and you are getting into bed by 5.45pm every evening. In February, you might start to see daffodils. There is that feeling in the air that spring is just around the corner. The days get a little bit longer, the temperatures get a little higher, and you may even be able to breathe in the possibility of spending some time in your garden. The light is a little brighter. The possibilities are a little closer….

Glittering sunshine
First of the year
Now I am certain that springtime is near

This year, I’m keeping it real

New Year’s resolutions aren’t always my thing. I prefer embracing new opportunities when the time feels right, over big goal-setting strategies that often fail leaving an unwelcome sense of guilt and powerlessness. So, this post won’t be about how to transform your life through dramatic new yoga goal-setting in 2024.

Rather I prefer gently working towards establishing habits, behaviours and practices that are sustainable in the long run. The key is to be ‘real’.  While sometimes a fantasy escape is necessary to get us going, often a re-framing of what we can realistically (and yes, sustainably) achieve through small but significant changes, brings a greater sense of accomplishment and long-term benefits.

When I set my mind on something new, I like to start by asking myself whether this new thing will work for me in my actual life or just in my fantasy life? You know, that amazing, imaginary place where I’m never tired, I always feel great, I have an unlimited amount of time, read worthy books, make home cooked meals every day, oh, and get to the gym five times a week. We all live such a life in our mind, right?! Ha ha ; )

When it comes to yoga, we may be tempted to stretch ourselves (physically and metaphorically) to meet the expectations of that highflyer inner voice, you know, the one telling you to levitate! All too often when we imagine something based on our fantasy life, failure is hiding around the corner. On the other hand, when we build a practice that works in our real life we acquire an incredible tool to support us over the years.

A real practice is not about checking off boxes but making us feel better, empowered and healthy. Our needs, commitment and obligations change over time, we all have superhero days and duvet days. So, a real practice is one flexible enough to meet the demands of our changing schedules, our changing moods, and sometimes even our changing bodies. Ultimately, a sustainable yoga practice should be about listening, providing an opportunity to be curious, to grow stronger and more resilient physically and mentally. It is a place to practice kindness, compassion, love, and showing up for us, not anyone else.

One way yoga could encourage slow but steady transformation is by helping to shift patterns that make us unhappy. With time your developing practice will shape your body and your mind. To understand whether a yoga routine (or any other new habit we set our mind to) will really work for us, we could ask ourselves if its really best for us or if its best left to our fantasy.

As we enter the new year I, for one, will try not to be carried away by my fantasies. I invite you to join me instead in setting our mind and our intentions on becoming the joyful and free versions of ourselves we strive to be.

Monday Blues

Every year, the third Monday of January is dubbed “Blue Monday”.

The theory goes that this is the time of year when we’re all cold, broke and riddled with guilt that our new year’s resolutions to get fit, drink less alcohol, and be a better human being have fallen by the wayside.

But is today really the most depressing day of the year, as it’s often called, or is the label just a misguided PR stunt?

The concept was originally coined in 2004 by psychologist Cliff Arnall. Arnall has since confessed that the formula is essentially pseudoscience and has urged Brits to “refute the whole notion” of Blue Monday.

“I was originally asked to come up with what I thought was the best day to book a summer holiday but when I started thinking about the motives for booking a holiday, reflecting on what thousands had told me during stress management or happiness workshops, there were these factors that pointed to the third Monday in January as being particularly depressing,” he told The Daily Telegraph in 2013.

“But it is not particularly helpful to put that out there and say ‘there you are’,” he added, describing Blue Monday as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That hasn’t stopped PRs and marketing firms from manipulating the concept and using it as a golden sales opportunity, enabling them to capitalise on the assumption that everyone is miserable on this particluar day and therefore vulnerable to advertising.

This year alone, deals are being advertised for sushi, burgers, aromatherapy products, “uplifting” beauty treatments and diet plans. Spending our money, these brands say, can help cure us of this annual bout of depressive symptoms.

But playing it so fast and loose with mental health terminology can have some insidious effects.

Chartered psychologist Dr Joan Harvey describes the concept as “completely meaningless”, particularly with regards to claims that poor weather is one of the main reasons why Blue Monday is so blue.

“If it’s really bright and sunny, you might even find yourself feeling cheerful on the day,” she said.

While Harvey points out that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can leave people feeling depressed during the winter months, she stresses that pegging depression to one day in particular is “sensationalist nonsense”.

Stephen Buckley, head of information at mental health charity Mind, adds that Blue Monday campaigns often trivialise what can be a serious, debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition.

“One in six of us will experience depression at some time in our lives, and it can have devastating effects on every part of our lives,” he tells The Independent.“It can leave people unable to sleep, feeling disconnected from others and experiencing suicidal thoughts.” Buckley adds that although January can be difficult due to financial strains and failing new year’s resolutions, these things should not be conflated with clinical depression.

“By suggesting anyone and everyone can feel depressed in a single day, we risk belittling the experiences of those living with a serious illness.”

That being said, one positive element of Blue Monday is that it represents a chance to tackle some of the stigma surrounding depression and raise awareness of its symptoms, says Isabella Goldie, Director at the Mental Health Foundation.

“What we can take from Blue Monday is that we all have mental health and that there are steps we can take all year round to protect it,” she tells The Independent.

“This is an ongoing challenge, as it’s important that we all do more to self-care for our mental health in the way we look after our physical health, without stressing about it.”

So, here are some tips from someone who has devoted their life in the pursuit of happiness (no, not Will Smith!) Mo Gowdat.

A thoughtful end to 2023

Christmas is over and, a new year beckon,  offering the prospect of a fresh start and transformation. It’s a time of year that invites us to slow down, reflect, and embrace change. Just as trees shed their leaves to make way for new growth, we can shed old patterns and embrace the opportunity to grow, learn, and live more intentionally.

To help me make the most of the remaining moments of 2023, I take some time to reflect on the previous year and,  I’ve created a roadmap of deep questions covering various aspects of life, from personal growth to relationships and beyond to help me. These questions I share with you now so you can use them like me, as a compass, guiding you on a journey of self-discovery and intentional living. So, grab your favourite notebook, find a cozy corner, and let these questions inspire you to make next year a season of growth and renewal.

Personal Growth

  1. What have I learned about myself in the past year, and how can I apply this knowledge to my personal growth this autumn?
  2. What habits or behaviors no longer serve me, and how can I let go of them to make room for positive change?
  3. What is one skill or area of knowledge I’d like to develop or deepen this season?
  4. How can I use my strengths to contribute to my personal growth and the world around me?
  5. What is the most important lesson life has taught me recently, and how can I incorporate it into my daily life?

Recreation and Leisure

  1. What activities bring me the most joy and fulfillment, and how can I prioritize them in my schedule this autumn?
  2. What adventures or experiences do I want to seek out in the coming months to infuse my life with excitement and wonder?
  3. How can I create more moments of peace and relaxation to rejuvenate my mind and body?
  4. What hobbies or creative pursuits can I explore to spark my passion and creativity?
  5. How can I bring more playfulness and spontaneity into my daily life to keep my spirit alive?

Career and Meaningful Work

  1. What meaningful goals do I want to achieve in my career or work life by the end of the year, and what steps can I take to move closer to them?
  2. How can I bring more purpose and passion into my daily work routine this autumn?
  3. Are there any projects or initiatives I’ve been putting off that I can finally tackle in the next few months?
  4. What skills or knowledge can I acquire to enhance my career and contribute to my long-term goals?
  5. How can I find a sense of balance between my work life and personal life to nurture both aspects?


  1. Who are the people in my life that truly matter to me, and how can I strengthen my connections with them this autumn?
  2. What can I do to be a better friend, partner, or family member to those I care about?
  3. Are there any unresolved conflicts or misunderstandings in my relationships that I need to address and heal?
  4. How can I foster a more empathetic and compassionate approach in my interactions with others?
  5. What acts of kindness and gestures of love can I incorporate into my relationships to deepen their significance?

Mind and Spirit

  1. How can I cultivate a sense of mindfulness and presence in my daily life this autumn?
  2. What spiritual practices or rituals can I incorporate into my routine to nourish my inner self?
  3. What books, podcasts, or resources can I explore to expand my knowledge and perspective in the coming months?
  4. In what ways can I infuse more creativity and inspiration into my daily routines to ignite my spirit?
  5. What are the most important values and principles that guide my life, and how can I ensure they remain at the forefront of my decision-making?

Health and Well-being

  1. What steps can I take to prioritize my physical and mental health during this season of change?
  2. How can I improve my daily habits to support a healthier lifestyle?
  3. In what ways can I better manage stress and create a sense of balance in my life?
  4. What practices can I adopt to enhance my emotional resilience and mental well-being?
  5. How can I incorporate more mindfulness into my eating habits to nourish my body and soul?

Financial Goals

  1. What financial goals do I want to achieve by the end of the year, and what strategies can I implement to reach them?
  2. How can I develop a more conscious and sustainable approach to my spending and saving habits this autumn?
  3. What steps can I take to create a budget that aligns with my financial goals and values?
  4. Are there any financial skills or knowledge gaps I need to address to make more informed decisions?
  5. How can I strike a balance between financial responsibility and enjoying the present moment?

I hope these questions are your companions on a journey of self-discovery and intentional living over the coming weeks and months. Embrace the transformative energy of the season, and let these reflections to guide you toward a more meaningful end to 2023.

What I have learnt from Christmas past

It’s the same every year. Drinking on an empty stomach. Buying the tree too early. And yet, as Christmas comes to a close, we need to be reminded of the lessons to be learnt for next year.

1. If you put the tree by the radiator it looks like roasted rosemary by Boxing Day.

2. If you buy the tree too early all the needles will be in a needle mountain on the floor by the 25th.

3. The dog will get the low lying chocolates on the tree. And the ones near the bottom if they can stand, or use a fellow dog for an assist.

4. Velvet is far too hot if you are cooking Christmas lunch. You might as well be wearing a hazmat suit.

5. Go with cheap wrapping paper and the presents will be clearly visible through the holes by the time it comes to unwrapping them. It rips if you look at it, and the metallic stuff shrugs off the Sellotape: they basically unwrap themselves.

6. Always go with the bigger size. Always! You can’t really go too big where the male YAs are concerned and you might easily go too small. Also, once you’ve gone to the trouble of changing it they won’t want it, because that’s the nature of swapped presents; they lose their lustre.

7. Never countenance new ways with sprouts or other suggested deviations. Of course you don’t want to say to the YA’s girlfriend: ‘To hell with your fancy idea. Forget it! Not in This House! Not on My Watch!’ Of course you feel like a controlling Grinch, especially when everyone insists they’ll take full responsibility and it will be FINE.

But you know how it goes: give an inch and they are toasting the almonds and braising the chestnuts and taking up one third of the cooker surface when everything has been ready for 45 minutes, that is if they haven’t lost interest and drifted away. Do not change the formula is the unbreakable rule, closely followed by don’t relax until the gravy has been poured.

8. To have a starter is madness brought on by someone watching some late night Jamie Oliver holiday special.

9. Three slugs of champagne before the ‘everything coming together moment’ is the difference between calmly cruising into Christmas lunch like a swan drifting into dock and red-faced, gravy stained meltdown. It’s like alcohol taken in aeroplanes at high altitude, with anxiety medication: roughly five times more intoxicating.

10. Not bothering with an apon is like not bothering with an oven glove when you’re taking out the turkey. The gravy accident happened (again) partly because the turkey was very heavy and you were using your knee to assist and partly because of the slugs of cava that might as well be neat vodka.

11. Definitely better to have a blow dry than try and look OK under your own steam when the hot water keeps running out.

12. Avoid conversation flashpoints, at all costs. Don’t think ‘Oh why not, we’re all grown ups and everyone’s getting on like a house on fire’. No. That’s because you’ve not mentioned politics.

13. Did not need the extra midi ham. Didn’t need the bigger Christmas pudding. Didn’t need the last minute panic dash (every year) for extra potatoes and cranberries and cheese. Once again we have enough food left over to do it all again. The gallons of cream!

14. Drunk man washing up is worse than no washing up at all, and the sight of it sitting there on the draining board semi-clean but not clean, is infuriating.

15. Other things that drove us to the brink yesterday even though we should know better by now. People who ask ‘Can I help?’ while pouring themselves a drink and slowly exiting the kitchen area. The table plan that takes half an hour and then doesn’t include your mother. Spilt red wine that the spiller watches sink in with curiosity. People rubbing the cook’s back in passing, as if for good luck. The decent fizz running out before you got any because you were cooking.

Better luck next year.

Give me sunshine!

As the clocks go back and evenings are doused in darkness, we all become wistful for long summer days, before settling into hunkering down for winter. But for around 3 per cent of the population who suffer from depressive moods triggered by seasonal affective disorder or SAD, the approaching months are filled with real despair.

There is a difference between feeling down because of the weather and experiencing SAD, says Stephen Buckley, from mental health charity Mind. “Many people feel more cheerful and energetic when the sun is shining and the days are longer, but if you have SAD the change in seasons has a much greater effect on mood and energy levels, leading to symptoms of depression that have a significant impact on day-to-day life.”

Although it is not known exactly what causes SAD, don’t panic as some simple steps can be taken to alleviate its symptoms. Read on to find out some top tips from the experts!

Go for a walk in nature

While the causes of SAD aren’t always clear, we know that a lack of daylight can have a big impact on mood, especially during the autumn and winter months. When light hits the back of the eye, messages are passed to the part of the brain responsible for sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity.

If there’s not enough light these functions are likely to slow down and gradually stop. The lack of daylight hours may also slow your body clock, making you feel more tired, and increase production of the hormone melatonin, which helps you get to sleep – both things may therefore link to depression.

Going for walks, particularly around midday or on bright days, even if it’s just taking a short stroll, can be effective in reducing symptoms.

Spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window can also help.

A light box that creates a bright white or blue light is also helpful to some. However, the evidence for them isn’t reliable and they can be quite expensive, which means they aren’t an option for everyone, so spending more time in natural light is recommended.

While you may not feel like it during the winter, physical activity can be very effective in lifting your mood and increasing your energy levels. It doesn’t have to be anything particularly strenuous – doing housework, gardening or going for a gentle walk can all help. Research shows that outdoor exercise, such as cycling or jogging, can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression.

Bringing nature into your home can also help, and watering plants can create a feeling of accomplishment that may lift your mood.

Eat a healthy, well-rounded diet

In winter, you might crave comfort foods such as sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits. But this way of eating will actually make the symptoms worse. Instead, eat lots of healthy fats, good quality protein, green leafy vegetables, fibre and complex carbohydrates. Try more wholegrain carbohydrates such as brown rice and brown pasta, which include more fibre and nutrients than the white varieties. Try making hearty meals such as a homemade bolognese with a sweet potato or brown rice instead of white pasta, or turkey ratatouille with mixed vegetables, or lean turkey, pure chopped tomatoes served with a mixed salad, or baked salmon with stir-fry broccoli, onion and cabbage.

Holly Zoccolan, holistic lifestyle and nutrition coach 

Load up on vitamins and minerals

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, eaten three times a week, provide good levels of the essential fatty acids EPA/DHA required for a healthy brain. Others with these fats – walnuts, dark green leafy vegetables and flaxseeds – have too little to have a therapeutic effect.

Protein foods that provide a good supply of tryptophan (that converts to serotonin in the brain) are poultry, shrimps, tofu and eggs. But all protein foods supply some tryptophan, so eat a varied diet of meat and fish.

Vitamin D3 must be supplemented by people living in the northern hemisphere, because we do not obtain sufficient UVB rays on our skin in winter convert to vitamin D. Butter, egg yolks and oily fish contain very small amounts, but not the 1000iu D3 that you need daily. Magnesium citrate is a useful supplement. Potential symptoms of low magnesium levels are cramps, constipation and headaches, although there could be other reasons for these symptoms, too.

To know which foods and ways of eating work for you, listen to your body. If you feel sluggish, tired, and not firing all cylinders, then something in your diet is often not right. You may well be missing vital nutrients, your blood sugar levels might not be not balanced or you are consuming too many pro-inflammatory foods.

Caroline Peyton of Peyton Principles, nutritional therapist and naturopath 

Work on a positive mindset

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between the narrative you tell it, and reality. If you focus on being miserable and trapped inside, your subconscious mind will focus on that.

Try to spend five minutes at the start of every day writing down or speaking about everything you are grateful for, however big or small. You can’t feel negative feelings when you’re in a state of being grateful, even if it’s just a cup of great coffee or cosy sweater. Repeating positive affirmations will also help to reframe the way you think about yourself and stop negative self-talk.

Stay sociable and connected  It can be tempting to hunker down and hide when the weather outside is bad and it’s dark by 4.30pm, but does that actually suit you?

If seeing friends and family, going to the cinema, sporting events, the theatre and exhibitions or even just heading out for a meal once a week brings you joy, don’t stop in winter.

Pull on warm boots and a good coat and plan a normal social life. Even if you don’t stay out late, having events in your diary will give your days and weeks structure and help you deal with winter.

Lean into longer evenings

When you do have an evening at home, is there anything you can do with that time that will give you a feeling of accomplishment? It’s been shown that having something new and interesting to focus on wards off symptoms of SAD.

Create photo albums of your summer holidays, redecorate a room in your house or clear out the cupboard that’s become a dumping ground. An hour or two working towards a goal of ticking off jobs from a list will help you to relax and feel like you deserve to spend an evening on the sofa.

Tara Best, neuro-linguistic programming coach and practitioner 

Lighten your workspace

Being exposed to natural daylight is important – especially as many of us continue to work from home or adjust to a hybrid way of working. If possible, try making your working environment lighter and airier by opening more curtains and blinds. Like many people, I have brought a SAD lamp, because the bright light it produces positively affects my mood by lifting levels of hormones and neurochemicals.

Practise yoga

Illustration by Mark Long
Yoga has a positive impact on our nervous system, because controlled breathing and moving boosts oxygen flow through the body. (Illustration: Mark Long)

Our bodies are designed to respond to changes in our environment. Research shows that yoga has a positive impact on our nervous system, because controlled breathing and moving boosts oxygen flow through the body. It also decreases your cortisol (the stress hormone), decreasing your anxiety and worry levels.  Yoga is something that can be done for as little as 10 minutes. There are so many styles to choose from. Whether you go for vinyasa or restorative, breathing is at the centre of every practice. It can help to cultivate presence, awareness and alignment.

The most powerful thing you can do is to focus on hip and heart openers, and really release the heart and sacral chakra. Our hips absorb physical and mental stress 24/7, which makes sense as they are located on our second chakra, the sacral, which is the centre of emotion, feeling, and connection. Therefore it is vital that we constantly give them the attention they deserve, the opportunity to release tension, tightness and any blockages.

Think pigeon pose and crescent lunges that enable you to let go of what is no longer serving you, and welcome what does. This helps to remove and release negative energy, worries and fears, so that you can go about the rest of your day feeling rejuvenated, energised and aligned.

Alexandra Baldi, yoga teacher and founder of Compass Chelsea

Listen to music

Music is a powerful tool that can be used to change your mood. Putting on some uplifting music can be an effective way to boost your mood if you are feeling down, particularly when paired with dancing and singing.

Sarita Robinson, deputy head for the school of psychology and computer science at the University of Central Lancashire