We all know and fear that jarring noise. The jangling, deafening phone alarm shoving us unceremoniously into the dark morning. The urge to burrow under the warm, welcoming covers is irresistible. What if I just hit snooze – just the once? Except it never is just only once. Then, the torturous rush into the shower, wrestling into clothes, packing sleepy little ones into the car as they still yawn. Welcome to Winter work mornings we all know and dread.

What is making us feel this way? There are a number of factors at work which reduce our energy levels during this cold season. Less sun as a result of shorter days saps our ability to jump out of bed. The lack of sunlight makes us more sleepy, in part due to a little but powerful hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is made in the brain and regulates our sleep and wakefulness levels. When it is darker, the body produces more melatonin which can increase fatigue and encourages us to crawl under the blankets for more of a snooze. Sunlight is so important to our get up and go. It is one of the main ways we attract vitamin D into our bodies. Scientists have recently discovered through a range of studies that vitamin D helps with bone health, cell growth and our immune functions. The more we get, the happier and healthier we are as a rule. So, how do we combat all of these factors? What can we do to feel lighter and brighter in the Winter months? Here are 5 easy steps to a light, bright Winter life.

1. Escape outside and breathe in that bracing fresh air.

Many of us just don’t feel like exercising or getting outdoors in the Winter. But, it doesn’t have to be harsh and unforgiving. There are so many choices these days to help you get off the sofa and into the light. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes once or twice a day, it’s so much better than languishing inside, slowly dehydrating in the central heating. Walking in the park, watching your kids riding their bikes up and down the road, running around the field with a ball – all of these small chances of light and energy bring family and friends together. You will be full of beans and laughing before you know it. If you are slightly more adventurous, you could sign up for that free taster session for the class you have been meaning to try for ages at the local sports centre. It might turn out to be the thing that you end up doing every week because you love it so much. And you will make new friends while you are at it. A new lease of life could be just around the corner.

2. Sleep is the key to a refreshed body and mind.

Sleep is an elusive friend. Sometimes, we have too much and are weighed down and groggy all day. Then, there are those truly awful days where we have hardly slept at all and it takes a gargantuan effort to get through the day in one piece. It is recommended, through many medical studies, that we should aim for around 7-8 hours per night. This can be really tricky for some people, so creating a calm and relaxing environment in the bedroom is vital. Turn off your phone for at least an hour before bed. Get zen-like and clear the clutter so that your space feels peaceful. Often, a little shake of lavender water on your pillow can immediately relax your senses. A cup of sleep-inducing valerian or camomile tea can reap rewards in the dozy department.

3. Relax. Relax. Relax.

Learning how to relax is a skill, not an automatic ability. If you find that you can’t often relax in the evenings, there are plenty of practical tools and activities to help adapt your night-time routine which will revolutionise your route to bed. Breathing techniques are a small but mighty tweak to your evening that have become really popular of late. One on-trend version is the chime technique. This uses a simple chime bar and stick to chime out a note, then close eyes, count long breaths in and out to calm and steady your emotions. This can be repeated throughout the day to increase positivity and relaxation. Meditation practices such as yoga and mindfulness have become a welcome part of our society and building these, if only once, into your week can increase your resilience and strength, clearly leading to a healthy and happy body and mind.

4. Eat yourself to happiness.

It’s more than easy to hunker down and carb up in the colder months. Carbs make us feel satisfied and fuller for longer, which is no bad thing. There just has to be a happy medium – a balance with all types of food. Sugar can also be so tempting when we feel tired. Eating as naturally as possible, spending time creating a nutritious dish can be so helpful in boosting our metabolism and, as a result, our mental positivity. Porridge for breakfast with berries or nuts keeps you full until lunch. A beautiful one pot creation such as root vegetable and lean meat casserole can perk you up no end. Something you have taken a little time to create, the oven has done the hard work and you can sit back and enjoy the nurture. Adding pulses such as lentils or beans can be beneficial as these are a low fat source of protein. Miraculously, they also support the immune system by containing essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium and folate. Gathering round and sharing with your loved ones can only nourish your body and soul.

5.Learn to love the seasons.

It’s human nature to be drawn to warmth and heat. Many of us would like to be in Summer all year round. However, this can be misleading for our minds and bodies. Paying attention to the changes of seasons, what makes each season vital for us and the environment, helps us understand how our bodies can work in tune with the earth. Take a few moments now and again to take stock of your life in the Winter months. What works for you and what could do with a little improvement. These tiny glimpses in time can really increase motivation for the coming weeks and months to help you feel better. Having a Spring clean, creating a fresh, peaceful home is one way to tick nagging items of your to-do list. Looking up at the stars on a Winter night can help us appreciate the magic of our planet. We are part of a bigger system, yet we all have an important part to play. Feeling good about ourselves helps us to be more positive and encouraging for others, benefitting all in our community. Take a few easy steps to support your inner health for the better.