Health tip of the week

Cut down on your phone and get more sleep

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health | Lifestyle -

Ev­ery­one feels great in the sun­shine – the bright light seems to lift our moods and put a smile on ev­ery­one’s faces. So ob­vi­ously when the days are shorter and the sun­light at a min­i­mum, it’s bound to take a toll on our men­tal health.

Sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der, or SAD as is its apt ab­bre­vi­a­tion, is a recog­nised symp­tom of a form of malaise which is as­so­ci­ated with the on­set of au­tumn and win­ter.

“The main the­ory is that a lack of sun­light might af­fect part of the brain that is re­spon­si­ble for cer­tain func­tions that con­trib­ute to one’s mood,” ex­plains John Saun­ders, di­rec­tor of See Change and Shine. “Symp­toms which may in­clude a per­sis­tent low mood, a loss of in­ter­est in every­day ac­tiv­i­ties, ir­ri­tabil­ity, feel­ings of de­spair, guilt and worth­less­ness, sleep­ing more than nor­mal, food crav­ing and weight-gain”

Dur­ing the Pfizer Healthy Town ini­tia­tive, ex­perts, in­clud­ing Dr Harry Barry, will be giv­ing ad­vice to the peo­ple of Wex­ford town on how to deal with men­tal-health is­sues like this – the first step is al­ways com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“We need to recog­nise warn­ing signs and both heed them and share them with fam­ily, friends or pro­fes­sion­als such as GP or ther­a­pist,” Dr Barry ad­vises. “The golden rule should be: ‘never let men­tal-health dif­fi­cul­ties grow legs’.

“Also, a few sim­ple life­style changes will make all the dif­fer­ence. Try tak­ing 30 min­utes’ brisk ex­er­cise ev­ery day; adding more fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles to your diet; as­sess­ing your work/life bal­ance; se­ri­ously re­duc­ing your so­cial me­dia and smart­phone us­age by, for in­stance, switch­ing off all de­vices from 10.30pm.

“Re­gard sleep as the sin­gle most im­por­tant life­style fac­tor of all and try and get eight hours sleep for adults and 9 ½ hours for ado­les­cents.

“Reg­u­lar so­cial­is­ing in the com­mu­nity can be very ben­e­fi­cial, espe­cially for older age groups.”

Health Tip of the Week is spon­sored by Pfizer as part of its Healthy Town ini­tia­tive. Ev­ery year Pfizer se­lects a town to take part in a unique ini­tia­tive aimed at show­ing you – no mat­ter what age you are, or where you live – sim­ple steps to im­prove your health; irish­times.com/ spon­sored/healthy-town. For more in­for­ma­tion visit irish­heart.ie

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