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Its the last phase of winter and it’s a time of year that can see us feeling a bit flat and maybe even a little blue.  This time of year with the short days and foggy mornings it is all too easy to get up, go to work and then back home again without having any sunshine falling on our eyes or skin.

Whilst the formal diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder is rare in Australia it is not unusual to feel the sublte effects of the winter blues.  The cold mornings and evenings certainly reduce the incentive to get outside and windy August makes it just plain unpleaseant to be outside some days.

Here are some tips on how to keep in good sprits throughout the winter months

* Keep up your regular exercise routine and if possible get out at lunch time for a walk,  as  little as a 10 minutes brisk walking will provide an energy boost for the afternoon and the sun on your face is a great mood lifter.

* Make sure you are getting enough sleep and at the right times.  Often the first signs of depression are alterations in your sleep patterns.  Are you finding yourself staying up later and sleeping later as winter drags on and the Olympics and now Paralympics take thier toll on your sleep?  Our wired world can easily enitce us to spend some very long evenings in front of the tv, computer or ipad exploring the virtual world.  This is a real issue for teenagers and perhaps even a post in itself.

* Let the sun fall on your face and eyes in the morning.  Try not to wear your sunglasses in the morning in the winter months. Research shows that exposure to bright light really does ease the winter blues.  This does not apply at the snow!  Goggles and/or good sunnies are really important in that special environment.

* Vitamin D is is one which our bodies can manufacture with appropriate exposure to the sun and it is now know that this vitamin has a role in many aspects of our health from bone density to mental health.  If you are low in this vitamin a good quality supplement along with natural sunshine can make a big difference.

* If you are unlucky enough to find yourself stricken by the flu this season seek out a sunny spot in your home to spend some time while you rest & recouperate.

The sun safe message is a very important one, but that does not mean that we should avoid all exposure to the sun, it is after all something that we need in the right doses.  Here is how to do it safely:

* Pick your time of day.  Sun exposure in the morning before 10am and after 3pm in the afternoon when the amount of  UV radiation is not as high.

* The right amount of time:  this varies with location, Darwin has vastly different amount of winter sunshine than Hobart.  In the Southern highlands winter 30 minutes of sunshine falling on you gives a suitable dose of sunshine without sunscreen in the winter & early spring.

* Did you really say without sunscreen!  Yes.  And this is coming from someone who needs hat, sunscreen & sunnies to walk the dog in summer.  Get some sunshine time at safe times without sunscreen, and that includes the sunscreens in your morning moisturiser or foundation.

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by Helen Richards