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5 Ways to Boost Your Mood in Autumn If You Struggle With Chronic Illness

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In summer, the sunshine regularly boosts my mood helping me to feel more energized even on those days when my body is in pain. Once October is around the corner, I feel how my body struggles in the cold and I find it difficult to kick the ass of my disease on the bad days. This year, I decided to tackle the problem with the below advice before the days grow shorter and colder:

1. Find a bedtime routine that works for you.

Due to the long hours of darkness each day, our levels of melatonin increase, making us crave more sleep. On bad days, my pain is worst in the morning and improves over the day. My bowel hurts, movements are painful and the brain fog gets in the way of thinking. This makes me feel
exhausted in the morning but restless at night. Sticking to my bed routine has helped me to get up in the mornings. I know my body requires more rest so I set an alarm each evening at 9 p.m. reminding me to go to bed at 10 p.m. I also stick to the routine over the weekend. I use a blue light filter app when working on my computer in the evening to help me adjust to the time of day. I also invested into a daylight clock. Waking up with a dawn simulator flooding the bedroom with daylight helps me surprisingly well to start the day.

2. Be a morning person.

As a student, I preferred to work at night so I would start my essays at midnight and then sleep until midday to go to lectures. When I started working part-time, I had a difficult time adjusting to the “adult life” schedule. For the past months, I tried to become a morning person after reading a research article that had found evidence that light naturally controls our circadian rhythms and resets our body clock. I leave the house half an hour earlier, appreciating the extra daylight.

3. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

When days become shorter and the sun is nowhere to be seen, our body reduces its serotonin levels. Serotonin helps us to cope and feel happy. A normal reaction is to crave serotonin-boosting carbs such as rice, potatoes and (celiac safe) pasta.

With our bodies trying to trick us into eating more of these foods, it is important to have plenty of fruits and vegetables on display. Orange colored foods, such as easy peelers, sweet potatoes and pumpkins are all great sources of vitamin C and make the house look more colorful.

4. Have a catch-up with friends at home.

When I’m in pain I spend a lot of time in bed regardless of the weather, but this time of year, I also prefer to curl up in a blanket, get a cup of tea and spend time in front of the TV. To have company, I ask friends to come over to watch TV shows together or to cook. Alternatively, I give them a call or Skype with them. My friends and family always know how to make me laugh, making me feel better.

5. Engage in activities you enjoy and be kind to yourself.

For years I felt too weak to go to the gym and I worried I would burn the few calories I had successfully kept in my digestive system. A friend of mine encouraged me to start yoga and meditation instead. Light yoga exercises helped my body adjust while the meditation app has become my daily companion. Both exercises have allowed my mind to empty itself of any unhelpful and unkind thoughts. I am also back in the gym for exercising classes helping my body and mind to take advantage of the darker and colder days.

In the end, there are so many things to enjoy in autumn, including watching my most favorite TV show, getting ready for Halloween and seeing nature turn into a yellow-apricot-orange-colored scenery.

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Originally published: October 19, 2017
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