THE winds have changed and it’s been palpable these past few weeks.

I thought it was just me perhaps having a moment as I started to clear out my cupboards in a desperate attempt to declutter as I wanted to settle the feelings of unease.

This week however, as I spoke to some friends, my neighbour and even some of my patients, I realised it’s not just me, it is the seasonal shift that’s taking us through an intuitive change.

Last autumn, after months of being stuck in lockdown, I remember us all appreciating the autumn colours and transitions in ways I’d never seen or heard before.

With the colours brighter than ever, the majestic sunsets and birdsongs, we had all had a chance to slow down and take it all in.

However this year, so much has changed. Our pace of life has picked up as we have returned into the swing of things, all whilst navigating the ongoing pandemic.

As we start to prepare now for the next season, expect to feel some changes again as we move in sync with nature!

The days are starting to shorten and it’s starting to get darker earlier.

For many, myself included, autumn and winter months bring a sense of comfort. I love spring and summer but this time of year is my favourite.

From the colours to the comforts of warm foods, cosy jumpers and evenings by the fire, topped off with all the festivities – many people love it! But, it can affect us in some not so helpful ways and that’s what we need to watch out for.

As we start to enter the colder, darker months, many will find their mood dipping. This is very natural and often subconscious.

You might find yourself more tired, lacking energy, having more slumps during the day, craving more stodgy foods and even having altered sleeping patterns.

This is because as the days get darker, we produce more of our sleepy hormone, Melatonin, and less of our happy hormones, like serotonin. It’s important to know this now so you can do something about it.

Don’t let your mood become an issue; take this as your warning shot to act now.

How can you boost your happy hormones to avoid them dropping? Get out during the daylight hours and go for a walk or exercise outdoors.

Ideally if possible get out to a park or a green space to soak up all the richness we get from being in nature.

Exercise naturally makes us release endorphins which no pill can replace as effectively so if you’re not already doing it, start getting some physical activity in to pre-empt this slump that’s coming.

Also remember, physical activity needn’t be strenuous, work to your own personal ability – my mantra always for my patients is “sit less, move more!”

The benefits of being outdoors during the day are that you get some natural vitamin D.

From September to March, we recommend everyone to take a daily vitamin D supplement so if you’re not already doing this, pop along to your local supermarket or pharmacy and get yourself some.

Vitamin D is essential for many functions in the body including the health of your muscles, bones, teeth and your immunity so it’s one you must keep on top of.

Sleep is also something that needs to be monitored as our patterns change as winter sets in. Start recognising your own rhythm and create a routine for sleep.

In order to get a good night’s sleep everything from time spent on your screens and devices to room temperature, food timings and room lighting, they all make a difference.

So make it a habit to set alarms to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.

I always advise my patients struggling with sleep to switch off from their TVs and laptops, as well as phones, at least one hour before they plan to sleep. It is important to do something relaxing and something that you enjoy before going to sleep.

Many people find this time of year triggering and difficult.

If this is you, have a chat with your doctor. Some of my patients who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) take an antidepressant to get them through the winter months and stop in springtime.

The important thing is not to suffer alone and seek help if needed.

Every year, usually around November/December, I see patients with seasonal mood disorders and I always wish I could pre-warn them several months earlier to make some changes to avoid it becoming a bigger problem.

A lot of it is preventable if it’s linked to seasonal changes because we forget how closely synced we are to nature.

Lastly, this winter will still not be normal. We are still going through a pandemic and there will be a desire to meet up with our loved ones indoors as it becomes colder.

I would strongly advise against this because there are lots of other viruses as well as Covid circulating and we have learnt that indoor mixing encourages the spread.

That said, we have also learnt how important it is for our mental and emotional well-being to stay connected to loved ones and so just be as careful as you can.

Here’s to pumpkin spiced lattes and hot chocolates galore!