It’s that time of year again and I’m reminded of the poem by Thomas Hood, which ends with the lines: “No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!”

Dark nights and gloomy days can make the most cheerful of us despondent. But those suffering from anxiety or stress may find the ‘winter blues’ affect them in a disproportionate way.

If that sounds like you, there are things you can do to help combat those feelings, and it’s worth making that little extra effort.

First of all try to make the most of what natural daylight there is. If you can, spend some time outside during the day and especially if there is any sunlight. Even if the sky is grey, research tells us that being outside is beneficial to body and mind. A brisk walk (and at this time of year, brisk is best!) will also burn up those calories and release endorphins that lift the mood.

Also, make some time to practise relaxation is a mindful way. Even if this is simply doing some conscious breathing for five minutes of the day, I promise you that you’ll feel the benefit. And even better is a short mindfulness meditation that can be done on a daily basis and takes up only a tiny part of your daily routine.

Take pleasure in small things. Let yourself notice the beauty of nature even at a time of dormancy – at the dead time of year, the shapes of the trees are revealed clearly and only then can their sculptural forms be appreciated as the wonder that they are. Let your eyes and mind linger on things that you wouldn’t usually notice or are normally distracted from.

And finally – smile at a stranger. You’ll be surprised how many people will smile back!