Celebrity TV doctor Amir Khan on how to beat the Covid blues

PUBLISHED: 09:08 02 November 2020

Dr Amir Khan of TV's GPs Behind Close Doors

Dr Amir Khan of TV's GPs Behind Close Doors

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The star of TV’s GPs Behind Closed Doors prescribes fresh air for all

Amir's autumn harvest: the Yorkshire GP is a great believer in the power of fresh air to boost mental healthAmir's autumn harvest: the Yorkshire GP is a great believer in the power of fresh air to boost mental health

Autumn is definitely my favourite season. The sunrises seem that much more beautiful and complement the displays of coppers, crimsons and deep purples the natural world puts on. It is a season of walks amongst dancing leaves, woolly jumpers, deliciously hot coffee and the first of many log fires. Its beauty is our compensation for the upcoming colder, darker months. A season to reap the rewards of what we have sown.

I am not alone in my love for this season, the great Marylyn Munroe once said, ‘Designers want me to dress like Spring, in billowing things. I don’t feel like Spring. I feel like a warm red Autumn’. I’m not sure I can get away with feeling like a warm red autumn, but I feel like Marilyn and I are on the same page.

Looking out of the window of my office, it is a bright autumnal afternoon. I can hear the traffic from the busy main road, the laughter of children as they return home from school and the chatter of the birds as they jostle for a prime position on one of my bird feeders.

Looking out of my window everything feels normal. Except it isn’t.

The numbers of coronavirus cases in Yorkshire are increasing, parts of it are in local restrictions but and the time of writing, almost all of it is being closely monitored by the health authorities. The county is bracing itself for a tough period ahead. It can feel gloomy when watching the news, especially as the longer nights set in and talks of further restrictions are banded about. But we can still enjoy the bounties the season has to offer, provided we are sensible about it.

We have learned lessons from the first lockdown period that blighted the spring and early summer periods. Humans are social creatures; we don’t do well when told to batten down the hatches and stay indoors. It took a toll on our mental health. The outdoors became a saviour for many of us, for me it was the respite I needed from the busy clinics and the patients with potential coronavirus symptoms I was seeing. I was coming home after gruelling days spent seeing my nursing home patients but felt immediately better after going for a run in the woods or spending time in the garden. Being outdoors amongst nature has proven benefits to our mental health. Studies have repeatedly shown how it can improve our attention spans (short and long term), increase our levels of serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter in our brains) and increase activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love (whereas urban environments do the same for fear and anxiety).

Discover Amir’s favourite Yorkshire places

But as an added bonus, being outdoors can actually help reduce the transmission of the coronavirus.

The main way the coronavirus is spread is through respiratory droplets. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or even breathes, tiny droplets containing the virus are propelled out of the mouth and nose and can infect those in close proximity. Studies have shown that the vast majority of infections take place indoors and within households. But who wants to stay indoors when nature is putting on her best show of the year? And it is all on our doorstep.

We are much safer outdoors where autumnal breezes will disperse the virus much more rapidly, making it less likely to infect someone (provided social distance is maintained). This means we can put on our big coats, the ones we packed away for the summer and stick on a pair of wellies and go for that walk in the Yorkshire countryside.

There is also evidence that the outer shell of the virus becomes unstable in sunlight, weakening it and making it less likely to be infective. That is good news for those clear, crisp mornings that are unique to this time of year when the skies are the bluest of blues and the sun is still warm. Perfect for gathering up those you live with and collecting conkers for those all-important conker fights at school. I am hoping they still happen, or maybe I am just showing my age!

It is going to be a tough season, but we will get through it provided we stick together as a community. But remember, when you need that little break from it all – you will find respite in the great outdoors. They don’t call it God’s own County for nothing.

This month I’ve been:

Reading: My Garden World: Monty Don

Eating: Fresh beetroot burgers from beetroot grown in my garden

Buying: Christmas advent calendars (I know it’s early, but best be prepared!)

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