The clocks have just gone back an hour which is great for those that that really needed to catch up on some extra sleep but it’s not so great for those that don’t like the longer, darker days. If you feel like you’re finding it harder to get out of bed in the morning then you may not be just imagining it.
In fact, you could be suffering with what is commonly referred to as the winter blues. It is true to say that many of us simply feel emotionally drained, more apathetic and want to sleep for longer. This form of winter blues or Season Affective Disorder (SAD), as it’s more commonly known, is a psychological affect that usually occurs at the end of the summer due to lack of daylight.
SAD is thought to affect one in five of us and in its most severe form can cause such strong symptoms of fatigue and depression that it can seriously disrupt people’s lives. The SAD condition is believed to be related to the amount of natural light available in winter months. Medical experts understand that daylight causes a reaction that stops us from producing melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel drowsy. Therefore, the lack of daylight in the winter can result in some people to not stop producing melatonin, leaving them exhausted.
There is also a common belief that exposure to sunlight results in a higher levelo of serotonin, leaving many of us feeling happy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in the darker winter month the body produces less serotonin which can lead to an increased chance of developing depression. If you feel as though the changing of the seasons has led to a downturn in your mental wellbeing then it is important to visit your local GP. However, the following tips could also help you in starting to feel better.
Brighten up your day:
It may sound extremely obvious but when your body is literally craving daylight, sitting next to an artificial light for just 45 minutes a day can make a huge difference. The lumna lights often work as a great natural anti-depressant with no need to take any physical medication. Additionally, opening the blinds, sitting closer to the window and removing any trees, bushes or shrubs in the way of light can help to achieve more natural sunlight.
Keeping warm is essential throughout the winter to ensure overall health but it is particularly important for SAD sufferers as being cold can actually make you more depressed. In some cases it has been shown that staying warm can reduce the effects of SAD by as much as 50%.
The best ways to keep warm is to use the heating if needed and ensure that your room temperature is somewhere between 18C and 21C. Other things that you’re able to do is to wear warm clothes such as jogging bottom and fleeces as well as keeping topped up with hot drinks.
Eating healthy isn’t all about restricting yourself to cold salads and lots of fruit (although that it can be good in a balanced diet). It is just as important throughout winter to have comforting, warm and healthy meals such as soups, stews and curry’s.
The truth is that maintaining a healthy, balanced diet will not only lead to increased energy levels but you can also benefit from not putting on excess weight and having a better overall mood. The reality is for many people with SAD is that all too often the go-to food type is carbohydrates. Instead, try and reduce these cravings by eating comforting meals, as well as fresh fruit and veg. This will also help to stave off your hunger for longer.
Now it is important to remember that keeping moving doesn’t not have to equate to rigorous exercise and nor should it be perceived in this way to offset the symptoms of SAD. However, try to walk for an hour during the middle of each day. Now it may not be appealing to wrap up and brave the mid-winter British weather but the NHS have stated that taking a walk outside could be as effective as light therapy.
Similarly, despite being indoors, exercising in either a gym or your own home can be beneficial in trying to tackle SAD symptoms. Whilst you won’t be exposed to natural sunlight, you are still able to benefit from the endorphins that are released into the bloodstream. This will ultimately make you feel happy and work towards ameliorating feelings of depression.
Visit friends and family:
It has been extensively shown that socialising is good for overall mental health and can be an effective treatment for SAD. It is important, even if you have to force yourself, to make an effort to spend time with people that you care about and to accept any invitations to social events and gatherings.
Being isolated can be detrimental to physical health and can even lead to depression and that’s why it is so crucial to visit friends and family on a regular bases. Even if you only plan to see a friend or family member for a coffee, once you’re actual doing something you may have suddenly got in the mood to spend time with other people.
There are a number of ways to try and cope with the condition of SAD. Often it will take a combination of factors that will eventually improve your mood and limit the feelings of lethargy and depression. However, the important thing to remember is that the condition is temporary and there are mechanisms to help sufferers through the darker, winter months.