Most people will feel more tired and down as the days get shorter and colder, and as the summer sun we have grown to worship will have disappeared. This definitely is expected to have some effect. But for roughly 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people in Northern Europe, the symptoms are stronger as they suffer from a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is occasionally known as “winter depression” as symptoms do appear more frequently in winter, however some people suffering with SAD may have symptoms in summer instead.
Some symptoms may include a persistent low mood, irritability, feelings of despair, feeling sleepy during the day, sleeping for longer than normal, and losing pleasure or interest in everyday activities. As this is a form of depression and if you are struggling beyond self-help, please get in contact with your GP and seek support there.
For those who do not require the help of a GP but would rather practise some self help, here are some useful tips. Not only is this advice valuable for leading a normal day-to-day life during winter, it also helps reveal how to manage in the coming winter months to ensure that you are able to live the best life possible.
Healthy Eating & Keeping Active
Fuel your body and your mind
As the days get shorter and the days get colder and darker, it’s easy to fall into unhealthy habits, such as carbohydrate-heavy meals and neglecting the importance of exercise. But it is vital to remind yourself that you have a duty to look after your body!
Your body is like any kind of plant, it requires essential ‘ingredients’ to grow. These in particular are healthy eating and keeping active. Due to the nature of SAD, it is important to eat meals that are nutritious and high in Vitamin D (the vitamin we get from the sun), such as oily fish, red meat, egg yolks, and fortified foods.
By increasing your Vitamin D consumption, not only do you engage in healthy eating habits, you also fill your body with the vitamin most lacking during the winter months.
As well as healthy eating habits, it is also paramount to keep active and engage in physical activity. It is expected that the winter months increase desires to curl up under a blanket with a hot cup of cocoa, it is also really important to maintain activity that stimulates blood flow.
Examples such as running and cycling are easier said than done during the blistering winter, but following alongside home workout videos are an equally good way to maintain physical health. Not only does this increase physical wellbeing, but also mental, as exercise stimulates the hormones dopamine and serotonin, which promote happy feelings! So, a ‘must-do’ to combat the winter depression.
Outside, Outside, Outside
Go chase that light!
Whilst healthy habits such as keeping active and healthy eating are required for combating SAD, there also is another habit that must be maintained for the optimum possibility of staying happy in winter; going outside.
Even though it begins to get dark sooner, it doesn’t mean that the outside world stops existing – it’s still there for you to explore and enjoy (in a thick jumper and big coat). By going outside, light consumption is increased, challenging a symptom of SAD.
For those who struggle immensely with this, it may be worthwhile to bring the light inside via a light box which can be purchased from many online retailers. From a sunrise alarm to a UV light box, there is help for chasing the dark away!
Reward Your Brain
Start a new hobby and keep busy.
A well known method for fighting the ‘gloomy blues’ is keeping busy. The simplest, and most successful, is to take up a new hobby. If your summer hobby is gardening but you aren’t able to do any once the leaves have fallen in autumn, it may be worth joining an ‘autumn cleanup’ group looking to tidy public natural spaces.
Or if you’re looking to increase your typing speed, perhaps join an online typing forum to practice speed races against others. Honestly, the choices are so varied. By starting a new hobby, you are engaging with the ‘proactive’ part of your brain that can so easily get dormant the more lethargic one gets. Even if this new hobby is infrequent, the benefits are endless.
Maintain connections with the people you love.
Sometimes, due to the isolating and gloomy nature of the winter months, it is easy to fall into the habit of self-imposed social ostracism. But, a necessary component of how to manage in the winter months is maintaining frequent contact with the people you love.
Whether this be friends or family, by engaging in regular social calls, you are able to flex that well known muscle of socialising! By forming and maintaining social connections, your own wellbeing is increased as well as others, which always leaves a positive feeling.
Perhaps a way to prioritise these meetups is to schedule in each week a day and a time to dedicate to spending time with others. I’d recommend that you schedule this before it gets dark, so early afternoon on a weekend would be perfect.
Bring Summer To The Winter & Remind Yourself What You Like Most About Winter.
So, this idea is a bit of a wildcard, but a way to combat common symptoms of SAD is to bring summer back to winter! A great way to do this is to host a summer themed event as this will surely cheer up all around you.
The possibilities are endless, but you could make summer themed drinks, play summer hits and have a 10 hour loop of the beach waves playing on the TV. An instant mood booster.
Another way to create a positive mindset for the winter months is to fully immerse yourself in all things winter. From Santa’s grotto to pumpkin picking to mulled wine, planning regular fun things will remind you of the benefits of winter, not only the negatives.
This list shows how to manage during the coming chillier months and captures a few ways to ensure that those suffering from SAD have some ways to self-manage and enjoy the winter season.
Please note: these tips are not a substitute for genuine medical professional help, this can be accessed by your local GP, or by the SAD Association
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