With the change in seasons, the days getting shorter, weather getting colder and winter clothes making their appearance, we can all too easily become affected by ‘winter blues’ and feeling lethargic and down. So what can we do to reduce these effects of winter and ensure we do not fall further into developing Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the way the reduced exposure to sunlight we get in autumn and winter months, causes a drop in mood; feeling less enthusiastic to exercise, a lack of interest in life and desiring to sleep more. A recent article by Stylist Magazine highlighted the effects the change in seasons can have and suggested small changes you can make to reduce the effects of winter!
- Early rise. The optimal time to wake up is in the hours before dawn; between 6am and 8am to allow your body and mental health to reap the benefits from the sun’s natural ultraviolet light. Even on weekends you should endeavour to stick to waking up at similar times as fluctuations in your wake-up time will increase levels of melatonin which can contribute to depression.
- Don’t hit the snooze! If you hit snooze, your body ends up entering the sleep cycle again, so when the alarm goes off for the second time, you are likely to be at an even deeper, earlier part of your sleep cycle. This results in you feeling even worse when waking up!
- Reduce the morning caffeine intake. It may seem to perk you up, but in actual fact caffeine suppresses serotonin levels which regulate brain functions such as appetite, sleep, memory and mood.
- To counterbalance the hit which caffeine has on serotonin levels, exercise raises this level, reduces stress and adds benefits from the natural light exposure you are getting.
- Popcorn! Snacking on the right types of carbohydrates can relive some symptoms of SAD. According to Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet, consuming around 30g / 120 calories worth of carbs per day will provide you with the serotonin you require. However, stay away from sugary carbohydrates which will give you a short-term high followed by a sugar crash and instead look at snacking on popcorn, pretzels or shredded wheat.
- Brighten your wardrobe. There is a strong research link between colour and mood, and wearing brighter colours could help with raising your mood.
- Incorporate fish into your meals. There are a number of research studies which support how fish can help reduce SAD. Firstly, SAD is less common in those who consume more omega-3 fatty acids. Secondly, fish contains high levels of Vitamin D which has been shown to help those suffering from depression.
- Talk, talk, talk. Don’t shut yourself off from the outside world; organising face-to-face meetings, choosing phone over email and planning social activities will really help!
- Time for a holiday! Escape some of the darkness, cold and depths of winter by booking a winter holiday. You may argue that it will only improve your feelings for that part of winter, but it will give you something to aim and look forward to!
Implementing one or more of these will definitely have some impact on reducing the effects of winter-time blues. It is all about finding the remedy which works best for you. Even putting some of your favourite music on in the morning could lift your spirits! It is important to remember that winter is not forever, so focus on the future and make the effort to plan exciting things to look forward to!
If you are affected by anxiety and depression and are struggling to cope, please contact The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association at the following email address: contact@