Lack of sunlight, harsh weather, too much comfort food and sofa-time – the winter months can take their toll on our mental health. Low mood, dodgy appetite and oversleeping are often the result, usually peaking in January and February.
If you think you’re suffering from the “winter blues” (often called Seasonal Affective Disorder), here’s how you should tackle it:
Meditation is scientifically proven to relax the body and mind. Just 10 minutes a day has measurable effects on boosting happiness and reducing stress.
On top of this, be watchful of your thoughts and behaviours. Confront your own negativity and do things that lift your spirit. Don’t be a victim to your own gloom.
Winter makes us crave carbs but try to resist refined ones such as white bread, pizza and pastries which will make you more tired. Choose low-impact carbs such as legumes, seasonal veg, nuts and oats which help keep blood sugar levels steady.
Nothing beats a morning walk on a bright winter’s day. In fact, a 15-minute walk in natural daylight at any time has been proven to increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which help regulate circadian rhythms and improve mood.
Make your home as light as possible – open curtains and clean the panes. You can even get a dawn simulator to gradually light up your bedroom in the morning.
Research shows that up to 80% of people with winter blues benefit greatly from bright light therapy. This means sitting in front of a light box for 30 minutes a day (preferably the morning) during autumn and winter. You can buy them online and even take portable ones with you into work.
People suffering from the winter blues often have a reduced level of serotonin, the “feel-good” chemical. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin in our body, so taking tryptophan supplements can be an effective way of boosting a depressed mood.
Exercise works wonders for boosting serotonin so force yourself to stay active. Gyms are great, but working out in natural daylight is even more effective, particularly the first couple of hours in the morning. Failing that, try a quick Hussle in front of a light fixture!
Sunlight is one of the main sources of vitamin D, which means a lot of people are deficient over winter. Supplementing with vitamin D is shown to reduce tiredness and improve mood. Omega-3 oil is also worth a try, as their abundance of omega-3 has an anti-depressant effect.
Lots of people seem to be feeling fed up lately. Is it the weather this year? No really long fresh cold snaps, just dreary rain and occasional frost. I'm glad January's nearly over.
oversleeping - chance would be a fine thing with small kids! They don't get winter blues, but I certainly do if we don't get outside any chance we get. That also wears them out so I can get some sleep, at least until 6am...
nothing to be done but it is most depressing when it is sunny in the week and damp and muky at the weekend, the only chance I have to get out in daylight. Roll on spring!
I wouldn't say we are all depressed here in our English winter, but it is noticeable that when the sun does come out everyone suddenly seems a lot more cheerful!
I really don't think much of light therapy. I've not tried it personally, but surely that's quite a fake way of getting sunlight? How does everyone in the northern hemisphere cope? Is everyone there depressed?
Personally I don't think anything beats exercise for making you feel good. An outside run in the morning is the best mood lifter, but the gym is a strong second for me.
good point about the windows - when we did get a sunny day I got quite a shock! I'd never thought of the health aspect though.