There are not many of us that look forward to the winter. Let’s face it, it’s just not as much fun as the summer!
It’s dark when we wake up and dark again by teatime. This lack of sunshine can be quite draining. People often report a heightened desire to stay indoors during the winter months, especially after the excitement and activity of the Christmas season is well and truly behind us.
For most of us, winter is an inconvenience – a season that must pass in order for spring and summer to return. However, for a small number of us the winter blues actually manifest themselves as a seasonal depression: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a depressive illness caused by a lack of natural sunlight. Approximately 20% of people in the UK experience some SAD symptoms, while another 8% suffer more seriously to the point that it affects their daily lives.
Not everyone who experiences SAD will present with the same symptoms – you can have a look at this Psychology Today article to see what the symptoms may be. Many people feel less energetic and more lethargic, needing more sleep than usual. They may also find it hard to get enjoyment out of everyday tasks and activities in that way that they would during the summer months.
There are a number of things that everyone can try in order to lift the blues and make the winter months more bearable. Put simply, it’s about spending time outside whenever you can and maximising the amount of natural light you are exposed to on a daily basis.
However awful the weather outside, a short daily walk will really help put a spring in your step. Exercise and activity get the endorphins flowing which help you to feel good. Getting out and about maximises the amount of natural sunlight our bodies are exposed to as well, which really helps to minimise the SAD symptoms you’ll experience.
If getting outside proves difficult, then it’s advisable to do whatever you can to keep work and home environments clutter free, light and airy. Sit next to windows whenever possible and – if it’s not too cold – try and get some fresh air through an open window.
Diet also has a role to play in keeping our mood on an even keel over the winter. While stodgy foods, like pies and stews might seem like a good idea to keep up warm and nourished, in truth they can sometimes add to our lethargy and lack of energy. What your body really needs to keep the SAD symptoms at bay, is food that is rich in vitamins C and D and zinc (such as spinach, citrus fruit and fish).
For more tips on how to improve your mood over the winter, why not read one of our previous blog posts.