It isn’t uncommon to notice changes in mood and behaviour patterns as the seasons transition to the grey, cold and shorter days of winter. Changes in temperature and light levels have been proven to affect our bodies and our minds. Why do you think so many animals hibernate during this time of the year? Those who live in countries exposed to rather extreme shifts of temperature across seasons may be more likely to have heard of the diagnosis, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), a medical term referred to as the “extreme winter blues”. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in fifteen are affected by this seasonal form of depression in the UK.
My Experience of S.A.D
Personally, the word, “winter” itself connotes dark, dismal, lack of motivation, lethargy, depression, negativity, the list goes on. Unfortunately, S.A.D manages to have a strong control over myself. I hate how the grey, low sky manifests itself as if I’m carrying a huge burden on my shoulders. I hate how the sunflame-gold and bonfire-red leaves of autumn have now disintegrated leaving nature to look lifeless. I loathe feeling unhealthy and bloated from comfort-eating stodgy food to protect myself from the cold. I can’t bear that my skin becomes dull and saddened; I hate how no matter how much sleep I get, I never feel satiated. I hate how I can’t go for an early morning or an evening run because I don’t feel safe outside in the dark. These feelings are simply the triggers of S.A.D and they can escalate into a very deep, dark depression. I’ve realised that I need to take my self-care practices even more seriously over the next few months in order to thrive during winter.
How To Beat The Winter Blues
1. Light Up Your Life
Light is a natural mood booster and exposure is the key method to defeat winter depression. Open up your curtains, pull open your blinds and slightly open some windows.The natural light and cool air is refreshing and cleansing. It increases energy levels and clears the mind to think more positively. No matter how dreary it appears to be you need to motivate yourself to go outside. Absorbing Vitamin D will naturally boost your Serotonin levels, having a positive impact on you mood.
2. Embrace Comfort and Have Fun
Transition your mindset from moaning about the wet, the cold and the darkness to focus on the joys of winter. Write a list of enjoyable activities that you can only do during the winter months. There are extravagant options such as skiing or embracing the simple joy of spending a night curled up, watching a feel-good film and enjoying a festive hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows (go on…you know you deserve it!). Think of indoor hobbies, such as cooking, or Christmas crafts. Think fun, creative, mindful and positive.
3. Work Up A Sweat
Exercise seems to be the answer to most of our problems. It increases endorphins and will help you sleep better, regulating your body clock which can get disturbed in the winter months. Go to the gym, try a class such as body-barre or even practice yoga at home. Find an exercise that YOU enjoy and suits YOU.
4. Eat The Right Things
Winter can make us crave stodgy food which ends up leaving you feel even more lethargic. It can also add up to weight gain which can lead to feelings of frustration and depression. Make sure your diet remains balanced, full of fruit and vegetables and ensure you get enough protein. Some people find taking a Vitamin B12 or Vitamin D supplement can be helpful too.
5. Clean Up
Keep your home clean. An uncluttered, organised, clean environment can elevate your mood. Even the actual cleaning process is satisfying and can help us feel like we’ve achieved something. It’s important to note that personal cleanliness shouldn’t be neglected either. We can sometime equate relaxed days with the desire to remain in last nights PJs coupled with unwashed hair and body and unbrushed teeth. Lack of care towards personal hygiene can only leave us feeling worse. You can still make personal hygiene an enjoyable and relaxing activity; run a bath, add some oils, light some candles and read a book.
6. Discover Your Winter Scent
Your sense of smell is directly connected to your mood and emotions, via your limbic system.Diffusing the right fragrances in your environment can help beat the winter blues. Relaxing scents such as lavender and chamomile can soothe mental stress and aid with sleep. Summer smells like zesty orange and zingy lime can boost your energy and stimulate your tired mind. Personally, I associate winter with more spicy aromas such as cinnamon and ginger which I find warming, comforting and energising. Neom has a fantastic range of mood-boosting candles.
7. Listen To Your Body
If you find yourself struggling with the cold, treat yourself to a hot drink and invest in good knitwear (I’m absolutely loving H&M’s affordable range this year). When we’re colder than usual or craving warming comforts, it can be because we feel socially isolated or a dip in our mood. Phoning a friend or inviting friends round could be the medicine your body is calling out for.
*If you feel that you’re affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) despite folloewing these tips, then please consult professional medical help.