Many people start to feel a little down when winter comes around. It’s darker, colder, fun summer activities are over for another year, and everything just feels that little bit harder to deal with. For most people, this is a passing feeling before they get back into their normal routines and, if not enjoy what winter brings, at least manage it well.
For others, however, this feeling lingers and even becomes worse. It is a medical condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), colloquially called the ‘winter blues’. Around three percent of the UK population suffers from this mental health condition, and along with it comes less energy, making things even harder.
Obviously, if you suffer from SAD it will have a major negative impact on your life in many different ways, from your career to your personal life. So what can you do to help yourself if SAD is something that comes for you each winter season? Although you might not be able to entirely rid yourself of the winter blues without professional help, there are some useful tips that will help you feel better, at least temporarily, and they are certainly worth trying out.
Plan For The Summer
If you dislike the winter because it causes you mental health problems, it makes sense to think beyond that uncomfortable season and plan for the summer instead. What is it that makes the summer so much better than the winter? What can you do that you can plan for and look forward to?
The biggest option to think about would be a summer vacation. Even if you’re not intending to go anywhere in real life, clicking onto websites, looking at holiday destinations, browsing the different hotels that might be available, and even planning an itinerary can boost your mood significantly. What’s even better is that you don’t have to worry about prices and costs unless you’re actually booking the holiday. If you’re just using the planning as a method to make you feel better, you can be as extravagant as you want to be and enjoy every moment.
If you’d prefer to be more realistic, then why not think about what else you might like to do in the summer and make a list that you can work through when the time comes. Anything from picnics on the beach to day trips with your family to exploring your hometown a little more deeply can be included.
Although it can be tempting to lock yourself away and hide under the duvet when winter comes, especially as it’s so chilly outside, this can actually make your SAD symptoms worse. You’ll be left alone with your negative thoughts with nothing else to occupy yourself.
This is why it’s so important to stay active, even when it’s cold or dark or raining (or snowing). Think about all the ways you stay active in the summer and work out how you can do them in the winter. If you go running, for example, then you might buy a treadmill so that you can continue to do so in your own home. If you enjoy the gym but don’t like going out in the dark, you can look for online classes or videos to follow instead.
As long as you are staying as active as you can and not using the winter as a reason to stop exercising, you will feel better, no matter what type of keep fit routine you have. This is because serotonin is released in the body when you exercise. Known as a ‘happy hormone’, when you have enough serotonin you’ll feel positive and energised, and your SAD symptoms will diminish.
Get More Light
The biggest problem for those who suffer from SAD is the lack of light during the winter months, especially around 21st December (the shortest day) which only has an average of 7.5 hours of sunlight out of 24, with the sun setting before 4pm. Many people will therefore find they are waking up when it’s dark and coming home from work when it’s dark, and never really getting to experience any sunshine at all. Even if they are able to go outside when it’s light, because the sun doesn’t feel as strong in the winter as it will in the summer, it might not make much difference to how they are feeling at all.
The problem, apart from the fact that this will clearly make people feel unhappy, is that sunshine is crucial when it comes to giving us vitamin D, a nutrient that helps to produce serotonin which, as mentioned above, has a positive impact on mood and mental health. Luckily, it is possible to take supplements that will boost your vitamin D levels somewhat. Although it’s not as good as the real thing, it’s better than not having any vitamin D at all, so stocking up on healthy supplements like this might be a good way to combat the winter blues. You can also eat more foods that contain vitamin D including oily fish, egg yolks, and some breakfast cereals.
As for the lack of light itself, try to go outside as much as you can, even if it’s cold. If you have a lunch break at work, for example, even if you’re working from home, step outside your front door or walk around your garden. Just 10 minutes in the admittedly hazy winter sun can do wonders. Alternatively, you can purchase a ‘SAD lamp’ for light therapy. Use the SAD lamp for half an hour a day and you should see an improvement.
Start A Hobby
Having something to occupy your time can be an ideal way to get past the worst of your seasonal affective disorder symptoms. When you’re thinking of your new hobby, you won’t be thinking about how down the season is making you feel, or why it’s affecting you so badly. Your new hobby can be anything at all because the key point about it is that it keeps your mind busy, allowing you to think of other things that aren’t your winter blues.
Something to bear in mind when it comes to hobbies, of course, is that you’re not going to start at an expert level. You’re not going to be able to go straight in knowing exactly what to do and being successful. No matter what you choose, there will be some learning involved and, as they say, practice makes perfect. Although it’s possible to boost your progress in various ways, including using Ostarine if you’ve taken up weightlifting, for example, you shouldn’t become downhearted if you’re not an expert right away. Neither should you think of starting a hobby to monetise it. Some hobbies can indeed bring you in some money, but that should never be the main reason for doing something; it should be about enjoyment, not making extra cash.
Connect With Friends & Family
Staying in contact with friends and family, even if you can’t see them in person, is another effective way of dealing with the symptoms of SAD. Socialising is a great way to improve your mental health, and even if you only stay at an event for a short while, or you visit virtually using video chats, it will all go towards making your symptoms less problematic.
You might also be helping your loved ones by staying in touch. They could be suffering from the same issues as you, and by checking on, or by accepting their invitations, you might be improving their mental health at the same time as boosting your own.
Talk About How You’re Feeling
For some people, talking about how they’re feeling is a great way to feel better about anything and everything, including the winter blues. You can talk to friends and family, as mentioned above, but there are also many other options for you to think about. These include therapy and counselling, support groups (online or face to face), or going to a professional for an accurate diagnosis and advice.
No matter what option you decide on, being able to talk through everything that is worrying you in a supportive environment can make a huge, positive difference in your life. You’ll be reminded that you’re not alone (and you really aren’t – many people have SAD to varying degrees) and that in itself can be a good start when it comes to banishing the winter blues.
Adopt A Healthy Diet
There are so many benefits to eating a healthy diet and foregoing any processed foods or takeaways. A good diet will improve your mood, give you plenty of energy, and you’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight too. This is particularly important during the winter months, especially if you suffer from SAD.
A healthy diet is one that includes as many of the nutrients your body needs to work properly, most of which can be obtained from fresh fruit and vegetables. Although you might not be in the mood for a salad in winter, ensuring you have a side of vegetables at the very least (and ideally more than this) during each meal will help.