When the bright summer and autumn months start to fade and winter creeps around the corner, there’s a chance you may start to suffer from a phenomenon known as the “winter blues”.
This is officially known as “seasonal affective disorder” (SADs), and NHS Inform reveals that the condition affects around 2 million people in the UK alone.
These feelings of melancholy and lethargy can often sap your mood and energy levels in the winter months, but the good news is that there are several proactive steps you can take to battle the seasonal blues.
Continue reading to discover six of these simple methods to help lift your spirits this winter.
1. Go for a walk in nature
Perhaps one of the better ways to fight the winter blues is to get out in nature, regardless of the temperature.
This is because the fresh air can be invigorating for both your body and mind, and the bracing temperatures could even greatly benefit your immune system.
Also, while you’re out, it’s essential to soak up as much sun as possible. Understandably, this can be easier said than done during the darker winter months, but the sunshine could boost your vitamin D levels, which could help you feel less sluggish, allow you to concentrate more, and even help your sleep.
Exercise is just as important, too, so a brisk walk in nature could benefit you in several ways. In fact, exercise can release endorphins, which improves your mood, self-esteem, and can even boost your mental wellbeing, helping to reduce any stress and anxiety you may experience during the winter.
2. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep
The longer, darker nights during the winter can erode your mood, and the changes in daylight hours can even affect your circadian rhythm, significantly reducing the amount of sleep you get.
If you find you’re getting less sleep in the winter months, this can affect your mood in several ways – Mental Health UK reveals that a lack of sleep can lead to:
- Poor focus, memory, and concentration
- An inability to control your emotions
- A higher risk of colds and infections.
These symptoms could contribute to your overall low mood during winter, so it’s worth taking the necessary steps to improve the quality of your sleep.
It may be wise to avoid any substances that disrupt your sleep cycle just before bed, such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Moreover, you may want to avoid moderate-intensity exercise at least two to three hours before you head to bed, as this elevates your heart rate and interferes with your body’s ability to relax into sleep.
You may even want to ensure that your bedroom is a conducive environment to sleep in the first place by making sure the temperature suits you, and that your phone is away from your bed so it doesn’t distract you.
3. Eat a healthier and more balanced diet
A balanced diet is also incredibly beneficial for your physical and emotional wellbeing, especially during the winter months.
If you’re suffering from low mood, this can often lead to cravings for sugar and other fatty foods. While these are fine in moderation, and can even give you a short-term mood boost, too much of either could leave you feeling sluggish.
Instead, it may be worth making the most of seasonal fruit and vegetables, as they can be great for boosting your immune system and increasing energy levels.
For instance, winter squash contains high levels of vitamins A and C, both of which supply you with much-needed antioxidants that can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Additionally, legumes, such as lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas, are also in season during winter, and are a fantastic source of zinc, which can help reduce fatigue.
4. Stay in touch with your friends and family
Socialising is also a practical way to stave off the winter blues. Even though the cold, dark nights can leave you feeling lethargic and less willing to talk to your friends, it’s vital to tackle these feelings head-on and try to be sociable during winter.
Doing so could help you forget about your low moods during the winter, as even a short amount of time spent with friends or family could help you forget about feelings of anxiety and depression.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that social connectedness has a range of positive effects, such as:
- Improving your ability to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression
- Promoting healthy eating and physical activity
- Improving sleep.
To socialise more, you could simply arrange an outdoor walk with your friends or family, allowing you to stay in touch with your loved ones while getting some much-needed exercise in the process.
Or, you could take up a new hobby and join a social group, helping you meet new people with similar interests.
5. Completely shift your mindset
There are also less hands-on ways to tackle the winter blues – for instance, you could attempt to completely shift your mindset and change how you think about winter.
It’s all too easy to be negative when it’s cold and dull, but if you realise that focusing on feelings of doom and gloom can reinforce this mindset, this could instead help you embrace the season and seek out the surprising benefits it can bring.
For example, you could embrace the Danish concept of “hygge”. This word doesn’t have a direct English translation, but it essentially encompasses a feeling of cosy contentment and wellbeing by enjoying the little things in life.
This could involve taking the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the things around you, such as an interesting book and a warm cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon, or the time you spend with friends and family.
You could even spend some time during the winter to plan things to look forward to in the new year. This could help keep you encouraged about the future, knowing that you have exciting things ahead of you.
6. Consider light therapy
If you’re especially struggling with the winter blues and can’t seem to find a solution, then you may want to consider light therapy.
This is essentially when you sit under a lamp that mimics outdoor light, and even an hour each morning could improve your mood.
In fact, the Guardian reveals that between 50% and 80% of those who experience the winter blues have seen either partial or complete relief thanks to light therapy. Some research even suggests that light boxes that emit illumination towards the blue end of the spectrum can be especially beneficial.
It’s important to note that you should ideally use UV-filtered light if you’re considering this form of therapy, as normal lights used in this way could be harmful to your skin.
Alternatively, you could try using a sunrise-simulating alarm clock, which works by gradually lighting up your bedroom in the morning to wake you up gently.
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This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.