Are you struggling with the grey days and dark nights of the winter months? Are you sick of battling the cold weather every time you open the front door? Do you find it hard to get up in the morning, let alone put a smile on your face?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above then it’s quite possible that you could be suffering from the winter blues or ‘seasonal affective disorder‘. SAD is a mood disorder that happens every year around the same time. Symptoms include depression, social withdrawal, fatigue and trouble concentrating.
Whilst scientists don’t know the exact causes of seasonal affective disorder, experts believe that it may be linked to a decrease in serotonin levels. During autumn and winter, we experience less sunlight and they believe that the brain makes less serotonin as a result. Serotonin is a chemical our brain uses to regulate our moods. When our brain has less serotonin to work with, the nerve cell pathways in our brains that regulate moods don’t function normally which can result in feelings of depression and fatigue, as well as weight gain.
Whilst we are not doctors, we can suggest some ways to boost your mood and fight back against the winter blues. Check out our top tips below:-
Eat yourself happy
Feeling down in the dumps can make you crave foods high in fat, carbohydrates and sugar (you know, the tasty stuff) but these delicious treats only provide us with short energy ‘highs’ by temporarily spiking our blood sugar. Ultimately, we crash back down to earth sooner than expected and then start worrying what the scales will tell us the next time we step on them.
Rather than quick fix, sweet treats, try adding more nutrients to your diet in the form of omega 3 fatty acids, wholegrains, vegetables, nuts and fruits. They’ll help you to maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day as well as assist you with maintaining a healthy weight.
Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s sleep can make or break your mood and is just as important as maintaining a healthy diet. A poor night’s sleep has a negative impact on your hormones and brain function and has also been linked to weight gain. You should aim to get between 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night in order to wake up feeling ready to take on the day.
If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, check out our Overcoming Sleep Sabotage blog for some hints and tips on how to get a good night’s rest.
Increase Social Interactions
Increasing your interactions with friends and family is difficult at the moment when we’re stuck in Lockdown but it isn’t impossible. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call a loved one for a good natter and a bit of encouragement. Talking through your feelings and catching up with your friends will ultimately help you gain a more positive outlook and worry less. Plus, the person you’re talking to may benefit just as much as you from sharing a laugh and some good conversation.
Get Regular Exercise
We know, we harp on about this all the time but getting regular exercise really does help to improve your mood and your energy levels. It boosts the feel-good chemicals in your brain, eases anxiety and leaves you feeling more energised. We’re not suggesting you start training for a marathon but going for a walk for half an hour a day will really help you in the long run. Exercise helps to strengthen our immune system, reduces the risk of cancer and helps us maintain a healthy weight. Plus getting out of the house and getting a change of scenery will also do wonders for your mood.
Stress and anxiety often accompany the winter blues as we lack the energy to complete tasks and work starts to pile up. To help you boost your mood, try to practice some relaxation techniques to help you focus and relax. There are many great apps on the market such as Calm or Headspace that will introduce you to self-guided meditation, relaxation therapy and mindfulness techniques. We highly recommend trying them out if you’re struggling with anxiety issues, as well as contacting your GP of course.
Make the Most of the Sun and Light
Whenever the sun does appear from behind the clouds, make sure that you take full advantage of it. Get your coat on and go for a walk or sit in your garden. Just make sure that you soak up some rays (apply sunscreen as necessary). Sunlight exposure will help to improve your mood and boost serotonin production.
Light therapy is also a highly recommended treatment for SAD. Light therapy boxes work by mimicking outdoor light and you can buy them without a prescription. In general they should produce at least 10,000 lux of light and emit as little UV light as possible. If you do choose to invest in one, try and use it for 20 to 30 minutes every morning within an hour of waking up.
Declutter Your Space
There’s a reason most of us indulge in an annual bout of spring cleaning. As we spend more time indoors during the winter months, clutter and ‘stuff’ just seems to accumulate, leaving us feeling hemmed in and disorganised. Being surrounded with clutter and things out of place can leave us feeling tense and irritable. Having a good sort out and tidy-up will not only improve your home but your mind as well, providing you with a sense of calm, order and control.
Whilst we at SJB can suggest some ideas for improving your mood, please consult your GP if you are struggling with depression and feelings of hopelessness. Things will get better but we all need help so please don’t be afraid to ask. We hope that some of our tips above will help you feel more positive as we continue through the winter months. Hang in there, spring is just around the corner….