Tips for banishing the Winter Blues
I don’t know about you, but over the last few weeks I have really started to notice the shift in the seasons. The nights are drawing in, there is a definite chill in the air and for some, the dreaded winter blues are looming.
Most people will notice a slight change in their mood with the shifting seasons, but for some, the onset of winter can bring with it feelings of depression, anxiety, decreased energy levels, weight gain (due to increased cravings for sugary, carbohydrate heavy foods), loss of libido and irritability. The condition has now been recognised by the medical profession as Seasonal Affective Disorder (shortened to SAD), however many people are still unaware of SAD and suffer throughout the winter months.
If you have noticed that as winter approaches each year your mood starts to take a dip, you are craving foods like pasta and bread more than usual, you lose interest in things which you normally enjoy and you are sleeping more, but still feeling tired, then you may be suffering from SAD. It’s always good to speak to your doctor first to rule out any other conditions, but the good news is that there are lots of things you can do to reduce the impact of SAD and stave off those winter blues.
In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy we talk about ‘The Three P’s’ (positive activities, positive interactions and positive thinking) which contribute to healthy levels of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. If you think you might be affected by SAD, it is even more important to build these into your daily routine.
Get Outside and Get Active
Going for your morning run or taking a lunchtime stroll in the winter months may not hold quite the same appeal as they do in the summer, but getting as much exposure to natural light as possible (even on overcast days) and engaging in some form of exercise can help alleviate the winter blues. The decrease in sunlight in the winter months and a lack of physical activity are thought to be contributing factors in SAD, as they have both been linked with lower levels of serotonin, an important hormone in regulating your mood and appetite.
Get plenty of Vitamins B and D in your diet
Vitamin B contributes to a healthy nervous system and metabolic function and it needs to be replenished on a daily basis. During times of stress vitamin B is used up quickly and depleted levels have been linked to feelings of anxiety and fatigue. Ensuring you have a diet rich in B vitamins is therefore really important during the winter months. Leafy green vegetables, whole-grains, eggs and fish are a good source of vitamin B and you might also want to consider a good B Complex supplement as a lot of the B vitamins work together synergistically. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to the symptoms of depression (as well as many other conditions) and our primary source of vitamin D is from the sun, during the months of April to September. Combined with the fact that vitamin D cannot be obtained from many foods (oily fish, red meat, egg yolks), many people are deficient in vitamin D and should consider a supplement. If you are on any medication, make sure you always discuss with your doctor first as some supplements can interact with prescribed medications.
Regulate your sleeping
With the dwindling daylight hours, you may find yourself feeling more sleepy in the winter months. This is due to an increase in the production of melatonin (the hormone which regulates your sleep and wake cycles). Melatonin is produced when it is dark and suppressed by the light. The temptation to have a nap may seem overwhelming at times, but oversleeping can lead to further disruption to your circadian rhythms (your natural body clock) and leave you feeling more tired and lethargic. Having a strict morning and evening routine will help and having a good night sleep can lessen the effects of the winter blues.
Invest in a SAD Lamp
Many people work long hours in offices or similar these days and in the winter months that can mean getting into work when it is dark and leaving work when it is dark. It may therefore not always be possible to get that much needed exposure to natural daylight. SAD lamps have been shown to be an effective substitute for natural light and can help ease the symptoms of SAD. There are many lamps on the market so make sure you do your research and buy one from a reputable distributor which emits at least 10 000 lux.
The winter months don’t have to be all doom and gloom though and if you think you might be affected by SAD, get in touch to see how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy might be able to help you.