The clocks have changed and at some of our groups we’ve been talking about the inevitable creep towards winter. So, we have come together to compile the following for anyone struggling with “Winter Blues”
Winter is coming
As the weather turns colder and the daylight hours get shorter, you may find your mood or energy levels drop. You might notice changes in your sleeping patterns, eating habits, your concentration or your ability to socialise. For some people the effects can interfere with their daily life and their mental health.
Why does it happen?
Our human ancestors lived most of their lives outdoors. In the winter months they would have been active during daylight and slept more to preserve energy. Food would also have been more scarce so preserving energy was important.
With electricity our human lives have changed drastically. We now spend most of our time indoors, our winter working days often start and end in darkness, and social activities are often in the evening. The problem is, when we do not receive adequate amounts of natural light in the morning, our bodies can fail to produce the hormones that will help us feel awake. We feel sluggish and low in the daytime then unable to sleep at night. In short, it can upset our natural rhythm which can start to impact on our wellbeing.
Tips for “Winter Blues”
A) Find the light
Try and catch as much natural sunlight on your face as possible. Get out if you can, go for a walk (even a brief one in your lunch break can be beneficial). When indoors, sit near windows and make sure your curtains or blinds are fully open. If the sun is shining, let it rest on your face. Even if it isn’t direct sunshine, the light will do you good.
Make adjustments to your home environment so that it is as light as possible. Removing clutter can help with this as well.
B) Move and eat
It can be harder to exercise when it’s cold or dark outside but moving can really help stimulate blood flow and boost mood. Your body may also start craving carbohydrates and sweet things in winter which can result in sugar lows and weight gain. Try to balance these cravings out with fresh vegetables and fruit. Remember to eat hot meals and drink hot drinks when it’s chilly.
C) Enjoy the contrasts
When outside, let the crisp air into your lungs but stay warm. In Denmark they have a word for the feeling of coming inside from the cold to feel warm, cosy and contented (“hygge”). Try to find this cosy feeling. You might like to light a nice-smelling candle and play music, or take a hot shower or bath.
D) Surround yourself with bright colours
In the UK our winter can appear very grey. With less sunshine there are less shadows too which can make the world outside look flat and gloomy. Seek out colours where you can. Appreciate colourful berries, wear bright clothing, or place colourful objects where you will see them. Indoor plants can bring much-needed green into your home.
E) Try light therapy
Some people find that using a special lamp for around 30 minutes each morning really effective. There are also alarm clocks which gradually get brighter like the dawn. Perhaps give one of these a go (more on these below).
F) Reflect and learn
Winter time can be a good period for thinking, reflecting and learning something new. Use your indoor time to journal your feelings, to learn a new skill or read something you’ve been meaning to read. Try to see the cold and dark as an opportunity to do this.
Written and compiled by members and volunteers, with particular thanks to Ron P for his ideas and to Kiwi the Cat for her modelling.
Additional Resources & Info
The clinical diagnosis for “Seasonal Depression” or “Winter Blues” is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can affect you during any seasonal change, it may not be restricted to winter. There is a large amount of support on understanding it at www.sad.org.uk. Unfortunately SAD Lamps are not currently available on prescription from the NHS but here are some tips on purchasing one that’s right for you.
For help with staying warm with winter, see the Government’s Keep Warm, Keep Well leaflet. There are grants to support you in winter-proofing your house. You may be eligible.