Beating the winter blues

Man in the snow

Winter is a difficult time for many. The dark nights and long cold days can have an effect on our wellbeing and mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression which is mostly experienced in the winter. The decrease in sunlight in winter can disrupt your body clock and affect your body’s production of hormones, which can leave you feeling sleepy and depressed.

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • A persistent low mood.
  • A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities.
  • Irritability.
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness.
  • Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day.
  • Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning.
  • Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight.

Here are some tips to banish those winter blues:

  • Get active. Exercise has been proven to raise levels of serotonin – the happiness hormone.
  • Go outside. Go outside as often as you can, especially at midday and on bright days.
  • Keep warm. Being cold can make you more depressed. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes, and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).
  • Eat healthily. Try to balance the SAD carbohydrate cravings with plenty fresh fruit and vegetables. Mind have information on how food can affect your mood. Click here for more information.
  • Take up a new hobby. Keeping yourself busy is important. Give yourself something to look forward to and concentrate on. Take up knitting, learn a new card game, keep a diary, or join the gym.
  • Socialise. Socialising is good for your mental health. You might not feel like it at the time, but keep in touch with your friends and family, and make some plans.
  • Get a dawn simulating alarm clock. These alarm clocks light up gradually in the morning, tricking your brain into thinking the sun is rising.

When to get help:

If you are finding it difficult to cope it is important to go to your GP. They will carry out an assessment of your mental health, and work out what treatment is right for you.