Winter depression (seasonal affective disorder or SAD) affects about one in 15 people. Many, many more of us – almost one in five – routinely put up with a milder form of the condition, known as the winter blues, and pretty much everyone tends to feel ‘down’ at some point on the greyest of days.
When we’re in the doldrums energy levels are low, motivation is drained, and we’re less resilient in the face of challenges and seem more susceptible to physical ailments. Most of us experience such feelings from time to time and the tendency is to accept that ‘that’s the way it is’. This, however, isn’t necessarily so…
While SAD requires specific, medical treatment, there are a number of practical, winter-specific lifestyle adaptations we can employ to guard against the low-light blues and help brighten mood.
The only way is up!
Lighten up - Soak up as much natural daylight as possible, especially on bright days – step outside the office during lunch- and tea-breaks, avoid lurking indoors at weekends. When indoors, sit near a window.
Warm up - Staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half – think hot drinks, hot food, cosy clothing and aim to heat your home at 18 – 21°C (64 – 70°F).
Eat up - A healthy diet helps cheer our mood and boosts our energy levels. Balance cold weather comforting carbohydrates with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to strengthen your immune system and control any insidious winter weight-gain. Vitamin D may help banish the blues, too – top food sources include oily fish and eggs.
Liven up - Take up a new hobby, learn a new skill – actively breaking with routine sparks the brain and lifts the spirit. And socialise – it’s good to talk!
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan