Us Brits have a tendency for pessimism at the best of times, but dark winter days always seem to heighten those feelings of doom and gloom. In fact, 1 in 15 people suffer from SAD – also known as seasonal affective disorder – in the UK alone. The symptoms of SAD, including depression, lethargy, and loss of interest, usually start in November and end as soon as Spring thaws us out in April. So, for those who are already feeling the pinch of dark mornings and minimal sunlight, here are some hacks for improving your mood this winter...
Exercise isn’t all about physical health and muscle gains. Working out triggers the release of endorphins, a chemical that reduces your perception of pain and works to combat low moods. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a few times a week to notice your symptoms improve. You can run, walk, swim, burpee – whatever you enjoy the most! This could also help you sleep too, which is great for anyone who suffers from a disturbed sleep pattern.
Boost Vitamin D
As well as being responsible for keeping your bones healthy, research suggests that it could also be linked to depression and SAD in particular. Cause or effect has not yet been established, however, thanks to our office jobs and general lack of sunshine in the UK, it’s worth supplementing anyway. Try taking a specific vitamin D supplement or multi-vitamin tablet to make sure you’re getting enough.
Don’t Give in to Sugar Cravings
Sweets, processed foods and refined carbohydrates raise our serotonin levels quickly, giving SAD sufferers that quick happiness fix they so desperately need. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long, and the subsequent sugar crash will likely make you feel even worse than you did before. Making sure your body is getting everything it needs – including plenty of bright vegetables and dark leafy greens – will have a hugely positive impact on your mental health.
Try Light Therapy
Light therapy is another popular way to treat SAD, which involves sitting in front of a very bright light box that mimics natural outdoor lighting. About 30 minutes a day is recommended, and the light needs to be at least 2,000 lux.
Staring at a screen all day does nothing beneficial for our mental health. Getting enough fresh air and time outside is crucial, especially on brighter days. We know it can feel impossible to motivate yourself to do so when it’s cold outside, but the rewards will most definitely be worth it. Can’t leave your desk? Sit near windows in the office whenever you can.
Talk It Out
Talking to a counselor, life coach or even a close friend is a great way to cope with your symptoms when they get too much and will help you feel less alone. Speak to your GP and see what options are available to you on the NHS.