Beat the Winter Blues
If getting out of bed in the mornings is even harder this month, you may not be imagining it. In fact, you may be one of the millions of people in Britain suffering from ‘winter blues’.
The ‘winter blues’ are characterized by mild depression, lack of motivation and low energy.
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of winter depression that affects an estimated 7% of the population every winter especially during December, January and February. Typical symptoms include :
- · Depression
- · Sleep Problems
- · Lethargy
- · Over Eating
- · Loss of Concentration
- · Social Problems
- · Anxiety
- · Loss of Libido
- · Mood Changes
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and get yourself back to normal if they’re already here! Here are our top tips:
Lack of sunlight can cause many people to become depressed without knowing why! Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Sit in front of a light box for up to two hours a day allowing the light to shine through the eyes. A dawn simulator bedside light, connected to an alarm clock, which mimics a sunrise and wakes you up gradually is another great way to make sure you get your sunshine fix.
As if we need another reason to get fit! Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk, in the middle of the day, can be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues. Otherwise any form of exercise on a daily basis will release endorphins... the ultimate feel-good factor hormones!
Yes, we know. Who wants to brave the blistering cold when you could just as easily stay curled up on your couch with a warm drink and cozy blanket. But go outdoors and soak up the natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on bright days. Inside your home, choose light fabrics and paints that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.
Being cold makes you more depressed and it's been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks, hot nourishing food and cosy blankets. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18ºC and 21ºC at all times.
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Reduce cravings for refined ‘white’ carbohydrates such as bread and potatoes by including a protein source such at each meal (about a palm to fist size with each meal) plus plenty of fresh fruit and seasonal vegetables. An easy way get more veg into your diet and keep warm at the same time is to make a big pot of hearty winter soup!
Supplement with vitamin D & fish oil
SAD has been linked to a deficiency in Vitamin D. Normally a good summer enables our bodies to store enough Vitamin D to see us through the winter months. Supplementation is advisable if summer has been disappointing or if fair or dark skinned. You can also find Vitamin D in oily fish and eggs.
Another top tip is to take 1.000mg of fish oil with each meal and build the dose slowly over 2 weeks. Fish oil has been proven to be more effective than Prozac for treating depression.
Take up a new hobby
Keeping your mind active can help with the symptoms of SAD. Whether you choose painting, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal or writing a blog, the important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on.
Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, co-workers, and neighbours. Who do you turn to when you’re down and need a pick-me-up? Socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations to social events, even if you only go for a little while. It will really help to lift your spirits!
Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms.
These tips have been written by our resident Naturopath Sue Davis. At Lifehouse, we run a range of different wellness breaks and treatments which focus on your health and wellbeing such as our Healthy Life Break and Kick-Start January. Find out more here.