The winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a common form of depression that is associated with winter time. In the UK alone, one in three people suffer from SAD and the disorder can affect anyone, at any age. Research has linked SAD to the long periods of darkness that we experience during this time of year. SAD can affect your mood and energy levels, leaving you feeling lethargic, irritable and a little blue. Thankfully, there are a number of tried and tested strategies to boost your spirits.
When your mood is dropping faster than the winter temperature, these 6 effective lifestyle changes can help you beat the winter blues:
1. Keep active
When the temperatures are dropping and the days are shorter and darker, it is tempting to skip your morning run or evening gym session. However, exercise is an important factor in combating low-moods, sadness and even depression. A study from Harvard University found that walking for roughly 35 minutes a day, five days a week or 60 minutes a day, three times a week, improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Furthermore, exercising under bright lights, like in a gym, is thought to be even better for seasonal depression. As, a study published in SAGE journals by Kevin N. Groom and Mary E. O’Connor found that exercising under bright lights improved general mental health, social functioning and depressive symptoms. These studies suggest that keeping active is a key part of boosting your mood when winter hits.
2. Spend time outside
Similar to staying active during winter, spending time outside is an important way to keep on top of seasonal affective disorder. Although it might be tempting to stay bundled up in front of your TV, spending outside is an easy way to combat SAD. Researchers at Mayo Clinic found that more time outside, even when it’s freezing and cloudy, outdoor light can help treat SAD.
3. Boost your mood with food
If you’re suffering from the winter blues you might find yourself craving more sugar, carbohydrates and high-fat foods than in the warmer months. While these foods will offer a temporary high, they will also lead to dips and crashes later in the way. Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, complex carbohydrates, good fats and protein will naturally boost your serotonin. This doesn’t mean that you can indulge in some sweet stuff, as chocolate can help to enhance your mood and relieve stress.
4. Volunteer and help others
There is an age-old saying that it is better to give than to receive and research actually backs this up. According to the Mental Health Foundation, when you help others it elicits positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness. This also leads to a sustained sense of calmness and overall better wellbeing. As such, volunteering and helping others can improve your mood and elevate anxiety. So, rolling up your sleeves during winter and volunteering will help keep you and your community smiling and thriving.
5. Have a routine
Establishing and maintaining a sleeping routine and positive morning rituals is a great way to keep you smiling throughout the winter months. According to guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation, you should aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Furthermore, sticking with a regular sleep schedule helps promote better sleep. You can also make your mornings brighter by incorporating positive affirmations into your morning rituals. As these simple but effective statements will help wake up your brain and uplift your thoughts for the day ahead.
6. Relax with some laughs
Laughter really is the best medicine! Experts say that laughing can stimulate processes in your brain that counter depressive symptoms and boost your overall mood. Whether you head over to a comedy night or stay in with a funny flick, make sure you take some time to unwind and chuckle during the winter months.
As the days become shorter and the sunlight starts to dwindle, it’s important to protect your mental health and wellbeing. These simple but effective lifestyle choices can help you beat the winter blues and keep you smiling until the warmer months return.
What are some of your winter rituals? Tell us in the comments below.
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