Autumn and winter are drawing in as the year comes ever closer to a close, and with that means darker days, drizzly weather and colder temperatures. The lack of sunshine can have an impact on some people’s mental health and wellbeing, leading to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). For those struggling with SAD, it can have a detrimental impact on their mood and can leave them feeling depressed, withdrawn and isolated. Luckily, there are some ways you can mitigate the impact the season has on your mood.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
It’s believed that SAD affects around 3 in every 100 people in the UK, and it’s a condition that can affect people of any age. The main signs of SAD are:
- feeling down and unsociable
- eating more than usual and
- difficulty sleeping.
You can also feel withdrawn and lack motivation, even losing interest in activities you once enjoyed. SAD affects everyone differently and to different levels, but these tips and remedies have been shown to help alleviate some of the side effects of the disorder.
Expose yourself to light
The lack of light is one of the reasons why we suffer with SAD in the first place, so getting exposure to light in any way possible can help to reduce your symptoms. Naturally, getting outdoors when the sun is shining is ideal, helping to boost your dose of Vitamin D in the process, but it’s not always possible. An SAD lamp is an effective alternative that is UV-free and generates around 10,000 lux of fluorescent light which you can use for up to 2 hours a day.
Get yourself a good-quality mattress
Having a good mattress is essential for individuals with SAD because it can contribute to better sleep quality. A comfortable and supportive mattress from Slaapwijsheid can help alleviate discomfort and promote restful sleep, which is crucial in managing SAD symptoms and maintaining overall mental health during the challenging winter months.
Talk it through
Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you understand your symptoms and find ways to deal with them. CBT is based on the idea that our feelings are related to our interpretation of a situation rather than the situation itself, and that premise can be applied to SAD with effective results. Regular CBT sessions can help you beat the winter blues and can provide you with a strategy to deal with it in the future. CBT is a therapy that can be used in conjunction with other tips in this list too, such as light therapy and exercise.
It’s hard when your mood is low to find the motivation to get outside and exercise, but sitting on the couch everyday will only serve to exacerbate your symptoms. Even if it’s just a 15 minute walk around the block, taking the time to get some fresh air and movement into your day can make all the difference. Studies have shown that exercise can help alleviate depressive symptoms and it can be just as effective for those struggling with SAD.
If you don’t have the energy or drive to hit the gym, use your lunch break to enjoy a calming walk or grab a coffee and take a stroll around your local park. Set aside some ‘you time’ to meditate or reset yourself with some yoga indoors and outdoors. If the weather is terrible, there are designated winter walks that might inspire you to get out and active on the gloomiest of days!
Don’t lose contact
It’s tempting to shut yourself away when you’re feeling low, putting off invitations and ignoring calls. But this can heighten your feelings of isolation and make you feel worse. Arranging regular catch-ups, both in person and over the phone can really help to lift your mood, and gives those who care about you a chance to support you when you need it most. Don’t have people close by you can call on? Why not consider joining a walking group, signing up for membership of a sports club or even trying out an online photography club. Perhaps you’ve taken up a new hobby or might want to volunteer your time at the weekends to meet like-minded people.
Write it down
Your emotions may be all over the place when you’re feeling low, and you might feel a mix of apathy, sadness, anger and more. But writing down how you’re feeling can lessen the grip your emotions have on you. Don’t only journal when things are feeling negative — make sure to write down the happy times too, as it’s good for your mental wellbeing to be able to reflect on when things went well and serves as a reminder that not every day is as dark as it may feel in the moment. Journaling is an effective way to process your emotions and gain a new perspective on events and situations, taking you out of the moment to reflect.
Ecotherapy, also known as green therapy, has been shown to have a positive impact on our mood and our mental wellbeing. Time surrounded by nature can reduce stress, calm racing thoughts and improve our mood, and it can be a welcome addition to your routine when you’re struggling with SAD. You may find it helpful to make time in nature part of your regular routine, whether it’s walking in the woods, spending time gardening or going for a run in green spaces.
SAD is seasonal and while it’s most common in winter, it can occur at any time of the year. Seeking help is important when your mood is low and your mental wellbeing is suffering, but these tips can help to ease the pressure that SAD can place on your lifestyle and mood.