Beat the Winter Blues
Us Brits are very good at moaning about the weather; if we tell ourselves that we hate winter, we would be wishing away one-third of each year. What a waste of time! What if we were to see the colder temperatures and darker days in a new light (candlelight perhaps?!).
Here are five ways to embrace winter and maximise your physical and emotional wellbeing during the colder, darker days:
- Accept and embrace the seasons. If you’ve always said “I hate winter” perhaps this year change the story you are telling yourself and instead say “I’m learning to love winter” or “I prefer summer but maybe winter isn’t so bad”. Focus on what you like about the colder days and nights. Perhaps spending more time indoors will offer you the much-needed time to consider that home project you’ve been putting off all year? How much better will that hot drink be when you’ve come in from an active day in that oh-so-crisp air?!
- We don’t tend to allow ourselves much rest, sometimes the weather is a really nice excuse to stay home and catch up on sleep. Darkness triggers the release of the sleepy hormone melatonin, which is why most of us feel more tired in the winter. Follow your body’s natural instinct to hibernate – if you need to sleep more – do. Set yourself up with some cosy blankets, listen to your body and have that afternoon doze/early night.
- Make sure you go outside in the fresh air and sunshine as much as possible too, though, remember the old adage, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. So, wrap up warm and have your morning cuppa in the garden or put it in a travel mug and go for a brisk walk outside. From about late March to the end of September, the majority of us should be able to make all the vitamin D we need from sunlight on our skin. However, from October through to February, NHS guidance is to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement. Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression.
- Fill your home with light – candles, fairy lights, a wood burner or a fire pit (outside obviously!) – whatever you have. Energy lamps are recommended. These specialised lamps are designed to blast you with full-spectrum luminosity as if you were standing outside. Exposure to this kind of light for half an hour each day can help regulate our circadian rhythm (the ‘master clock’ in the brain that governs the sleep-wake cycle) and boost our mood during the darker months.
- Many species hibernate when the weather gets cold, curling up in a den to sleep away the winter. Cold weather brings people together, we yearn for warmth, love and connection. Use this time to surround yourself with positive people, people who uplift you and make you laugh, helping you to look for good in the world around you.
In the UK, around three people in every 100 suffer from SAD – significant winter depression that can have a big impact on their daily lives. If you recognise that perhaps you are struggling with a low mood speak to your GP. You don’t need to struggle alone, and it’s common to be affected by changing seasons and weather, or to have times of the year when you feel better or worse.
Remember, if winter feels endless…with each day that passes it always gets lighter a little earlier and winter will always eventually turn into spring.
There are many organisations that can help including:
Depression UK www.depressionuk.org;
Campaign Against Living Miserably
(CALM) 0800 58 58 58 / thecalmzone.net;
and Samaritans 116 123 (freephone).
By Lynsey Berwick