Beat the Winter Blues
As the days get shorter, many people find themselves feeling sad. You might feel blue with winter around the corner. While not a medical diagnosis, winter blues is a general term used to describe the change in mood accompanied by a change in the weather. It is fairly common and it’s more mild than serious. According to Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert, it usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is different. It’s a well-defined clinical diagnosis that’s related to the shortening of daylight hours, says Rudorfer. It interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time.
A key feature of SAD is that it follows a regular pattern. It appears each year as the seasons change and it goes away several months later, usually during spring and summer.
It is ok to feel sad every now and then. In fact, in winter it may even be considered normal to feel a little down. However, if you find yourself physically impaired and unwilling to perform even basic tasks, please speak to an AskNelson counsellor and make sure you get the right support and treatment.
It is important to not feel alone as this SAD medical condition, like any form of depression, can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Reach out for help, it may change your life around.
If you are struggling with mood changes and lack of motivation this winter, here are 6 practical tips to help you lift your mood!
SIX PRACTICAL TIPS
1. Keep your sleep cycle regular. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time. It is important to keep these habits regular as this will guarantee maximum rest as well as peace of mind. Introduce a soothing bedtime routine to tell your body you are going to bed. Try it for two or three weeks – soon your body will recognise it as an indication for bedtime. Remember it is important to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night for your overall health.
2. Keep moving. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the feelgood hormone, this will give your mood a boost and help you cope with an overall feeling of sadness. It can be exceedingly difficult to get yourself moving in winter but start with 30 minutes of walking and take it from there. Let it be a source of comfort, not stress. Even 10 minutes can go a long way. Yet studies have shown that doing 30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week is great for mood and it is excellent for your overall wellbeing.
3. Spend time with others. Human connection is extremely important for mental health. Often spending time with loved ones can release many positive messages for the brain. It can release more endorphins, reduce cortisol in the bloodstream and remind you that you are not alone. Take all the precautions necessary to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus but do not isolate yourself unless you must. Even a simple video call can do wonders.
4. Avoid carbs and sugars – this is particularly challenging; winter often leads to cravings and bigger portions and more richer foods. This can be a problem as this will provide a temporary “high” and then it will be followed by a slump in energy. This may lead to more sugar cravings and a vicious cycle may start. This can lead to weight gain but also a worsening of mood and a decline of an overall feeling of wellness.
5. Try a light lamp. Lightboxes that emit light close to natural light are widely available. This may be used in your lounge and bedroom to give you the “sunlight” you need.
6. Most importantly, if you can, sit in the sun for at least 20 minutes a day.
Get your daily dose of happiness. Follow the joyful challenge throughout April and try to overcome the effects that season change might have on your mental health.
Cut out and join in on the challenge this month. Challenge your friends and loved ones too.
THINK YOURSELF POSITIVE
Just like training for a marathon requires putting in the hours of training, positivity requires effort and training the mind to think more positively.
The mind unfortunately has a negativity bias which means that we need to practice seeing the good in our lives intentionally and often. Some ways to practice gratitude include starting a “gratitude journal” or setting aside some time each morning to think about the things you are grateful for.
When we practice a mindful awareness and acceptance of thoughts, feelings and sensations as they arise – whether pleasant or unpleasant – then “negative” thoughts have less power over us. We can see things with more clarity and perspective.
USE POSITIVE SELF-TALK
Give yourself a mental pep-talk if you need one! If you’re feeling down in the dumps, imagine what a close friend might say to you to lift your spirits or what you might say to a friend if they were going through the same thing. If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas for positive self-talk, check out this list of 35 affirmations for positive thinking.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVITY
Remember that your friends, family and co-workers have a huge influence on you. Seek to spend more time with people who focus on the positive and dedicate less time to people who tend to spiral into negativity. If you feel that you need to make some new friends with a more positive outlook.