Don’t feel down this Winter. Here are some tips for beating the Winter Blues.
I don’t know about you, but for me, my body almost wants to go into hibernation during the winter.
I am an early riser, and during summer, up long before anyone else. However, after the clocks go back, I find it difficult to get up in the dark mornings. And by the end of the day, I’m done.
I find I want to eat more too…… Hang on a moment. Bears eat a lot then sleep through Winter. Maybe I have some bear DNA somewhere in me!
Am I a bit SAD?
Having the ‘Winter Blues’ is quite common. There’s a lull after Halloween and before the festive season starts (despite the shops now trying to start Christmas in September), and another lull after Christmas until March.
We see that in the visitor numbers on this website too. People just aren’t as interested in getting out.
SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, used to be dismissed by the medical profession, but after some research studies, it does appear that us humans are influenced by the dark days of Winter.
The NHS has a web page on the topic (see Beating the winter blues – Stress, anxiety and depression – NHS Choices), and says that around 2 million people in the UK (12 million across Northern Europe) are affected.
Although the NHS article focuses a lot on more serious ‘depression’ that it can cause, we can all get the milder form: Winter Blues.
If you think back to bright sunny days in Winter, didn’t you feel more energy then?
What about the kids?
SAD affects children too, but severe ‘depression’ is typically only in the range of 18 to 30 years old.
However, you know all too well that sometimes kids can be climbing the walls if stuck inside too long.
Tips for Beating the Winter Blues
Fortunately, there are a few recommended tips that can help if you get the Winter Blues.
Exercises can help lift your mood, and the NHS recommend a 1-hour walk every day.
Have you ever heard of the Runner’s High? The ‘high’ is where runners reach a point where the run lifts their mood (I’m a runner and can vouch for this). Exercise releases endorphins, that can help improve your mood.
In fact, it is thought that a regular exercise programme can even help with depression (see this Harvard Medical School article).
Being outside can help. The brighter light, the fresh air, and of course, you are usually doing some exercise.
Some research indicates that just getting outside could reduce the risk of severe illness (see this article on the benefits of being outside).
The NHS say that being cold makes you more depressed. I don’t know about depressed, but being wet and cold can make you miserable.
If you are going outside during the Winter, you will want to wear the correct clothing. If you’re taking your kids outside, you must make sure they are dressed correctly too.
See our guide to layering clothes to keep warm.
I think this advice goes for just about anything.
However, one of the symptoms of Winter Blues is wanting to eat more. And with Christmas, there are lots to eat that are not so healthy.
Sugary food may give you a quick buzz, but your body tries to counteract that buzz, which can leave you with less energy than before.
It is also believed that eating food with Vitamin D, which is low in the Winter months, can help – though if you get enough sunlight, your body should produce Vitamin D.
I’ve found the Sainsbury’s Express porridge good. They are reasonably healthy, the oats release energy into the body slowly and over a longer period, they warm you up, and they’re quick and easy to cook (1 and a half minutes in the microwave). However, in a test I watched on TV, traditional porridge will keep you full for longer than the express varieties, as with traditional porridge the oats are larger.
Get some Daylight
Bright sunny days can lift everyone’s mood.
Research has also shown that the lack of light may be one of the biggest factors with SAD and Winter Blues, as well as potentially more severe issues (see this article on the benefits of being outside for details).
Of course, even if you get outside as much as you can, there’s not a lot of sunshine around in the Winter.
You can get some daylight simulators, such as this one on Amazon. They are a bit pricey, though, and a little unattractive.
There is some energy saving lightbulbs that emit the same spectrum as daylight (see here) that you can use in standard lamp fittings, but of course, make sure you don’t have a lamp shade that will hide the benefits of the light.
Do you not also find that spirits lift a bit when it snows too? Perhaps it has something to do with the snow reflecting what little daylight there is.
So to me, it looks like the steps for beating the Winter Blues are quite simple:
- Eat some good (healthy) food
- Wrap up warm (correctly, in proper outdoor clothing)
- Get outside and go for a hike 😉
PS. Doesn’t the bright sunny Winter picture above lift your spirits more than the dark Winter picture at the top of this article?
More Details on SAD
Here are some useful links if you want to look into SAD a little more.
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