If you suffer from the winter blues, you’re not alone. About half our population struggle with the shorter days, freezing weather, and the general dreariness of the winter season¹. For some people, the winter doom and gloom can be worse, as they may experience clinical depression or “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD), which requires depression treatment.
Reduced sunlight affects our circadian rhythm, the body’s biological clock that governs our sleep/wake cycle. For most of us, hitting snooze on your alarm makes far more sense than getting out of bed on a dark, wintery day. For people who are are prone to feeling the cold, the winter months can be even more challenging. Personally, I struggle with winter; I feel the cold, notice a change in my levels of optimism and motivation, and tend to opt for retreating under my donna with a cup of tea and Netflix, rather than socialising or working. Given hibernation is not an option for me, I have to work extra hard on my mental health during the colder months.
If you suffer from the winter blues, here are some ways you can lift your mood and energy levels.
Exposure to light
Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes the winter blues. Many things seem to be involved, including our brains neurotransmitters, ions in the air, and genetics². However, researchers agree that reduced sunlight in the winter season plays a significant role². It is therefore not surprising that exposure to bright light can help combat the winter blues. However, it’s not as simple as heading outside into the sunlight. Both the timing and the way in which you get the sunlight matters. First, it’s important to get the sunlight first thing in the morning to let your circadian clock know it’s morning. Second, research shows the sunlight needs to hit your retina to be effective. This leads me onto my next tip…
With the winter months dulling your sparkle, fight back with some activity that boosts your “happy hormones”. To reap double the benefits, go for a walk, ride or jog in the morning to “let the light in” at the right time.
Stick to a routine
Stick more rigidly to a routine in winter than any other month, by eating regularly and sleeping at similar times. Our hormones are externally influenced by our sleeping and eating. A routine puts our body into a routine. So, while the winter months tell our body to stay in bed in the morning, a routine tells our body it’s time to get up.
Be kind to yourself
Let’s face it, in winter, most of us put on a few kgs.’, are less motivated, and live in our tracksuit pants. Be kind to yourself and accept that you won’t be firing at all cylinders in the winter months.
When you’re cooped up inside, you’re bound to feel bored and go a little stir crazy. Leaving the house will instantly make you feel better… however, here’s the thing, if it’s freezing outside, you’re unlikely to leave the house. Therefore, in winter you need to be organised by planning things ahead – for example, the movies, day trips, the snow, dinners with friends and Melbourne’s winter festivals.