The temperature drops. The days get shorter whilst the nights get longer. Some people are beginning to notice a sudden lack of energy and positivity. Whilst this may be a temporary change, the transition to autumn and winter can be a debilitating time that affects daily life. Seasonal Depression, also referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a form of depression that occurs during the same time on the year; often winter months. Whilst there is no official direct cause of seasonal depression, the condition is usually linked to a shift in our biological clock with the anticipation of shorter and darker days.
It is important to keep in check with our mental wellbeing and be aware of how the change of seasons affects both our mind and body. Common symptoms of SAD often include:
a persistent low mood
unhealthy sleeping habits
unhealthy eating habits
Tips for Combating Seasonal Depression
Introducing a New Hobby
Incorporating a new hobby or keeping up with existing interests can be extremely beneficial. An engaging hobby can be an outlet to focus our energy into; leaving little room for negative thoughts to flow. Find a hobby that aligns with your passions and will enjoy doing the most whether that be music, art or sport. Hobbies can also be a great way to meet people and stay socialised. It is all about experimenting and discovering what best peaks your interest.
Get Your Daily Dose of Sunlight
Various studies have explored the role that daylight plays on our mental wellbeing. Light greatly impacts our mood, sleep and hormones. Inadequate exposure to sunlight reduces our serotonin levels and creates an imbalance of melatonin therefore it is important to ensure we incorporate sunlight into our routine during the darker months. Going out for a walk before work or during your lunch break; even a cloudy day can do some good. This may be harder to achieve for those who work indoors but there are still small steps that can be taken to bring the outdoors in, whether that be opening blinds or curtains, working near a window where possible or even indoor plants to keep nature nearby. Some even turn to using a light box to simulate sunlight during the dark days.
Maintaining Healthy Sleeping and Eating Habits
Sleep and depression have a bidirectional relationship as poor sleep can contribute to the development of depression and suffering from depression can make it more likely for someone to have a poor sleeping pattern. As SAD can be attributed to a disruption to our internal body clocks, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can be a challenge. A poor sleeping pattern can have detrimental effects on our ability to function. It can affect productivity, concentration and can even weaken our immunity defence systems against viruses that cause the common cold and flu. Whilst it may be difficult, try to stick to a healthy sleeping schedule ensuring you are well rested for the day ahead, winding down before bed by avoiding distractions such as screen time which often makes us more alert as opposed to relaxed.
Food can become a great comfort in the winter months with a higher likelihood of cravings for carbohydrates and sugars. Maintaining a healthy diet can help boost mood whilst providing the body with vitamins and minerals needed to feel energised which is helpful when experiencing a lack of motivation and productivity.
Just like many aspects of life, exercise is beneficial to our mental wellbeing due to the spike of endorphins our bodies and mind react favourably too. A study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that individuals who were more physically active were less likely to develop depression. It doesn’t have to be too challenging; a cycle, light jog or even walk. Allocate some free time to focus on physical health and getting outside. Even as little as 10 minutes a day can be impactful to our health,
As SAD triggers fatigue, finding the motivation to start exercising can be difficult however it is important to ease slowly into it and make it enjoyable. Furthermore, exercise can help with improving sleep, eliminating feelings of exhaustion
Lack of awareness of our feelings and thoughts can often prevent seeking the help and actions needed to combat SAD. Mindfulness is a practice that focuses on the present, engaging with our five senses to reconnect with our bodies and minds. It is a great tool as it encourages people to identify negative thinking patterns; improving emotional regulation. There are many simple and accessible mindfulness exercises to try.
Taking extra steps for self-care is vital during the winter months but remember it is okay not to be okay. Do not feel like you need to combat your feelings alone. Reach out to those who make you feel safe and surround yourself with people who make you happy. Understanding how to spot the signs of SAD can really help when it comes to caring for yourself and others, and we hope that you’ve found this guide helpful.