What does the word winter mean to you? The grey skies, bare trees, and weak, pale sunshine of this picture?
When the sun never rises much above the horizon, days are short and dim. It’s hard to get out of bed on dark mornings, and difficult to get your mind and body in gear for the working day.
The temptation to fill up on comfort food and try hibernating at this time of year has been recognised since time began. Recently, it’s been given a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder, which has the snappy and descriptive acronym SAD.
The theory behind SAD is that brief days and long nights mean we’re short on sunshine in our lives (as if we didn’t know). This means our bodies produce less of the hormone seratonin—one of the substances that keep up bright and breezy.
SAD symptoms can range from mild “winter blues” to full blown depression. You can find out more from sad.org.uk, but there’s no substitute for a talk with your doctor. They can make sure there’s no underlying reason for your problems.
You can boost your own levels of seratonin without resorting to drugs. Getting outside for a little while each day is a free and easy way to make a start. Twenty minutes fast walking in the fresh air is a great idea, whatever the weather. Get wet, get dry—you won’t shrink!
If you’ve got no option but to stay inside, sit close to a window if possible, or try some light therapy. I’ve got a desktop light therapy lamp which I use in an hour-long burst each day. If you prefer the gentle touch, you can get alarm clocks that wake you by providing a simulation of dawn, rather than a buzzer. They give off a gradually increasing amount of light to rouse you instead.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is often recommended in the fight against Seasonal Affective Disorder. You may need to pay privately to take advantage of it, but the effects are cumulative, building up to create a longer lasting cure than light therapy, which needs to be topped up at regular intervals.
Whichever method you use, the important thing is you’ll have made the effort to improve your situation. That decision alone will tinge your bleak picture above with the golden glow of satisfaction. You didn’t sit back, and do nothing. At least you tried to improve your situation. That’s the act of a winner-in-waiting.
What are your favourite tips to beat the winter blues?