I thought that this week on the blog it might be useful to share some ways to stay positive during the darker and colder months. Winter can be a hard time for a lot of people due to lack of sunlight and lower temperatures, and despite an unusually warm November, I think it’s time for us all to admit that winter has well and truly begun. If you’re a ‘winter person’ who loves the dark and cold (do these people really exist?) then maybe this post isn’t for you, but if you’re like me, and you find the winter difficult, read on. I hope you’ll find something useful in my tips for staying positive during the winter months, and if you don’t, I hope it helps to know that you are not alone in wishing you could hibernate until spring.
Before I share these tips, however, it’s important to acknowledge that if you are feeling especially depressed with the changing of the seasons and struggling to cope, I would recommend doing some research on Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It is estimated that 1-2% of people in the world are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. It is most common for people with SAD to suffer in the winter months, but it is also possible to suffer with SAD in the summer.
Symptoms of SAD are similar to the symptoms of depression and can include:
- Persistent low mood
- A loss of pleasure in everyday activities
- Sleepiness and lethargy
- Difficulty concentrating
The exact cause of SAD is not known, but it is often linked to lack of sunlight during the winter months affecting the bodies ability to produce serotonin. If you are struggling with these symptoms, and think you might have SAD, speak to your GP who will be able to give you a mental health assessment.
Although SAD affects a relatively small number of the population, it is estimated that anywhere from 10-20% of people experience negative mental health effects in the colder and darker months. Often referred to as ‘winter blues’, these feelings can make it hard to enjoy everyday life. I have collated three things we can do to try and get through winter that aren’t just ‘keep your heating on full blast 24/7’, because who can afford that these days?
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies worldwide. It is often called the sunshine vitamin, because your body produces it naturally when you’re in direct sunlight. So, it makes sense that we can often become deficient in the winter months. (or all year round if you live in dreich Scotland) Vitamin D deficiency is linked to anxiety, depression, fatigue and lower immune system. Luckily, you can buy supplements over the counter that can manage this. Having enough Vitamin D might help you sleep better, feel happier and get less colds – which will definitely help with the winter blues.
- Exercise: I know we’ve all heard it a million times before, but regular exercise can release endorphins which help our mood, and improve our sleep quality. You don’t have to join a gym, brisk walking is my preferred form of exercise, because it’s free and I love being outside. Wrap up warm and pair your walk with a podcast/chat with a friend/a warm drink, you’ll barely notice that you’re exercising. Promise.
- Hygge: Hygge is a Danish word with no direct translation to English, but can be defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Basically, getting cosy. My dad used to call it ‘hunkering down’; the urge to stay inside, under a blanket, with a warm drink, reading or relaxing however you may choose. There can be an upside to horrible weather and almost constant darkness and that upside is hygge! Try to use the winter months as time to relax and recharge. Make your home space as comfortable and as inviting as you can, cook some hearty nourishing meals and take the time to do something you enjoy; be it knitting, calling a friend, video games or romance novels. Danish winters tend to have even less sunlight than the UK, so they’re basically experts when it comes to surviving winter – we should listen to them.
So, there we go. A few easy cheap ways to stay positive during winter. If you have any tips of your own, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch on social media. We’ll be sharing lots of positive content over the next few months to try and fight the winter blues, so we’d also love to hear your recipes/games/poems/jokes, anything that makes the winter a little easier! Until next time. 🙂