We all know the UK can be very dark during winter and often people feel they go to work in the dark and leave work in the dark. This affects everyone in different ways and even though some love the winter darkness, a lot of people can be greatly affected. They can feel depressed, lethargic, have difficulty concentrating and want to hibernate, amongst other symptoms. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
This winter is the first with my boyfriend and I’ve seen the effects of SAD on him. This inspired me to find out more about it and what can be done to help the symptoms.
1. Get outside. Get outside during the day and into natural daylight. If you are at work all day, make sure you get out during lunch. If you are inside for most of the day, try to sit by a window.
2. Exercise, eat well, sleep well. Aerobic exercise, which gets the lungs expanding and the heart pumping vigorously, has been shown to improve most mood disorders including SAD and exercise helps relieve depression. If you can get into an outdoor activity, that is a great way to incorporate exercise and getting outdoors. What you eat affects your moods, so make sure you have a well-balanced diet and avoid high sugar and processed foods. Sleep is so important at any time and the link between depression and lack of sleep is well established. Make sure you are getting the recommended 8 hours sleep a night.
3. Vitamin D Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with SAD, as well as more chronic depression. We get a lot of our vitamin D from the sun and the long, dark winters mean that many of us are lacking in vitamin D. There are many forms of Vitamin D supplements available that can help.
4. Optimise gut health. Most people don’t realise that the health of your gut can affect your entire body and can significantly influence your mind, mood, and behaviour. Your gut actually produces more mood-regulating serotonin than your brain does. If you are looking to increase your gut prebiotics, probiotics and enzymes click here for more information.
5. Light therapy Some people find light therapy improves symptoms of SAD. The idea is that providing bright light may stimulate a change in the levels of chemicals and hormones which affect your mood. Bright light can be delivered by a specially made light box or dawn simulator. It’s similar to natural daylight, although it won’t harm your eyes or skin like strong ultraviolet (UV) light does. There’s more information about these on www.sad.co.uk.
6. Go on holiday to sunny place. Finally, if you can, go on holiday during winter to a sunny place!