How to beat the winter blues

During the winter season our moods can be affected by the reduction of daylight and temperature and weather changes in comparison to the summer months.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

This is a form of depression that people experience in a particular time of the year or during a particular season. This is more common during the winter season in the UK and the Northern hemisphere where these countries get the least amount of daylight during winter.

What Causes Winter Depression?

Most scientists believe that the problem is related to the way our body responds to daylight. Research suggests a theory that light entering the eye causes change in hormone levels in the body. In our bodies, light functions to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making us wake up.

Other causes include

• Low serotonin levels- The brain uses chemical serotonin to regulate our mood. People experiencing low serotonin levels is mostly common during the winter. It is thought that there may be strong seasonal variations in how this process works with people suffering from seasonal affective disorder in winter.

• Disrupted body clock- Your brain sets your body clock by hours of daylight. If you experience seasonal affective disorder then part of your brain is not functioning completely slowing your body clock down, leading to tiredness and depression.

• High melotonin levels- When its dark, the brain produces the hormone melotonin which makes us sleep. When it becomes light again, it stops producing melotonin and we wake up. Research suggests that people with seasonal affective disorder have much higher levels of melotonin in winter than other people.

• If you have a life changing trauma then you are more vulnerable to seasonal affective disorder.

• Physical illness

seasonal affective disorder

What are the Symptoms of Winter Blues?

• Depression

• Sleeping problems

• Fatigue

• Overeating

• Stress

• Anxiety

• Feeling down and unsociable

• Social and relationship issues

• Lack of energy for everyday tasks, such as studying or going to work or doing household chores

• Concentration problems

• Mood changes

• People with lower immune systems

• Mentally people who are more prone to substance of use such as excessive smoking and excessive alcohol

unhappy in wintersleeping problems in winter

How Can You Prevent Winter Blues?

If you do experience any of the following symptoms above then try and take these steps below to manage your seasonal affective disorder.

• Avoid stress- Many people feel that they are more likely to experience stress during the winter season. If this time of the year is difficult then it is best to plan ahead to reduce your number of stressful or difficult activities during this time. Stay motivated by doing positive Christmas activities such as putting up Christmas decorations and adding lights as well as wrapping up presents for family members.

• Flexible working hours to make sure you can manage your condition around your work life

• Make sure you talk to someone who you can trust i.e. family member or friend or you can speak to your GP and get a referral to a councillor if you experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder to help manage. In serious cases if seasonal affective disorder is officially diagnosed then cognitive behavioural therapy is recommended to help.

• Make the most out of natural light sources such as going outdoors at least once a day (during the daytime hours).

• Specialist seasonal affective disorder lights can slowly light up your room in the mornings in order to help you wake up easier.

• Joining a support group for depression is very good for people to share their thoughts and feelings especially when suffering from seasonal affective disorder/winter blues. Go see your GP and they will have a list of recommended support groups suitable for your needs in your local area. Knowing that you are not alone and there is help available can make seasonal affective disorder easier to cope with.

• Regular exercise and eating well will help you feel generally healthier and help reduce seasonal affective disorder symptoms.

• Booking a holiday to a summer climate (tropical country) will help reduce winter blues. This will also help to increase your vitamin D levels, which helps improve your mental health and wellbeing.

beat the winter blueshow to beat winter blues