7 Ways to Feel Better this Winter Season
The clocks have gone back. The nights are drawing in. And that means one – okay several – things; dark, cold, rain, sleet, snow, slippers and three pairs of bed socks, heating maxed out and a looong wait until the thaw of the ice, bluebells poking their heads through woodland carpets, getting away with leaving the house in a cardigan, and the return of that bright warm yellow disc which sometimes appears in our skies…
But it doesn’t have to be this way! S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder) may be on the rise, however, there are a myriad of ways to put the spring back into your step.
So without further ado, let’s explore them and cheer ourselves up:
But first off, what is S.A.D? And why does it exist?
Well, according to the NHS website, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a kind of ‘winter depression’ striking between the months of October to March, and whose symptoms include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, lethargy, sleeping for longer than normal (I’d beg to differ on this one… surely hibernation is a built-in mechanism, especially when we think back to the Cave Man era and nature’s body clock which urges us to wake with the sunrise?), craving carbohydrates (well, hello, we DO need more calories… we’re freezing them off… plus it’s the run up to Christmas… and Easter!), feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, and irritability.
Now for anybody suffering from S.A.D (or indeed any kind of depression), I promise I am not trying to make light of the situation… which I appreciate in the case of S.A.D is a pretty awful pun. But, I do also think the medical profession has a huge tendency to over or misdiagnose these things when actually, there are a few steps we can take ourselves first before we resort to more drastic measures.
However, if you suspect you are suffering from the kind of persistent depression that goes on year round, DO speak with your health care provider.
Because my tips in this article are by no means backed up in any shape or form by science… they are just what I consider to be common sense ideas. And I am most certainly only talking about those of us who feel a little blue now and then during the deep dark winter months.
Here are my 7 tried and tested (by me!) ways of getting back your winter mojo:
1: Move to a Warmer Climate
And there is a good reason this one is top of the list. I know it makes a difference because I did it myself. I struggled with the British winter. I was never happy!
A doctor would have diagnosed me with S.A.D years ago, but actually, it is quite simply that I love the sunshine. I love warmer climates. A walk in a park bundled up in layers and layers and layers… and a thermal or two besides, even on a crisp clear January day with the brightest of skies and most golden of sunshines will bring out my inner whinge quicker than anything else. It depresses me. Totally and utterly. And it’s nigh on impossible for me to do it without being hooked up to a hot chocolate drip.
My body stays indoors in the winter. Where it is warm. It is not one for braving it, wrapping up and blowing the cobwebs away on a windswept beach in North Wales, as gorgeously rugged as that may be.
I am simply suited to a Mediterranean climate. I know this will seem out of the question for many people. I know it will seem too drastic a life change. But if you really are finding yourself more and more pissed off with the Great British (or anywhere else in the North of Europe) winter weather; if the rain is a drain, if the wind is toppling your mood, if the lack of daylight is turning you into Scrooge, then it might just be that a simple change of location is all you need to improve your mental health and your lifestyle.
2: Book a Winter Holiday
So this is the next best thing to living a little closer to the equator. Forgo your summer holiday if it’s a cost thing (if it’s not, have them all!) and put the money towards two winter holidays for the price of your summer one. Plus summer in the UK and the rest of Northern Europe is usually pretty good, so now you’re doubling your Vitamin D exposure.
Whilst there are lots of lovely things to look forward to during the winter months… Christmas in particular, it is not everybody’s favourite time of year. Some people miss their loved ones who are no longer with them more than ever in the run-up to December. The season of festive fun can make everything which is ‘screwy’ in ones life seem acutely worse than it actually is. Which is why having a week or two in the sun can make all the difference.
Just the thought of relaxing out on a terrace overlooking the sea with a book and drink in hand, the beams of the sun gently warming up previously frozen toes, is an instant mood enhancer. It can carry cold souls through the chilliest and darkest of weeks like a beacon shining brightly. So promise yourself you’ll do it. And having a flavour of the kind of light and warmth you could be experiencing elsewhere in the winter months might have you thinking a little more seriously about trying out point 1…
3: Buy a lamp
They are wonderfully effective in lifting the mood. Light therapy (or phototherapy) is a gentle and safe way to increase exposure to daylight or specific wavelengths of light via polychromatic polarised light, fluorescent lamps or full-spectrum light (the latter is very effective due to its intensity). Light therapy aimed at the eye’s retina can also be used to treat S.A.D with fantastic results. Although this kind of lamp can be bought independently, it would definitely be advisable to speak with either an expert in the light therapy field or your doctor. Some lights are recommended for use at specific times of day and others for a specific length of time, and so it’s important to get the exposure right for your individual needs.
4: Change your Room Colours
Oh what a difference this will make! Do not underestimate it. Simply by changing the palette of the rooms, you spend the most time in during the winter; ie the living room, kitchen and bedroom, you will perceive an enormous shift in your mood. Colour therapy has long been associated with an increased sense of well-being, and with good reason. Banish the dark, muted shades and tones. Opt for the hues which uplift you. Depending on time and budget, any kind of house D.I.Y is going to be a work in progress so just little by little, implement the changes and watch as your home and general sense of well-being improve.
5: Change your Clothing Colours
Have you heard of House of Colour? I have it on several personal recommendations that they are amazing… Yes, the consultation costs a little… but this is not only a tailor-made service which will have you feeling heaps better just by ensuring you are wearing the right colours for your natural skin tone, they will also save you money (spent on colours which make you look drab and washed out) in the long run. Forget your usual Christmas budget this year and buy yourself a present which will last a life time. In just a couple of personal visits you will look and feel like a million dollars. The Egyptians really cottoned on to something when they discovered the healing properties of our rainbow spectrum!
6: Maximise your Exposure to Natural Daylight
Whether it’s a stroll in the park (fortunately not everyone is as unable to brace the cooler temps as me, especially when the sky is blue and the sun is shining!), a trip into town, a meander along the beach or a woodland walk, there are plenty of gorgeous places to make the most of winter’s natural daylight. And sometimes that’s going to be an early morning thing on a crisp clear day, other times it’s going to be an afternoon thing before it’s time to batten down the hatches for the night.
Abandon pre-arranged plans on those rare golden days when the sun is making an appearance and get yourself out there. You’ll feel so much better for it. Remember nothing is more important than you getting your regular exposure to natural light… not even the supermarket shop. Save it for a rainy day or order it online!
You can also ensure you are getting as much natural light into your home as possible by doing very simple things such as installing large mirrors in such a way that they optimise light reflection in your living spaces, drawing the curtains back as far as possible at your windows and ditching the old-fashioned, light blocking net curtains!
7: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This is a non-evasive ‘talking’ therapy which can help you change the way you think (cognitive) as well as the actions you take (behavioural), thus helping you to see yourself, the people and world around you in a more positive way. It also reaffirms that your actions affect your thoughts and emotions.
Unlike many other ‘talking’ therapies which have a tendency to uproot the past, CBT concentrates on the present moment and can be a proactive way to change your mindset on any topic or situation which is not sitting happily with you. It has a really good track record when it comes to treating depression (which is S.A.D in a nutshell) and breaks down problems into smaller bite-sized chunks – typically Situation, Thoughts, Emotions, Physical Feelings and Actions – making it more logical to see how they are interconnected and how they affect an individual.
So there you have it. 7 simple but effective ways to get you through the woes of winter. I really hope they make a difference and if you have any ideas to add to the pot, do get in touch. Let’s empower one another to stay as on top of this coming Winter Wonderland as possible so we can enjoy all of the good bits!