Combating the Winter Blues

It’s the scene of a Victorian postcard: cozy fireplace, a cup of hot coco overlooking a foggy window and a snowy backdrop. But it’s only a matter of time before the magic wears off and we’re still left with countless frigid days of leaving home in the dark and coming back when the streetlights are on. Winter blues: it’s an unavoidable season, so how can we get through it?

WHAT IS SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER?

SAD


Winter is not all about warm drinks and comfortable slippers. It’s about wet, cold days and layers and layers of clothes that make you confident you can compete in the annual sauna championships as soon as you enter a heated place. One thing is not liking what winter has to offer, but another is when the unhappiness starts to affect your day to day life.

In short, SAD (we do not condone the pun) is a form of clinical depression triggered by the effect of the wintery months. With less sunlight, our bodies produce less serotonin, one of the chemicals that control our mood, appetite, sleep, memory and cognitive function, among others. Less sunlight also means less vitamin D, which is vital to our day to day function.

Symptoms include: persistent low moods, feeling irritable, losing interest in everyday activities, sleeping for more than usual, and poor concentration.

A HEALING TOUCH

Massage Therapy


Massages are relaxing. We don’t need to go into that. What we do need to say is that stress increases the hormone cortisol, and massages have been proven to decrease it. Massages are also a great way to increase circulation during the months when you might not be moving around as much, and help you get a better night’s sleep; getting 2-3 massages a month can greatly increase your mood and help you unwind.

The type of massage can range from a simple 20-minute appointment to a full spa day. You have a variety of choices when it comes to intensity, methods (hot stone, essential oils, you chose!) and a great opportunity to shoot two birds with one stone and help alleviate other pains too (backache, anybody?)

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

Bright Light Therapy


In short, natural light makes us happy. It keeps our cycadean rhythm in check, and it’s just great (we’re getting super creative with our words, we know). With that said, you can just go stare at your living room lamp for 3 hours and call yourself cured. The only thing it will do is give you a reason to go to the eye doctor.

What you need is a replicate of sunshine. Cue SAD lights. Before anything, you must check with your doctor, but after you’re given the all clear, decide what type of light you want. There is a variety of them, from LED SAD lights (effective, but don’t buy cheap ones whose manufacturers haven’t done their research –  they might not produce correct levels of light) to traditional lights (tube bulb lights).

And it’s not about staring into the glow until you can see the image of Jesus when you look into a piece of toast. You put it next to you so that you ensure enough light will meet your eyes, and then carry on with life. Read a book, watch tv, etc. For best results, follow a schedule, use specific type of light intensity suited for you, and do it all at a specific type of day.

It’s important to note that although light therapy will not cure SAD, it will alleviate the symptoms in a very short time – always check with your doctor if you feel you need other treatments.

Learning you’re ABC…

Vitamins vs Winter Blues


…D’s. Vitamin D. We’re talking pills. Well, homeopathic supplements, but that’s close enough. Although the link between depression and vitamin D is still being explored, studies have shown that people who live in countries with less sunlight during winter have a decreased amount of vitamin D. Of course you can buy these in any health shop, (or stock up with a trip to the supermarket) but it’s always best to check with your GP first, and they’ll be able to prescribe you the best option.


KEEP AT IT

Meditation


Keep your mind distracted from sad thoughts by keeping it occupied with much more productive things: exercise, making lists and plans to look forward to, which will give you a reason to do something small every day. Even meditation can be a great mood booster!