As the cold weather and the darker nights and mornings draw in do you suffer from a lack of energy or low mood? Do you find it harder to get up in the morning and generally lose a bit of motivation and ‘lust for life’? Do you find it more difficult to focus on work or generally just feel a bit ‘down in the dumps’?

If the answer is yes to any of the above you may be suffering from a bout of winter depression; the medical name of which is SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder). There’s sound scientific evidence to support the idea that the season can affect our moods and it’s thought that SAD affects 1 in 15 people in the UK.

What causes SAD?

We don’t know for sure what causes these changes in mood but scientists believe that part of the problem is due to the reduced hours of daylight. The theory is that when light enters the eyes it alters the levels of hormones in the body. Light is thought to reduce melatonin, the hormone that causes us to sleep. Less light means higher amounts of melatonin, making us feel more tired and lethargic, also during the daytime.

What steps can we take to help ourselves?

  • Get as much natural light as possible. The charity Mind says research has shown that a walk or run outside, especially on brighter days can really help. Also, sitting next to a window if possible, can make a big difference to your mood.
  • Eat well! We naturally crave heavier, more calorific foods in the colder weather, but ensure you also include plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Get moving! The positive effects of exercise on the mind are well known. It relieves stress and anxiety, aids sleep and releases natural feel-good hormones called endorphins, lifting the mood and helping us to feel more positive.
  • Be social- even if you don’t really feel like it, spending time with friends and family at this time of year will make you feel more connected and less alone.
  • Take up a new hobby or set yourself a motivating goal. It could be taking up meditation, enrolling in a cooking or writing class or entering an event like a run or walk for charity. Choose something that will motivate and inspire you and create a new focus.

Becca Teers – Author, Clinical Hypnotherapist