Sometimes called the “Winter Depression” seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real thing and affects many people. Though the symptoms only occur during the darker months here in the Northern Hemisphere, the effects are now being recognised by many health officials. The causes, however, are not fully understood, though it is felt that the amount, or lack thereof, of daylight during the Autumn and Winter months is closely related.The part of our brains (hypothalamus) which is stimulated by light , controls our mood and sleep among other things. In people who suffer from SAD the low light may well affect how the hypothalamus works, meaning their mood becomes low. So how can we combat this?
Evidence has shown that low levels of vitamin D can cause SAD to be exacerbated. So take time to get outside at least once a day. Even if you only get out for 10-15 minutes each day you will see some benefit.
You knew this was coming right? The truth of the matter is that a balanced diet can help your body and your mind – we are what we eat!
Well it had to follow the diet statement! Even if you can only manage a small amount of exercise you will see some benefit. Try to set yourself a task of, say, 30 minutes cardio each day. Walking up and downstairs, wheeling yourself around the block – anything that gets the heart pounding safely!
Sitting near a window to get exposure to natural light can help is you cannot physically leave the house. If you work, perhaps a request to move desks to be near the window is in order.
These are not cheap, but they are beneficial for some. Some have found that the bright light stimulates a beneficial change in chemicals and hormones, therefore improving mood. These can also be used at home or at your workplace.
If your symptoms are more severe then always speak to a medical professional. Your GP can prescribe an antidepressant or perhaps a talking therapy like CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) but it is important to get the help and support that you need.
Finally can we point you in the direction of our online support group, where there are many others in similar situations who may be glad of the conversation too.
[Tips provided by Dr Eleanor Atkins of BUPA]