10+ Tips To Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Feeling a bit blue because it's dark in the mornings and the days are too short? Here, Angie Newson, wellbeing expert, offers you tips and tricks to help you feel brighter and more energised during the winter months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter here in the UK can sometimes be challenging for sun-seekers like me to tolerate – the lack of sunlight disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm so energy levels can be low and we tend to eat more and do less.

My 15 easy tips will help you cope, enhancing vitality and help you feel more vibrant during the darker months.

If your winter suffering is more severe than just a low mood you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Also known as SAD – and symptoms include difficulty sleeping, low immunity, reduced sex drive and a can’t–be–bothered–attitude to see friends. Skin may look dull and lifeless and you feel shrivelled and wrinkled!

Dr Jon Barratt MBBS DMCC DipIMC (RCSEd) says:

“People who are worried they may suffer from SAD, should discuss this with their GP and treatments may include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and occasionally anti–depressants.”

#1 – Slumber Time

"SAD has close links with our bodies natural sleep rhythm so consider good sleep hygiene as the first step in self-help.

Simple measures such as cutting out stimulants and trying to get into a routine are beneficial for getting a refreshing night’s sleep"

#2 – Get Moving

London–based celebrity personal trainer, Elia Siaperas (flexPT.co.uk) suggests working out to music.

"Exercising raises our ‘feel good’ hormones and training to upbeat music leaves us feeling on a natural high. Join a health club or your local gym and pick a buzzing class like spinning or Zumba.

Have fun, get your body moving to raise endorphin levels and for further ageproofing, studies show HIIT – high intensity interval training classes – aids longevity and vibrancy."
Outdoors

#3 – Get Outdoors

On those crisp sunny cold days, wrap up and take a brisk walk through your local woods or park. Stroll with a friend, chat, laugh and enjoy nature.

Walk your dog – or borrow one – and pause every so often to notice your dog’s simple enjoyment of being present in nature.

#4 – Keep Your Skin Well Hydrated

 Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams (eudelo.com) says: 

“Our skin’s barrier function is less effective in winter so we can’t hold on to whatever water our horny (outer) layers of skin attract from deeper skin layers – and we keep losing moisture to the dry winter air by ­evaporation.

To combat water loss, look for moisturisers containing humectants such as glycerine, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid and urea – they have the ability to hold and attract water in the skin.”

#5 – Check your diet

 Ensure your diet is healthy, nutritious and balanced. We tend to eat more during winter although it's not been confirmed why. Some studies say it’s because of lower levels of seratonin and other studies show there is a seasonal difference in carb absorption.

Dr Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Institute in Ottawa, Canada says:

“We do know that in [hibernating] animals there will be seasonal changes in hunger hormones, but there really is nothing to suggest that that’s true in people.”

So it could be we just eat heavier meals and lots of party food over wintertime festivities and we just don’t shift it by springtime. Dr Freedhoff adds:

“We know that food itself is a comfort as far as mood goes, because it actually impacts the same circuitry of the brain as drugs do. So people use food medicinally to make themselves feel better.”

So remember to eat slowly, mindfully and allow time for your brain to register you are full.

#6 – Brighten up your wardrobe

 Wearing bright colours instead of the common dark and dowdy ones will help you feel and look more vibrant. Julia Thomas, a personal shopper based in London's West End, has worked in retail for over two decades training over 300 people in retail customer service suggests:

‘Wearing an accent scarf and bold accessories will brighten up winter blacks and greys. The statement coat this season is oversized and in bright pinks and blues and cut in such a way as to not show those extra helpings of warming soups!'

#7 – Dress warmly

Pretty obvious really but some people just don’t do it. Wear a hat, scarf and gloves when you go outside. Long johns and long– sleeved vests although not exactly sexy will help you stay snug and comfortable. And whatever happened to ‘liberty bodices’?

#8 – Take up a new hobby

 Learning something new keeps the brain active so you feel more alert. Check out the local café notice boards for courses, ask at your library or take an online distance-learning course.

Join an evening class and stick to it so you have a commitment to get out in the evening each week with the added bonus of maybe a new qualification or just having fun being social in a group.

SAD Massage

#9 – Have a massage

A soothing massage calms the mind and eases anxiety and tension. It removes toxins from the body and leaves the skin feeling hydrated and smooth. Roberto Silvestri, an holistic massage therapist based in London with over 20 years' experience says

"The winter dampness that penetrates the muscles isn't good for the body so regular massage boosts blood flow and will help warm you.

The room where you have your massage is also important - a calming atmosphere created by candles and soft music aids healing and promotes serenity and peace."

#10 – Use a Light Box

 Although these are expensive, studies show using a light box for up to 2 hours per day raises your mood.

“There are a number of theories as to why a lack of sunlight in the winter months affects our mood but it is probably due to a reduction in the body hormones melatonin and serotonin and the use of light boxes which mimics exposure to natural sunlight have been shown to be beneficial in stimulating the production of these neurotransmitters (brain hormones)”

says Dr Barratt.

vitamin d

#11 – Take a supplement

The jury is out whether supplements should be taken or not, particularly if your diet is healthy and you already buy organic. A daily dose of a good multivitamin containing vitamin D–3 however may help you feel more energized and awake.

Loughborough University researchers found athletes with low levels of vitamin D could be up to three times more likely to contract a cold in winter and Dr Anne Mullen, lecturer in Nutrition Science at King’s College, London says: 

“There is a lot of interest in the health effects of vitamin D at the moment. We are just beginning to work out the effects of this nutrient at the cellular level.”

Other studies have shown that zinc helps alleviate cold symptoms. Dr Mullen says:

“Zinc influences the immune system in a number of ways: it is involved in immune cell recruitment and function, systemic inflammation, is an antioxidant, and may have antiviral properties with respect to the common cold.

Cod liver oil, (although not proven for cold prevention) is a good source of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamins D and A. These fatty acids are thought to modulate inflammation, and vitamins D and A support immune function.”

#12 – Have a herb

 In Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, Sharol Tilgner, a naturopathic physician and expert herbalist states that certain herbs help restore a sense of peace and happiness in people suffering from low mood. Orange and lavender essential oils, avena sativa, chamomile, skullcap, kava kava, St. John’s wort and schisandra have all been shown to help. 

Other herbs that may be beneficial include ginseng, lemon balm and ginger. (Do check with your GP first before taking any herbs or supplements particularly if you are on medication).

treatment

#13 – Practise acceptance

 Embrace the winter.  Accept it's here.  Stay positive.  Enjoy the football season, Christmas and the fashion sales and go full face into the caliginous days – try skiing, snowboarding or join a running club.

Life Coach, Russell Byrne based in London (russell–byrne.com) reminds us:

"We have absolute choice over how we respond to our environment, even to the labels that we assign to those environments.

Choosing to feel good, to see the potential around us and not the limitation, no matter what the time of year or what is going on, is not only possible, but preferable if we are to live a life of stability and creativity.

We can move from powerlessness to power on any subject if feeling good is our dominant intention."

#14 – Let in as much light in as possible

Open up curtains and blinds and let the daylight flood into your home.

Choose bright and dazzling cushions for the sofa, jazzy bedspreads for the beds and even use rainbow utensils and crockery in the kitchen.

SAD Lights

#15– Practise Mindfulness

Staying present improves our mood and wellbeing. Psychotherapist and Mindfulness trainer and practitioner based in London, Bryan Emden (theemdenpartnership.com) says:

"Mindfulness is an awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose to the present moment in a non–judgmental way.

By paying more attention to thoughts feelings and physical sensations, in the present moment individuals are more able to detach themselves from their attachment to thoughts, moods and emotions.

Such training helps with self–awareness, increased concentration and wellbeing thus managing unhelpful internal dialogue. Mindfulness research suggest that people who complete eight weeks of mindfulness training and practice will find more rational decision making, enhanced working memory capacity and increased levels of resilience and overall wellbeing."
SAD Infographic

​Hopefully I've given you some simple tips and ideas to ageproof your life and brighten your daily routine – especially when feeling blue and it's dark by 4.30pm and raining again!

And although it would be very nice thank you, to take a sunny holiday from October through til the end of February – that’s not really viable for most of us.

Please feel free to share some of the ways you lift yourself up during the cold, dark months! 

References

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/fashion–beauty/tips–hints–warding–winter–wrinkles–2934590 5. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get–healthy/weight–loss/the–truth–about–why–you–gain–weight–in–the–winter http://www.livestrong.com/article/394024–herbs–that–can–make–you–feel–happy/

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About the author

Angie Newson

Angie Newson is an international wellness and fitness expert – as well as Amazon bestselling author of The Detox Factor. She is also author of Get Fit for Free with Yoga & Pilates, a regular contributor to the UK's national press and women's magazines and has appeared in various health/fitness TV series. Angie has taught over 12,000 classes – from aerobics (back in the day!) and Spinning to Pilates and restorative yoga. She also has extensive experience managing and consulting premier health clubs in the UK and is brand ambassador for the workout retail store, Sweaty Betty. When not teaching, writing or travelling, Angie enjoys “challenges" and has run the New York Marathon, climbed Kilimanjaro and participated in various silent retreats. Angie enjoys time with her dog and loves Indian cuisine. @AngieNewson

– Write For Ageproof Living –

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