If the short, dark days are getting you down, then you’re probably suffering from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) it is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the autumn and continue into the winter months, coinciding with the darker evenings and the changes of daylight savings time, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.
Symptoms of SAD can include:
A persistent low mood
A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
Feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
While the exact cause of SAD isn't fully understood, but it's often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days. For some people the symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.
The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the:
Production of melatonin – melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy; in people with SAD, the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
Production of serotonin – serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep; a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
Body's internal clock (circadian rhythm) – your body uses sunlight to time various important functions, such as when you wake up, so lower light levels during the winter may disrupt your body clock
How do we go from SAD to GLAD?
There are a number of things we can do to keep SAD at bay
Get more light
If the winter blues is about lack of daylight, it's no surprise that treatment usually involves getting more light into your life. If you feel low in winter, get outside as often as you can, especially on bright days. Sitting by a window can also help. Dawn simulators can help, these devices are alarm clocks, but rather than waking you abruptly with loud music or beeping, they produce light that gradually increases in intensity, just like the sun. Different models of dawn simulators are available, but the best ones use full-spectrum light, which is closest to natural sunlight
Light therapy is often used to treat SAD. This involves sitting in front of or beneath a light box that produces a very bright light.
Eat yourself happier
It's important to eat well during the winter. Winter blues can make you crave sugary foods and carbohydrates such as chocolate, pasta and bread, but don't forget to include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet. Don’t forget about your 5 a day.
If you have a tendency towards SAD, outdoor exercise will have a double benefit, because you'll gain some daylight. Activity is believed to change the level of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin in the brain. Keep up with your yoga and fitness classes.
The charity Mind says research has shown that an hour-long walk in the middle of the day is an effective way to beat the winter blues.
Ramblers https://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking.aspx offers a Festival of Winter Walks each year, with routes ranging from 3 to 10 miles. They're a great way to enjoy some moderate daylight activity.
Essential oils can influence the area of the brain that's responsible for controlling moods and the body's internal clock that influences sleep and appetite, you can add a few drops of essential oils to your bath at night to help you relax.
Stick to a Schedule
SAD often causes trouble sleeping and getting up in the morning. Maintaining a regular schedule improves sleep. Keeping to a regular schedule will also expose you to light at consistent and predictable times, eating at regular intervals can also help you watch your diet, overeating and the craving for carbohydrates.
Go on Holiday
Taking a winter holiday to warmer sunnier climates will definitely help. Travel does more than give you a break from your daily routine; it can also help you escape cold and overcast skies. That can't help but lift your spirits — even a few days in a sunny place can be helpful.
Even the excitement of preparing for a holiday is enough to lift your mood and can also linger for a few weeks after you return. Be aware however, though this may be effective for some, other SAD sufferers have found that their condition gets worse when they return to the UK, unless the plan is to be away for over 4 months.
Keep a Journal
Writing down your thoughts can have a positive effect on your mood; it can help you get some of your negative feelings out of your system. Plan to write for about 20 minutes on most days of the week. Include your thoughts, feelings, and concerns. The best time is at night so that you can reflect on all that happened in the last 24 hours.
I hope you’ve found a few things there that might be useful as the dark nights approach, always focus on what brings you joy and try as much as possible to do the same outdoor activities that you would have in the summer, just wrap/ layer up a lot more.
As for me, I like the sound of taking a very long holiday to warmer and sunnier climates, see you in the spring.