Banish the winter blues: 5 ways to stay positive as the nights draw in

A YouGov poll in conjunction with The Weather Channel in 2014, found that 29% of Brits suffered from some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Although we do not yet fully understand what causes SAD, scientists believe a lack of sunlight is at least partly to blame. Winter’s shorter days slow our brain’s production of certain hormones affecting sleep and appetite, as well as confusing our circadian rhythms.

Here are five great ways to help boost your mood as the nights draw in, helping you to banish the winter blues.

1. Get sunlight (if you can)

Getting sunlight during a British winter can be difficult. But heading outside for just twenty minutes could encourage the production of serotonin in your brain, a hormone linked to mood, appetite, and sleep patterns.

Whether you potter in the garden or walk to the park, the hours between 11 and 3 are best, so be sure to set time aside.

Natural light can also help keep your internal body clock running on time. If you’re working from home, try to work by a window and keep artificial light to a minimum.

The NHS suggests that lightboxes could be effective in the short term. Used for around 30 minutes to an hour each morning, they simulate the natural sunlight you are missing and could relieve SAD symptoms and improve your sleep patterns.

Try lightboxes and alarms from Beurer or Lumie, both of which feature prominently on this year’s Christmas best-buy lists.

2. Exercise regularly

According to the Mental Health Foundation, physical activity has ‘huge potential to enhance our wellbeing.’ Even relatively brief periods of exercise, such as a brisk, ten-minute walk, could increase your mental alertness, energy, and positivity.

Make a lunchtime stroll part of your daily routine and you’ll get exercise, fresh air, and natural daylight in one hit.

If lunchtimes are busy, try exercising at the start and end of the day. If you’re working from home, ‘walk to work’ by heading out early. You might even ‘walk home’ at the end of the day too.

Fitting exercise into your daily routine will help you form a habit.

The cold and damp of a British winter might be off-putting, but the results could be worth it. According to PsychCentral, recent studies suggest that one hour of outdoor exercise (even on a cloudy day) could have the same benefits in combatting SAD as two and a half hours of light treatment indoors.

3. Take time to relax

Low serotonin levels have been linked to feelings of depression and lack of sunlight can decrease levels of that hormone. According to recent research from the Harvard Medical School though, meditation can help redress the balance.

Whether you’re new to meditation or an expert, technology is on hand to help. The Independent recently drew up their list of the twelve best apps ‘to help keep you calm in a crisis’ and their gold and silver medallists are well worth investigating.

Headspace is a decade old and has been topping lists since it arrived. You can start with a ten-day beginner’s course and then move onto hundreds of guided meditations, some only a few minutes long and designed to fit around the busyness and stresses of modern life.

Available on IOS and Android, you can begin with a free trial of one to two weeks but you’ll then need to upgrade to monthly or annual subscription services, £9.99 per month, or £49.99 for the year.

Calm is second on the Independent’s best-buy list and it was also Apple’s 2017 ‘App of the Year’.

With meditation guides for all ages, and modes to help you live a happier, healthier, and stress-free life, you’ll find meditations for all occasions, from soothing pre-flight nerves to falling asleep at home.

You can download the app for a free one-week trial. A yearly subscription is £28.99 although keep an eye out for limited-time deals.

If meditation is not your preferred relaxation method, then do whatever works for you. Settle down with a good book, take a hot bath, or play with the dog.

4. Keep in touch

During the coronavirus lockdown in March, you no doubt turned to technology to keep in touch with family and friends. It’s more important than ever that you keep those lines of communication open as winter arrives.

With shorter days and regional lockdowns to contend with, make a check-in with family part of your daily or weekly routine. Dust off WhatsApp, Skype, and Teams and organise a family quiz night, wine-tasting evening, or weekly book group, all of which moved online this year.

And when you can see loved ones in person, be sure to make the effort to do it, whatever the weather and however much you feel the urge to hibernate.

Regular contact – even digitally – can make a massive difference in battling SAD this winter.

5. Recognise the signs that you’re struggling

Signs of the winter blues can vary from person to person but recognising potential signs is crucial in combating it. Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • A low mood
  • A loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities
  • A general irritability
  • Feelings of despair, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Feeling lethargic during the day
  • Sleeping more and having difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Weight gain

If you feel yourself suffering from any of the above over the autumn and winter period, be sure to speak to your GP.


About the Author

Jon is a highly qualified and experienced Chartered Financial Planner and Certified Financial Planner with over 27 years’ experience. He loves working with clients who are passionate about getting the most out of life and feels his job is to support them living life to the fullest. Read more from Jonathan...
This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any product for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.
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