After a long hot summer it is never any surprise that winter can feel a little depressing by comparison – it’s cold, it’s dark and more often than not it’s wet.
When once you were able to frolic (if you’re the frolicking type… ) in the sun, now you instead have to keep yourself shacked up and unsociable and watch bad television. Likewise where once you would have gotten up to hear birds singing and to see the sun rising, now instead you wake up to a dark and gloomy scene that has none of the joys of spring about it. In the worst case scenarios it will also be dark by the time you finish work and this can mean that you are coming home in the darkness too – and possibly that you never get a glimpse of sunlight. This can feel slightly akin to being a prisoner of war and it simply means that your world is coloured grey – understandably a depressing scenario.
However it also goes deeper than this and it’s actually true that the winter can cause depression. This is particularly true in those suffering from ‘SAD’ or ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ who will regularly experience depression during the darker months of the year. Meanwhile the coldness and damp air can cause aches in joints and worsen problems like arthritis while also using up your energy to keep warm thereby leaving you tired and unresponsive. Finally the coldness can also suppress your immune system resulting further in tiredness and leading to the development of colds and other illnesses.
So how do you go about combating these problems? And how can you stave off depression so that you can enjoy life in between the summer months? The good news is that there are some ways to do this and some are listed below for your convenience.
Daylight lamps are a great invention for anyone with seasonal affective disorder or related problems and can act as a great replacement for natural sunlight first thing in the morning. These work by radiating a brighter and more natural seeming light which has the same effects on the body as sunlight and helps us to produce vitamin D and serotonin. The best daylight lamps are designed to come on slowly in the morning and thereby mimic the way the sun would come up in the mornings. This gives us a far more natural awakening and is as a result likely a healthier way to start the day.
Eating fruits are a great way to counteract many of the problems associated with the winter. This is because they are filled with vitamins and minerals and can help replace some of those that you don’t get from the sun. Meanwhile vitamin C will help to protect your immune system leaving you with more energy and lower incidence of illness, while the carb content and the fiber will ensure that you have lots of energy. Bananas are particularly effective as they contain dopamine which is a happiness hormone and which can help to replace the lack of serotonin you may have from not getting outside often.
If you’re not getting your nutrients naturally then there’s no harm in supplementing your diet with some tablets. Vitamin D tablets in particular may prove effective as this is part of what you will be missing from natural sunlight.
Go on Holiday
Of course if you’re feeling very down because of the lack of sunlight, then why not take a little break in order to get some heat and light? It doesn’t have to be a huge holiday or expensive, but even a weekend break to somewhere like Spain or a sunnier part of the US will help to inject you with energy. Meanwhile a holiday is a cure for depression anyway as it allows you to get away from the stressors of everyday life whether it’s work or family politics.
One of the reasons we can develop depression from winter is that we end up keeping ourselves shut away to avoid the cold weather. This can then result in a kind of cabin fever as we are without social contact or stimulation and as we start to feel claustrophobic. Even if you aren’t able to go and enjoy a picnic at the beach, make sure that you are getting outside, getting a change of scene and interacting with people regularly. There are many fun activities to get stuck into indoors whether it’s bowling or swimming. While it might seem like the last thing you want to do at the time it will actually be very good for you.
You should also make sure to make the most of opportunities you do get to get out in the sun. This includes for instance taking your lunch break outside at work if you can, or at least sitting by the window.
Sleep the Right Amount
Sometimes winter-related depression can be the result of getting too much or not enough sleep. Both can make you groggy and both can be caused by the winter. Avoid this problem by being sure to either sleep longer or less time. Getting into a routine and trying to sleep the same number of hours each night will always help.
Heat Your Home
You can counteract the darkness by using a daylight lamp and making sure to get outside when the sun is out. Likewise you should also endeavour to make up for the cold and you shouldn’t be sitting shivering in the darkness. To solve this problem make sure you have your heating up high. This will also prevent breathing difficulties that are caused by mold and mildew.
If your depression continues then you should seek help from a professional. Just because your depression ties in with the winter months doesn’t mean it’s any less serious or relevant, and it’s a mistake to try and ‘wait it out’. Seeing someone such as a cognitive behavioural therapist can prove effective no matter the cause of your depression – they will work by helping you to spot the thoughts you may be having that lead to depression and then showing you how to prevent them occurring and to replace them with happier thoughts. This addresses the cause of the problem and provides you with the tools necessary to start combating the symptoms.
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