Have you noticed your energy levels drop or that your mood has dipped? Are you already wishing away the time daydreaming of a summer holiday in sunnier climes? You aren’t alone.
Us Brits are very good at moaning about the weather, if we tell ourselves that we hate winter, we would be dreading and wishing away one-quarter to one-third of each year. Being miserable for three to four months every single year is not an ideal way to live. What a waste of time! What if we were to see the colder temperatures and darker days in a new light (perhaps candle light ?!) Perhaps you associate winter with feeling tired and low? It doesn’t have to be this way. Our Scandinavian cousins, with much tougher winters than us here in the UK, have the Danish tradition of hygge focusing on embracing winter and looking at the positives we can take from it, including cosying up indoors with friends and family and maximising your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Here are 6 ways to add a little yellow and soften the harsh shade of those winter blues:
Accept and embrace the seasons - this is a biggie - accepting that the days are shorter and darker and making the most of them is far healthier than wishing it were summer again already. ‘No matter what season of life you are in, you’ll find more contentment if you learn to embrace the present instead of yearning for the future'. If you’ve always said ‘I hate winter’ perhaps this year change the story you are telling yourself and instead say “I’m learning to love winter" and "I prefer summer but maybe winter isn't so bad”. Focus on what you like about the colder days and nights. Perhaps spending more time indoors will offer you the much-needed time to consider that home project you’ve been putting off all year? Does it give you an opportunity to try cooking some new meals that take a little more preparation, take a long soak in the bath or relax in your pyjamas with that book you’ve been meaning to read (can highly recommend Wintering by Katherine May or Phosphoroessence by Julia Baird). How much better will that hot drink and fireplace be when you've come in from an active day in that oh-so-crisp air!?
Make sure to go outside in the fresh air and sunshine as much as possible - “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” - wrap up warm and have your morning cuppa in the garden or put it in a travel mug and go for a brisk walk outside. One way you could get outside more is to challenge yourself to get out every day by taking part in a challenge, RED January is a personal favourite of mine.
Going out and being active is important but also it's nice to have an excuse to stay home and catch up on sleep. When the weather is really snowy /wet and windy we tend to look at it as 'we're stuck and can't go out.'” Instead we could say “we get to stay in and binge-watch a box set!” Darkness triggers the release of the sleepy hormone melatonin, which is why most of us feel more tired in the winter. Instead of fighting it or getting frustrated, accept and follow your body’s natural instinct to hibernate - if you need to sleep more - do, bears don’t need a watch to know that they need to sleep and neither do we. Set yourself up a soothing comforting environment with cosy blankets, warm baths, listen to your body and have that early night.
From about late March/early April to the end of September, the majority of us should be able to make all the vitamin D we need from sunlight on our skin. However, from October through to February the NHS Guidance is that during this time we could consider taking a daily vitamin D supplements. Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. In one study, scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
Fill your home with light - candles, fairy lights, wood burner, fire pit (outside obviously!) - whatever you have. Energy lamps are recommended, these specialised lamps are designed to blast you with the kind of full-spectrum luminosity as if we were standing outside. Exposure to this kind of light for half an hour each day can help regulate our circadian rhythm (the ‘master clock’ in the brain that governs the sleep-wake cycle) and boost our mood during the darker months, perhaps you could try using it instead of an office lamp during the day whilst you are working from home. Read more.
Many species hibernate when the weather gets cold, curling up in a den to sleep away the winter. Cold weather brings people together, we yearn for warmth, love, and connection. Use this time to surround yourself with positive people, people who uplift you and make you laugh, helping to see the positives in the world around you and if you are lucky, who you can perhaps also snuggle up with for warmth like the Emperor Penguins do!
Remember, when winter feels endless… with each day that passes it always gets lighter a little earlier and winter will always eventually turn into spring.
In the UK, around three people in every 100 suffer from SAD – significant winter depression that can have a big impact on their daily lives. If you are feeling low with little to no energy or motivation and it is interfering with your day to day life, it could be a sign that you have depression – and if these feelings keep coming back at the same time of year, doctors might call this seasonal affective disorder or 'seasonal depression'. Find out more.
If you recognise that perhaps you are struggling with a low mood speak to your GP. It's common to be affected by changing seasons and weather or to have times of the year when you feel better or worse but you don’t need to struggle alone.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
depressionuk.org Depression self-help organisation made up of individuals and local groups.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
nice.org.uk Produces guidelines on best practice in healthcare.
nhs.uk Information about health problems and treatments, including details of local NHS services in England.
Rethink Mental Illness
0808 801 0525rethink.org Provides support and information for anyone affected by mental health problems, including local support groups.
116 123 (freephone) email@example.com Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK PO Box 90 90 Stirling FK8 2SA samaritans.org Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).
sane.org.uk Offers emotional support and information for anyone affected by mental health problems.
Illustration credit to Jessica Boehman http://www.jessicaboehman.com/