WHOLISTIC WELLBEING | 15 JUL 2019
Beating the Winter Blues
Living on the beautiful South Coast of NSW we get pretty spoilt with glorious, sunny summers; crisp, pleasant autumns and cheerful, mild springs. I’ve noticed that winter however is a different story.
Coming in to the winter months, you can tell the mood shifts. The days are getting shorter and motivation to get outside is getting lower. We are still holding on to the final autumn sunny days. Until this week; when Winter most certainly came with a vengeance.
Whether it’s with friends, family or strangers, chit chat about the awful, cold weather is unavoidable. Sure, there are a few rare individuals who enjoy the cold weather (who are you and where do you come from?!); but for the most part, we get sick of feeling the cold pretty quickly. And I mean this in the literal sense also – now is the season for coughs, colds, flus. But it brings other symptoms to the surface that we don’t always associate with winter.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes according to the season (healthdirect.gov.au). It is thought to be caused by changes to the body’s circadian rhythm (or body clock). These changes can decrease levels of hormones melatonin and serotonin – that affect our mood and sleep.
Although SAD is rare in Australia (think more like the Scandinavian countries and the UK); many Australians report feeling flat, tired or lethargic in winter. Other symptoms include:
- Losing interest in normal activities
- Difficulties in getting up in the morning
- Getting too much sleep
- Feeling very tired all the time
- Changes in eating habits
- Gaining weight
- Lack of energy
- Feeling agitated
- Difficulty concentrating
What can we do about the Winter Blues?
Many of us approach winter with the idea of “toughing it out” and wishing the time away. But let’s consider the other option: accepting the colder months as a time of other wonderful things (hot chocolate anyone?); and thinking outside the box for ways to feel positive and motivated.
The first thing I encourage people to do is to stop, be present, and notice your mood. Is there a reason for feeling low, flat, tired etc? Or, upon reflection, is it because of the domino effect of missing a morning walk (because it’s too cold!), which in turn affected your whole day. And by the way – the importance of getting enough sunlight in Winter is extremely important to our health and mood boosting chemicals in the brain.
So, unless you are aware of an underlying issue of depression, stress or anxiety (in which case you need to consider consulting with your GP and/or psychologist); some quick tips for not just surviving winter, but enjoying the chilly next few months:
- Scheduling activities to activate behaviour change. For example, a morning walk to kick start the body and set intention for the day
- Scheduling time for activities we love and know makes us happy. (Hot chocolate and book by the fire anyone?)
- Be social. Research tells us that we feel better around people that make us happy. Join a book club, go to trivia or join a sporting team; or just make time to meet your friends for coffee
- Identify thoughts that may be reinforcing avoidance behaviour and challenge them. For example, instead of “it’s too cold to go for a walk”, how about “Yeah, it’s cold but I know I’ll feel great if I go for a walk. Plus, I bought that new scarf to try out…”
- Open your blinds, trim any big hedges and let the sun in
- Mindfulness. Pay attention to the sights of beautiful trees, the frost on the grass, the warmth of a fire, the taste of hot soup and the sound of the rain on the roof; and if all else fails
- Just remember that this too shall pass and it will be spring time before you can say “oh my gosh there’s Christmas puddings on the shelves…!”