Now that the winter chill has really set in, have you noticed that your mood has dipped along with the temperature? SAD, seasonal affective disorder, is a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. It is often referred to as ‘the winter blues’ because the symptoms tend to be more pronounced during the cold, dark, winter months.
Sufferers of SAD can lose motivation and energy, find it a struggle to get up in the morning and will often feel lethargic throughout the day. It can be a constant battle to remain focused and to stem the frequent cravings for carbohydrates, which in turn leads to us gaining weight and feeling even more sluggish.
Unless you are lucky enough to be able to spend 6 months of the year in the southern hemisphere (we’re hosting a yoga retreat in Kerala, Southern India in February that we’re seriously looking forward to) then it’s very hard to completely escape the winter blues.
However help is at hand. As someone who has battled with SAD since my teens, I have picked up a few tricks that I hope may help you through this challenging time of year.
GET OUT MORE
Take any opportunity you can to get outside into natural light. Being outside in the open air during the winter months is not going to fix every aspect of SAD but its definitely going to help you. If you have a 9 to 5 job then get out for a walk during your lunch break. Don’t be put off by the weather, dress for the elements, who says we can’t eat lunch outside in winter? While some pavement cafe’s and pubs nowadays have patio heaters, a park bench or a town square for a quick bite isn’t as mad an idea as it sounds. If its sunny avoid wearing sunglasses when you go out too. Get as much exposure to natural light as you can.
It’s very important to keep moving, even when that sluggish winter lethargy may mean we don’t feel like it. Going for a weekend walk, cycle ride or a run is a great way of getting some natural light and exercise. During the working week, take time out to attend a yoga class with a teacher who can guide you in an upbeat way and help you to find your own inner sunshine. Yoga and mindful movement classes like Pilates, tai chi and qu gong classes, can all help to relieve physical and emotional stress and tension. They help us to to clear our minds and be more positive about life.
MAKE YOUR OWN LIGHT
The bright fluorescent tubes used in a SAD light box can help us to artificially increase our exposure to light during the winter months. Many people who use a light box with a strength of 10,000 lux on a daily basis report really feeling the benefit. It is also a good idea to find yoga studios or gym classes that have plenty of natural light, or use SAD lights to brighten up the space if they don’t. It all helps to create that uplifting feeling of a sunny day when on the mat. Even lighting candles or or hanging out the Christmas lights can help to cheer us up.
Winter is the time when its very tempting to reach for those comfort foods. However the quick mood fix provided by a sugar rush or stodgy carbs won’t last for long. A little indulgence is ok once in a while, but balance those indulgent moments out by eating plenty of fresh fruits, veg and non-fatty proteins. Its sometimes helpful to also add extra vitamin B12 or vitamin D supplements to your winter diet.
On all our yoga retreats we like provide home cooked tasty nutritious seasonal food for our yoga guests to enjoy. Perhaps they enjoy our food more than the yoga!
DO WHAT YOU LOVE WITH THOSE WHO YOU LOVE
Elisa and Dominic Williams
Having a strong support network around us can be vital when our mood plummets. Take time to do the things you enjoy, with those that you love. It’s far too easy to feel lonely and desolate in the dark winter months. Christmas, the so called ‘festival of light, can be a notoriously bleak, stressful and isolating time of year for many people. Surround yourself with those you’re close to, take time to do activities that make you feel happy, and give serious consideration to getting involved with one of the many outreach organisations in your local area. There are numerous charities who do their best to help the elderly, the homeless and the lonely and they all need volunteers. There are many initiatives particularly at this time of the year, so find one near you and get stuck in. It’s much easier to kick those feelings of loneliness, anxiety and sadness out into the long grass when you’re keeping yourself busy helping others. It also gives us all some perspective on our own problems.