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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Strategies to improve symptoms and feel better this winter

As I'm writing this I'm aware that the British weather is not playing ball this year and it could well be bright sunshine tomorrow. But bare with me, what I'm about to share will definitely come in helpful over the next few months. As the days grow shorter and the weather turns colder, many of us find ourselves affected by the winter blues, a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But don't worry, I've got you. There are numerous strategies that can help you embrace the light within and improve the symptoms of SAD.


1. Increase your exposure to light: One of the primary causes of SAD is the lack of sunlight so trying to get out into the natural sunlight as much as possible is going to really help. This could mean swapping your evening walk for a brief lunchtime walk, to make the most of the light. You can also try light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a specialised light box that mimics natural sunlight. Regular use, especially in the morning, can significantly improve mood and energy levels. I've added a link above to a highly recommended light box and also a morning alarm clock that stimulates sunrise and allows you to gradually wake up, with natural peaceful sounds.


2. Think about your environment: Make your work and home environment as light and airy as possible. If you’re working indoors, sit by the window, again to expose yourself to the natural light. Also to help embrace the coziness and comfort of the colder months, surround yourself with soft blankets, warm drinks, and soothing activities. Creating a hygge-friendly environment can make winter more enjoyable and ease the impact of SAD.


2. Stay Active: Exercise is a natural mood lifter. Even a short daily walk outside, despite the cold, can increase your exposure to natural light and boost your endorphin levels, helping to combat the symptoms of SAD.


3. Add more nutrients into your diet: We know that there’s a strong link between our food and our mood. Trying to eat a varied and balanced diet will help you to feel good in yourself. Think about foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, leafy greens, berries, wholegrain bread & protein. Another good tip to help you stay on-top of your nutrition is meal prepping. Batch cooking a few meals at a time makes it easier on the days where you're feeling really low energy and can't be bothered cooking - instead of reaching for the processed foods and snacks, you'll have your meals ready. If you're unsure what to make, I'd recommend the 5 Ingredients cookbook or Feel Good in 15 for quick and easy healthy recipes.


4. Help yourself to better manage stress: In life things are going to happen that we can’t control and that cause anxiety or worry. However, we CAN control what we do to look after ourselves - the harder we work on replenishing our energy, the easier it is to manage stressful situations. Establishing a morning routine that incorporates mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga can provide a sense of calm and focus that counteracts the effects of SAD and helps you to feel good in yourself.


5. Moving your body more: It's easy to hibernate during the winter months, but movement and social connections are vital for mental health. Exercise increases serotonin levels in the brain which helps regulate your mood and wellbeing and boosts energy levels. It doesn't have to be going to the gym, find something that works for you and that you enjoy - whether it's an in-person class, home workout, pilates, tai chi, squash, anything - I guarantee you will feel so much better after doing it. It can also be a way of spending time with friends or family if you wanted to, engaging in something you both enjoy to lift your spirits.


Remember, you're not alone. By incorporating these strategies into your daily life and seeking support when needed, you can empower yourself to navigate the winter months with resilience and a positive mindset. Of course, if your symptoms persist or worsen don't suffer in silence, reach out to your GP or seek help from a therapist who can provide tailored self-help techniques to help you cope with specific challenges you may be facing.


If you've enjoyed this blog, you can find more information on a range of mental health topics here on my website and by following my Instagram page.


Much love,

Lucy




** I have used affiliate links within this blog post. This means that I will receive a small percentage of the purchased items, at no extra cost to yourselves. All recommendations are items that I use or would purchase myself.

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