As the year draws to an end, the sun is gracing us less and less with its presence, on what it seems like a daily basis.
The end of daylight savings tends to trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise referred to by the quite apt acronym of “SAD.”
As the world darkens around us, SAD is a very real threat that will affect scores of people across the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months, in varying degrees of intensity.
For some, it leads to a debilitating depression, that brings with it a need to seek professional help.
Others are affected in a much milder regard… left feeling listless, grumpy and suffering from a lack of energy. Not nearly as bad, but upsetting nonetheless.
This disorder is triggered by a lack of sunlight in winter, which affects the levels of melatonin and serotonin in people’s systems.
These hormones are what controls the part of our brain which presides over our appetite, mood and sleep, otherwise known as our circadian rhythms.
Coming from a country that boasts around ten hours of daylight in the middle of winter, I was shocked by how much the lack of sunlight affected my system.
I struggled to get out of bed every morning, didn’t want to eat and was generally quite a bit down.
As this experience was new to me, I didn’t really know how to combat the symptoms of my “winter blues” and those few dark months were a consequent struggle.
However – we live, we learn. No winter blues for me this season – this is how I’m going to fight it off.
1. Take Advantage of What Daylight You Do Have
One of the most obvious solutions could end up being the most effective. Get out in what available daylight there is, for a full 20 minutes if you’re able to.
If you work throughout the day, give yourself a break while it’s still light and take your lunch outside.
Alternatively, go for a walk. Don’t spend your days off mulling about the house – do all that is humanely possible to soak up as much Vitamin D as you can, when you can.
2. Exercise and Eat Well
Another no brainer, you would think. Yet I neglected to make exercise a priority last winter and I know it had a massive impact on my general well-being.
Winter’s the perfect time to execute an exercise plan, as you hide your body in layers upon layers of clothes.
Download the Couch to 5k App or join a gym.
If you time it right, you’ll emerge from your cocoon of sweaters, coats and scarfs in six month’s time as a beautiful, toned butterfly.
3. Write Down How You’re Feeling
This is something that has always worked well for me, when I’m feeling down in the dumps.
If I can’t verbalize whatever emotions are playing on my mind, I write about it. I managed to fill a whole journal up last winter, although I’m not entirely sure of whether I should consider this an achievement!
Regardless – it’s cathartic and I always feel a lot better from having done it.
4. Use a Dawn Simulating Alarm Clock
I haven’t tried this myself, but have heard wonderful things from others. These alarm clocks wake you up with a gradually brightening 30-min “sunrise.”
It’s supposed to regulate your sleep cycle, with you getting out of bed feeling refreshed. In turn, they feature a 30-min “sunset” that works in the opposite manner – lulling you to sleep.
Those who have more severe symptoms of SAD can use these on top of a lightbox, which is a clinically proven treatment for the disorder.
5. Go on an Adventure
The prospect of travel always boosts my spirits.
Ideally, you’d want to go somewhere warm. If this option isn’t available to you, try to take a few days off to explore a nearby state, country… or even your own backyard.
Is there something in your city you’ve always wanted to see or do?
Now is the time to do it. Sling a backpack over your shoulder, get out there and immerse yourself in the world.
6. Look for the Joy in the Winter Season
Weather aside, there are a lot of positives to winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
Cozy nights in with a good book, thick blanket and a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
Glühwein (mulled wine) or hot cider in a pub, or by an outdoor fire.
Winter clothes, which are so much more preferable to any summer wardrobe.
Tromping around your house in big slippers (or Ugg boots, if you’re an Aussie like me), flannelette pyjamas and the fluffiest of dressing gowns.
Snow, if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where this actually happens.
People tend to whine, bitch and moan about winter, but it’s actually a pretty special season.
If winter truly isn’t your thing – at the very least, it is only three months of the year. The days will be getting longer before you know it, daylight savings will return and soon enough, another summer will be just around the corner.