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How to Combat the Winter Blues

Reykjavik
Snow in downtown Reykjavik

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 genuine 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 a need to seek professional help.

Others are affected in 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 melatonin and serotonin levels in people's systems.

These hormones control the part of our brain that 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.

Journaling is one way to combat the winter blues
Journalling is one way to combat subsyndromal SAD

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 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 an exercise app for home workouts or join a gym.

If you time it right, you'll emerge from your cocoon of sweaters, coats, and scarfs in six months 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 last winter, although I'm not entirely sure 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 oppositely – lulling you to sleep.

Those who have more severe SAD symptoms can use these on top of a lightbox, a clinically proven treatment for the disorder.

Twelve Apostles
A winter trip to the Twelve Apostles in Australia

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.

See also: 5 Reasons to Visit Australia in Winter

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 pajamas, and the fluffiest of dressing gowns.

Watching The Holiday and Bridget Jones's Diary on repeat.

Snow, if you're lucky enough to live in an area where this actually happens.

Christmas!

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.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Kirsty

Wednesday 16th of December 2015

Intrigued by the dawn clock, hopefully it'll help my teething daughter sleep too! I used to suffer from really bad SAD, you're absolutely spot on about the Vitamin D and the Lightbox as they really helped me.

I wasn't always able to get adequate sunlight during the winter months as I worked night shifts (Shelf stacking at Tesco, Rock & Roll...) so they were essential!

Don't make the mistake I made though and try to pack in Vitamin D by eating fish every dinnertime. That my friend will lead to mercury poisoning, not nice... unless of course you like the feeling of going completely bonkers crazy, who doesn't on occasion eh? Jokes aside, a good Vitamin D supplement felt heaven sent after that debacle!

LC Haughey

Wednesday 23rd of December 2015

I am intrigued by it as well. A friend said they were purchasing one the other day and I'm looking forward to finding out how she goes with it.

At least mid-winter is behind us now and there's light at the end of the tunnel (pun fully intended). It'll be spring before we know it!

Get Jaunty

Saturday 21st of November 2015

Good advice. I always like to do 'winter things' and make the most of it, wrapping up warm for scenic walks etc. If you're into Christmas, I find that's a good way to see the positive side!

LC Haughey

Sunday 22nd of November 2015

There is something magical about a wintertime Christmas, although I would nearly always rather spend the day at the beach! ;)

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