Many of us are thrown out of kilter for a day or two when the clocks fall back. However, for some of us the loss of daylight hours can throw us off balance for a substantial amount of time. Winter brings shorter days with less daylight and this can have a powerful affect on our mood.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is now a recognised condition for which GPs can prescribe medication. Shorter daylight hours can lead to an increase in natural melatonin in our bodies which can make us more drowsy and sleepy during the day. With less sunny days we are also exposed to lower levels of serotonin which may make us more lethargic than usual and cause us to feel down more often.
Research in the US has shown that 1.4% of people who live year-round in Florida are affected by SAD compared to a much higher 9.9% in Alaska.
What Can We Do About It?
- Become aware of our energy and contentedness levels by tracking our sleep, moods, tiredness and libidos and comparing them to how they were earlier in the spring and summer
- Keep active and get outside as often as possible
- Eat healthily: comforting, warming soups and casseroles after a tiring day are preferable to takeaways; consider investing in a slow cooker and do the preparation in the morning when you are feeling fresh
- Buy a daylight lamp or a daylight alarm clock: 30 minutes exposure a day is recommended to compensate for the lack of sunlight during the winter months
- Book a holiday in the sun to break up the long winter
- Be kind to yourself: book that massage you’ve been promising yourself, snuggle up under a blanket with a DVD, go to the movies, have friends and family over for a hearty roast dinner or fondue party, or light the candles in the bathroom and have a bath with a glass of your favourite tipple.
As much as we may want to move to Florida to combat our SAD symptoms, it’s not practical for most of us so we need to make the best of what we have at home. Finding ways to embrace the winter season and seeking contentment and moments of joy in our everyday lives should be our overall aim. In fact, it’s something we should strive for all year round.